Sunday, June 14, 2009

Western Slope Classic Omnium: 45+

Western Slope Omnium (Time Trial, Road Race, Criterium), June 12th-14th 2009, Glenwood Springs, CO - Vic's Espresso/Peerless Race Report

The Glenwood Springs 3 stage omnium was contested from June 12th to 14th under largely optimal weather conditions. Joe Paulson was the sole Vic's entrant in the event, and he was feeling pretty good about his chances for the 45+ overall until Jim Dickerson entered close to the deadline, making Joe on paper look like a candidate for 2nd unless Jim stumbled and everything went right for Joe.

It became clear that everything would NOT go right for Joe before the first stage, the "Leg Breaker" TT got underway outside of Carbondale on Friday night. With several minutes to go before his start time, Joe wrapped up his warm-up, jumped off the trainer, swapped out his rear wheel to his disk, went to shift his front derailler back into the big ring, and his shifter cable snapped!

Fighting off panic, Joe check to see if the cable was really broken- yep, no movement in response to the lever. Maybe he could reattach it- nope, it had parted somewhere inside the frame. Knowing a solution was going to take more time than he had, he hobbled over in his cycling shoes to Andy Rosen the chief official, to see if he could get a new start time. Andy's response was that Joe hadn't even been called to the line yet, so Joe explained the situation. Andy was noncommittal, so Joe rushed hobbled back to his car and pursued other repair options. Maybe he could force the derailler into the big ring, and then crank down the limit screw to hold it there. No go- the screw wouldn't budge (a mystery not yet solved; U-Bikes is working on it). Okay, okay, just wedge something in to hold it in place. A sock? Too soft. A coin? Too large. Someone suggested just taking the derailler cage off and putting the chain on the big ring, so Joe grabbed the hex wrench and detached the cage from the frame, but then realized he's have to break the chain to get the cage out. "Anyone know how to break the SRAM link?" "Dude, if you do that, you'll need a new pin!"

At a loss for other options, Joe, now having officially missed his start, tottered back to Andy and asked for a re-start. "You can start, but you can't have a new start time" was the official verdict. Overcome with frustration, Joe headed back to his car, ready to pack it in and head back to Boulder in disgust and defeat. It then occurred to him that there were only 11 riders registered for the TT, so he'd get at least some points if he crossed the line. He pulled his road frame out of the car, slapped some wheels on it, and headed for the start line, where he was told to stop, put a foot down, and go.

Joe charged down the road fueled by frustration and adrenaline, until he came to his senses, realizing that all he needed to do was finish, and backed off the throttle. Logic prevailed until a rider passed him, and then ego took control. Joe buried himself trying to stay with passing riders, learning that all that aero gear isn't just a gimmick. Joe finally crossed the finish line to earn his 11th (last) place finish, and a whopping 5 points for his trouble. The only bright spot was he finished so late that he was still around when the last Pro/1/2 starters when off, and got to see Levi and Lance make appearances as the last riders of the night.

On Saturday, the "Rock the River" road race was held, with the 45+ field the last group to go off at 12:25 for a claimed 85 mile ride, much of it on dirt roads "smoother than Hugo". The distance turned out to be something closer to 67 miles, but all the recent rains had created plenty of potholes to make the race seem longer. Joe could tell right away that he hadn't done his legs any favors the night before, and was on the rivet as the field splintered in the run in to the big climbs before the turn-around. Joe popped on the shorter, steeper hill, but found that he was bringing the leader back on the longer hill before the u-turn. Unfortunately, he ran out of time, and was still about 10 or 15 seconds behind when the leaders blasted back down the hill headed for home. A headwind made catching the group impossible, but Joe was able to chase down a couple of riders ejected from the lead group, and worked for miles in a 3 man chase group.

Back on pavement, and working their way over the last of the seemingly never-ending rollers, the trio was suddenly surprised by a dozen riders joining them, as they were swept up a few miles from the finish by the remnants of the main field. Shaking his head at the cruelty of it all, Joe recomposed himself, and was able to take the field sprint for another 11th place, moving him up to 7th in the omnium standings.

Sunday brought the last race of the event, the "Soak It All In" criterium on a fast, technical 6 corner course just off Grand Avenue in downtown Glenwood Springs. The course was described as flat, but had a tight and sketchy downhill on the backside, and climbed back up to the finish. It was a perfect morning for racing, and the 45 minute 45+ race went off at 10:40.

It was full-tilt from the start, and Joe followed move after move until a 5 man break final stuck half way through, with Jim Dickerson (now with a commanding lead in the omnium after finish 2nd behind Derrick Nichol in the road race), Brad Olson, and a couple of riders Joe didn't recognize. One of the mystery riders looked like the biggest threat, as he would sit in the back, then launch attacks on prime laps (the red, white, and blue stripes on his sleeves also made Joe wary). With 5 laps to go, the field was out of view, and mystery man was sitting on back while the other 4 rotated through. At 3 to go, Joe had seen enough, and went wide and slow on a corner to force the passenger in front of him.

Joe marked his threat through the last laps, refusing to come around him. Coming into the bell lap, Dickerson launched his trademark final attack, and immediately got a gap. Joe stayed patient as the other riders started to chase. Finally, mystery man kicked it in, closed half the gap to the 3rd place rider....and died.

Joe launched around him, passed Olson on the back straight, and snuck around the rider in 2nd entering the tricky downhill s-turns. Dickerson was still churning ahead with a quarter block lead, but was fading on the uphill into the final turn. Joe was fading too, and sprinted in the saddle until the last 40 meters, and came around Dickerson for the win.

The criterium win moved Joe into 2nd overall in the Omnium behind Dickerson, exactly where he would have finish without his mechanical disaster in the TT. Go figure.

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