Monday, June 30, 2008

Michele Smith captains a tandem at the MS Ride

(All photos courtesy of Claudia.)

Claudia and I successfully completed the MS Ride on Saturday. I didn't find out until today just how successful the ride was though -- Claudia raised $32,548!! I couldn't be more proud of her and Knitters Against Multiple Sclerosis.

As the #1 fundraiser from last year, Claudia was the first rider to start.

This meant that the two of us got to "break" the ribbon at the start line (actually someone was ripping apart the plastic strip for us and I was afraid he wouldn't finish in time) while 1700+ riders applauded. Then we got to ride at the front with a police escort for a few miles. Very cool! We got passed by probably about 100 riders over the ensuing miles, many of whom congratulated Claudia. Of course there were a few obligatory comments about how the stoker gets to cruise while the captain does the work -- and having ridden in both positions, I can't stress enough how untrue this is. But everyone's a comedian! :)

We stopped a couple of times for snacks but mostly kept turning the pedals at a pretty steady pace that had us actually passing some riders on the final rolling hills past Myles Standish State Park. By the time we reached the Cape Cod Canal (back-of-the-tandem cam pic below), the clouds and fog that dogged us through most of the ride had cleared. What a beautiful day it was!

Claudia and I were both glad to reach the finish and get cleaned up. I was a filthy mess but Claudia is one of those riders who always looks elegant no matter how hard she's working (kind of like former team rider Heather Peck!).

All in all, this was a wonderful experience and I'm so glad I got to be a part of it. Thanks to all of you who sponsored me and thanks to Claudia, who was endlessly patient with my often-poor captaining technique, not to mention a great conversationalist on those long rides.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two more state championships for Silke

Hot on the heels of the CT championship road race came the CT championship criterium. Silke Wunderwald and Michele Smith joined two fields (30+ and P/1/2) at a swoopy course, designed specifically for bike racing, in New Britain’s Walnut Hill Park. In the 30+ race, which was only 10 miles long, the pace was quite high from the start. IF and NEBC were active, with Silke and NEBC's Rebecca Wellons escaping with two laps to go. In a close-fought finish, Rebecca just edged out Silke for the win. As the top CT finisher, Silke got the gold medal and the winner's jersey. Michele finished 14th.

In the second race, strong teams from NEBC and North Atlantic Velo kept the pace high. There were several attacks but ultimately the pack entered the final lap together. With no team large enough to control the front, the pack swarmed the final time up the short hill and spread across the road for the finish. Silke was boxed in and finished 8th, though again was the top CT finisher. Michele was 15th.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Silke Wunderwald wins gold at CT Road State Championship!

Housatonic Hills Road Race Report

Riders: Silke Wunderwald and Zoe Owers

River Road has long been a challenging part of the Housatonic Hills road race course with a minefield of potholes and cracks that grew worse every year and that collectively make up a prime example of what could be defined as the New England equivalent of Belgian pavé. Apparently, the road surface has finally degraded to the point where the race promoter felt it was no longer safe and a new course was devised. By all accounts this new route was much more challenging with an additional 600 feet of climbing and the former steep finish climb now moved to the beginning of each lap. The Q/KOM was also moved to a longer gradual climb somewhere in the new sections of the course.

With the exception of a few dropped riders the field stayed intact through the first lap of the course. Zoe Owers rode strong at the front of the group and positioned herself well to help her teammate Silke Wunderwald control the pack during the first loop of the race.
The first split of the Women’s P123 field occurred on the former finish climb at the beginning of the second lap. The group of seven or eight riders that crested the hill together soon grew to nine or ten with additional riders rejoining the front after a longer downhill section. Roughly halfway through the second lap, another selection occurred that contained Silke Wunderwald, Beth Miller (North Atlantic Velo) and Audrey Friedrichsen Scott (Bikeway). The three escapees worked well together to increase their lead and the chase group failed to get organized to reel them back in. Coming through the last turn behind Audrey and Beth, Silke was in perfect position to wait for the right moment to start her sprint to the finish line to claim the spot on top of the podium as well as the title of Connecticut Road Race Champion!

5th Annual Balloon Festival Classic – Cambridge, NY – June 8, 2008

Independent Fabrication/Kempner tops the podium!
Race report by Silke

Boy, was it hot! With the exception of the near record-breaking temperatures at the Tour of the Battenkill back in April, it has been a fairly cool spring in the Northeast and I assume that everyone was feeling a little uneasy with the heat radiating off the pavement at 9 o’clock in the morning already.

