Unless you are some sort of sick twisted freak, racing your bicycle in the rain at 38* isn’t fun. Not fun or funny at all.
The feet and hands will be frozen and there isn’t anything you can do about it Aquaman. Even the best, most warmest, waterproofest gloves, socks and boots have a weakness: a gigantic hole into which you thrust your appendages. You see, exposed arms and legs act as a conduit for rain water to flow down into your fancy overpriced socks and boots, rendering their waterproof qualities useless. Normally a jacket’s sleeves or a pant’s legs direct this flow over the cuff of boots and gloves, but not during a bike race. You can try and mitigate the damage by keeping your core warm before the race so that you’re not as cold when you start, but that will not help once the race is underway and it really is just a matter of time.
Saturday morning the whole crew was heading to Warwick to watch their final race of the season, they would not be making the trip on Sunday. Trying to get four people out the door early enough to watch Mrs. Rebecca’s 9:30 am race was stressful and distracting, so much so that we left without a single raincoat, rubber boot or umbrella between us. No problem, it isn’t supposed to rain until 1 pm, right Pete?
The rain started about 5 miles into our trip at 9:15 am. That is much ealier than 1 pm, 5.75 hours earlier to be exact. This made me grumpy: being responsible for 4 people who are about to spend 5 hours standing in the rain sucks. Ali was very positive though, telling me that they would be fine, could sit in the car if they had to, and that I should just have some fun… after all, the season is almost over.
Turns out she was right, the rain wasn’t that bad in Wahwick and the tree cover and carousel building at the venue provided enough refuge that no one got soaked that wasn’t racing. Colin and Linnea were nice enough to let me use their trainer and warm up under their tent, and I didn’t get super dirty or wet while inspecting the course immediately before the race. Getting to the line warm, dry and comfortable is a big plus and it has been proven to increase watts by up to 400% (though individual results may vary).
My late inspection lap got me to the start after my call up, but people were kind of taking up their normal spots anyway so I just stuck my bike in an open lane on the 4th row. An uncharacteristic lack of organization for a Verge event, where is Alan Atwood when you need him?
Sticking true to my new “wait 15 minutes before starting to race” philosophy, I settled in at the gun on the left, maybe 30 places deep. Had to push a few guys up the first hill, but a surprising number of people were able to ride it considering the amount of traffic. My first two laps were pretty boring, riding with B. Hornberger, S. Roszko, M. Magur, and D. Snoop. There was a long sweeping right hand turn in the field out by the parking lot that I could not figure out for the entire race (after my race I was watching the junior/cat 3 racers when I finally figured out that turn: stay far right the entire time. I learned this by watching a kid who couldn’t have been older than 15 rail that sucker), and on lap two I laid it down there and had to sprint to get back on my group. That pushed the “start” of “my race” back a bit, I needed to recover before going hard again.
On lap 3, I attacked the group on an incline heading into the woods to try and reach A. Millett and J. Meerse. It was about 20 minutes into the race but I felt good enough and the group had slowed some. I got about half way across before I noticed that I wasn’t gaining and the guys behind weren’t disappearing either. I lost momentum in that stupid right hander again and around that time J. Chabot yelled “c’mon Matt - 15 minutes!” but I was infact loosing ground to the chasers though I was trying harder. Hmmm……
With 1.5 to go I was caught by Magur and Snoop in the field (of course)… they had time trialed on the pavement to get close and then swooped in when I barfed all over that stupid right hand turn! Roszko had been dropped but he was coming back with friends this time: a bike barn and a CVC rider that I didn’t know.
On the pavement at the bell we were chasing hard and Meerse crashed ahead of us. I considered stopping to help but he popped up pretty quickly. I saw a look of confusion and worry on his wife’s face at the barriers so I yelled to her that he had crashed and gestured towards the parking lot. Magur took that opportunity to accelerate and I had to sprint to catch him before the pavement. I got to the front and led through the right hander for the final time, figuring it would be good to force him to go as slow as I had been going in that section. We were just about up to Millett when I lost it on the final 180 in the field… a turn that I had been riding cleanly all day. With the chain off, five riders went by, the last being Roszko, who I joined for the last 4 minutes of riding. Steve easily bested me in the sprint for 27th leaving me disappointed in having fallen twice.
I did manage to stay relatively warm throughout, my hands and feet were cold but manageable. I was glad I wasn’t hurt in my crashes but my final placing shows that I can’t afford to take any soil samples out there. The only other results-impacting crash I’ve had this year was in VT, and I finished 28th that day as well after a very similar slip-and-fall-and-drop-the-chain incident.