Monday, June 9, 2008

The Meat Grinder: CBR State Crit Championships 08

The Meat Grinder is a new feature on 15 rides. It's our weekend race report, brought to you by none other than Joseph Ainsworth, a rapidly rising star in the SoCal racing scene and our crack race reporter. Providing that Joseph's weekends of destroying the field and general debauchery with Hollywood's elite doesn't get in the way, he'll be reporting for us on a regular basis...

The weekend started with a ridiculously long drive down to San Diego on Saturday afternoon, arriving about 5:00 p.m. The start time the next morning was 8:00 a.m. (the disadvantage to being a cat 4) so if I had decided to drive down that morning I would have ended up getting up at freaking 3 a.m. which is not fun let me tell you, so I spent the night at a friends down there who just happened to live just a few miles from the course which enabled me to wakeup at 6:00 instead of 3:00.

Sunday morning: Woke up and drove over to the course and got registered, found a place to park, found the guys I see every week and said hey, "Hey"; got warmed up, and tried to ride the course.

I was hoping, that considering this was a state championship race that it would be on of the better courses of the year (that’s pretty logical right?), but on the first lap of warm up on it I knew we were in for a crash fest. The course was essentially an L shape with corner one being a 180, a very, very narrow 180 around a divider in the middle of the road. Corner two was a change in road surfaces from concrete to asphalt, probably one of the easiest ones of the day. Turn three had a pothole right on the inside line which was inevitably where you got pushed if you sat in the middle of the pack. Turn four was probably the worst after turn one, the road narrowed from a good two lanes wide to a little over one and it slung you right into a curb on the outside, with a huge pothole and off camber gutter on the inside which pushed you out even more if you hit it. Saw some nasty carnage in the 5’s race while we were warming up which ended up with a broken Time VXRS and a broken set of zip wheels for one guy, among other road rash. I really wish I had taken a picture of the “barriers” they had up which were pieces of Styrofoam about 1-2 inches thick taped to the fucking wooden phone poles and cables that held them up. Crashing into them would have felt like getting hit by a car with a piece of leather wrapped around the hood at 30 MPH. For those of you who have never been hit by a car wrapped in dead cow or those with minimal imagination it would hurt bad. Finally turn 5 was back from asphalt to concrete and then you had about 200 meters to the finish. The actual race: We watch the finish of the 5’s and rolled over to get lined up.

The announcer was nice enough to remind us all that we're idiots, which is good, since I always forget that, and not to try any funny business in the corners because of all the crashes in the 5’s. Thank goodness for that reminder, since I was totally not paying attention to the 5's carnage party 10 minutes prior that I described in bloody detail above. It's my assumption the announcer is very popular and has many, many deep and prosperous relationships due to his kind and compassionate demeanor on the microphone.

Race starts and sure enough, second lap coming into the 180 some guy drives up the inside only to end up with nowhere to go and pushes the field out a little; the La Grange guy (lee I think) slid out. Every time around this corner for the rest of the race the same thing would reoccur and someone would at best scrape a pedal and at worse crash. I don’t think we made it through cleanly once. Since the race also slowed down to about 15 every time we went through the 180 it was also a full bore sprint out of it every time which really starts to add up after ~30 times through it. I think it was this corner that caused about half of our field to get dropped. A few laps in I ended up on the front reeling in a solo break. I caught him just before the line, which also just so happened to be a prime lap, but at the time I had no idea what I had even won. I look back as we cross the line and realize I have a little gap on the field and decided to go with it. The first thing I realized was that you could take the 180 about 4-5 mph faster if you were alone, the second thing I realized was that there was a slight incline on the back section that I hadn’t felt in the pack, but really fucking hurt when you were out alone. After a few laps I sat up and merged back into the field because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up the pace for the rest of the race. When I merged back into the pack I was pushed over a pothole and all of a sudden I feel myself come to almost a complete stop. My front brake is rubbing; well rubbing isn’t quite the word to describe it, maybe a death grip on the wheel would be better. Turns out that the cable got pinched somewhere and every time I went over a bump it would lock up for a little while. Well this course had a lot of bumps, so the ensuing race really started to suck. I somehow managed to move up as the race neared lap cards and was about 8th wheel coming into 3 laps to go. Coming into the turn on the second to last lap though someone goes down directly in front of me, which I thankfully had time to stop for, but the guy right behind me runs up my ass and manages to get something (probably a pedal) caught in my rear wheel and breaks two of the spokes, just enough that it’s no longer ride-able and since it happened within 5 to go, no free lap.

Needless to say I was a touch disappointed and with expletives flowing as freely as the cheap warm beer at a college kegger I walk it back over to the pit and watch the rest of the race from the sidelines. Some swamis guy ended up winning it about 50 yards ahead of the field.

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