Before the start of the women’s race we watched some of the juniors finish. Jack Macclarence, the winner of the Juniors 10-14, sprinted across the line by himself way ahead of the next finisher, without a victory salute, but simply with the raw determination to give it everything he had until the very end. Awesome. Sometimes I wish I had gotten into competitive sports at a much younger age to enjoy a few years of racing fearless, unencumbered by thoughts of responsibility and reason.

So off we go! I led the pack through town, soft pedaling and giving my legs and body a chance to get into a rhythm. Before we hit the stepped climb at mile 16 there were a couple of attacks, short-lived, but enough to stretch the legs, get the heart rate up and to get a feel for how this day might unfold. The steep climb was going to force a selection without a doubt and with the sun beating down on us no one seemed too eager to expend precious energy early in the race. My teammates Pauline, Zoe and Michele all looked strong and showed their presence at the front of the pack. I felt confident that if I could initiate a break they would use their experience to effectively control the pack.

When we reached the second part of the steep two-tiered climb, I was in the lead and had a small gap on a group of four. I continued to push the pace over the top and into the downhill section that followed hoping to increase the gap on the field and encouraging the group of four to get organized and catch up to me which they did before long. I was happy to see Debony Diehl and Yvette LaBombard in the mix and we immediately started to work together to increase our lead. On our way out of town at the beginning of the second loop we got stuck in a bit of traffic and I was afraid our lead would fizzle like a drop of water on a hot stone. Things evaporating seemed to be the theme of the day anyway. Once we were able to continue I was trying to increase the pace a bit to make up for lost time, but it seemed like everyone was starting to feel the heat. On the first few rollers after leaving the town of Cambridge, I noticed that some of the girls were breathing pretty hard. I saw my chance to whittle down our group of five even further and increased the pace to see if anyone would respond. When I looked back there was no one with me and I had a good sized gap. So without much further thought, I focused my energy on extending my lead.

Once I settled into what seemed like a reasonable pace to get me to the finish without blowing up, I realized that I still had a pretty long way to go, including the climb and the last four miles to the finish into a headwind, and after about four or five miles on my own I was beginning to wonder if I had made my move too early? My face had turned a significantly darker shade of red than your proverbial carrot and it felt like I was dangling precariously on the edge of a complete melt-down. What was going to happen first: spontaneous combustion or my muscles turning into one big twitching heap of rotting flesh? I could almost hear the flies buzzing…. But thanks to the neutral water that was graciously provided by the race promoter to all racers in response to the extreme conditions, I was able to cool off a bit and when I crested the steep climb for the second and last time and still didn’t see anyone behind me, I was beginning to feel vaguely confident that I might actually be able to make it. I forced myself into a steady tempo and pressed on until I finally saw the finish line banner. I did it! I won the 5th Annual Balloon Festival!!

Overall, Team Independent Fabrication/Kempner did extremely well on this hot and challenging day with Zoe taking 7th and Pauline very close behind in 12th place.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Stafford Springs Speedway Criterium

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line,
Engines pumping and thumping in time.
The green light flashes, the flag goes up,
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup.

They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank,
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank,
Reckless and wild they pour thru the turns,
Their prowess is potent and secretly stern.

That’s how much Scott Dixon raked in for winning the Indy 500.

The Stafford Springs Speedway Criterium – May 24, 2008

The horse power might have been slightly less, the speed a little slower and the bleachers significantly less crowded, but the action at the Stafford Springs Speedway crit was just as exciting as the mega show that is the Indy 500. Silke successfully sprinted for two primes and a third attack shortly thereafter split the field. Tempers were flaring and a somewhat dysfunctional lead group saw the riders yelling (in a friendly, competitive spirit) at each other to get organized. Eventually though everyone buried their differences and channeled their energy into their legs and pedals. The chase group was unable to catch back on and after a few more rotations and yet another short attack with four laps to go, Silke won the field sprint to take the win. The Stafford Springs Speedway was a fun venue for a crit and for those who tend to dislike the never ending 90-degree turns of most other courses this was certainly a nice change and offered something a little bit different from the norm. You get another chance to race on a speedway if you are so inclined at the Thompson Speedway crit on 06-30 (check bikereg).