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2015 Jefferson Cup

Posted by on April 1, 2015

Race #3 on the calendar this year is the longest running race on the MABRA Calendar – The 2015 Jefferson Cup.

The Jefferson Cup is a road race held on a 9.8 mile loop just south of Charlottesville Virginia — the home of Monticello and Thomas Jefferson.  And a Jefferson Cup is a pewter cup style that Thomas Jefferson designed and had created in 1810.  Generally in this part of Virginia, they’re given to commemorate events (graduations, births, awards, etc).

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The drawback is that I was going to have to drive to Charlottesville — almost 3 hours away, but at least my race was at 12:30pm, so I didn’t have to wake up at 4am like I did for Richmond.  My aunt was in town having just flown in from Grand Cayman, but this time, I had a list to check off of what I wanted to bring, and in which bag I had placed it.  To make things worse, we were going to have a nice wonderful beginning of Spring cold snap on the day of the race.  It was going to be below freezing here in Northern Virginia, and figuring Charlottesville was at the foothills of the mountains, it could be cold on race day.

I spent the night before checking things off the list, and got down to the last, so I spent a half hour on the bike, did a couple hard sprints, made sure the shifting was working right on the rear derailleur, and then got everything set — Oatmeal and coffee prepped, bags ready, and alarm set.

I didn’t get a good sleep that night, I was up at least 3 times to use the bathroom, and my daughter decided that she was going to lodge her legs into my back, and then there were my short lived dreams, which all repeated the same thing to me (seriously) — Don’t get dropped.

I was upset that I got dropped twice at Black Hills, and was fully committed to not getting dropped at Jefferson Cup — It would be one thing to do 5 short laps at Black Hills, but if I got dropped early at Jefferson Cup, that could be a lonely 25 miles, and I didn’t want what was happening with my results at USAC with Black Hills to be in doubt — finishing with the lead group is the best way to ensure that, if not in the top 5.

At 6am my alarm went off, and I got up and made breakfast and coffee… and then more coffee, since I drained the first pot filling up the two travel mugs for the trip.  I then found myself ready to go… and it was 6:45.  So I loaded the truck, and just made second and third checks on things.  I gave everyone hugs and kisses, and departed just before 8am.

I-66 W was thankfully traffic-free, it being Sunday at 8am and all.  I stopped for a bathroom break and to refuel the truck at a Southern States gas station.  Odd thing, after surfing radio stations after leaving the friendly confines of WTOP, I listened to 106.7, and then when that gave out, I ended up finding 3WV… And heard Back in the Saddle Again by Aerosmith.  How Fitting 🙂

Passed through Charlottesville, and things started looking familiar — this was the way I normally ride to and from Lynchburg for the Storming of Thunder Ridge.  I noticed the shopping center that the Five Guys I eat at on my way back from Thunder Ridge.  Eventually I got to I 64. The GPS had me going straight on 29, but I remember having to go via 64, so I jumped on 64 for an exit, and got off one exit too soon.  However, I made it to Walton Middle School at about 10:15am.  Better to be early and have a leisurely morning rather than rushed and stressed.

Clay was already there, having stayed in Charlottesville the night before, and had even brought the tent:

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Brian and Tom were already racing, but because the actual race route was a mile from the middle school, it wasn’t very easy to pop over to see them; the parking lot was filling up, and having just arrived, I still hadn’t put on kit, nor was I in any hurry as it was 36 degrees.

Also there was zero Verizon coverage.  Not even voice coverage.  A mere 5 miles from an interstate highway, and the coverage was gone.

First thing I did was go get registered and to get my numbers.  The middle school was warm (Yay!) and had bathrooms (Double Yay!) with stalls.  No trying to get dressed in the truck or in the cold porta-johns (of which there were three, so I wouldn’t have any qualms about doing so if so needed).

I got my bike off the truck and went and hung it up over at the tent.  At some point in time another rider came up asking if we were neutral support; I told him no (he was looking for help with his rear brakes), but to go up to registration and ask about it there.  He was not the only one; I think Clay could have made some spare duckets had he wanted to.

Tina and Jacqueline rolled up about 20 minutes later already in kit; I figured it was my cue to go do so as well.

Tina, Jackie and Clay left me to go scout the races that were currently running, and to warm up; my warming up was being done in the truck.  I happened to see that they had WiFi at the middle school, but because it’s a school, just about anything that I wanted to go to was blocked, though weather underground said that it was now 39, expected to be 42 by race time.

I became Protiviti — I waffled as to what to wear.  I had on my black Izod base layer, VWS arm and leg warmers, wool racing socks.  I pinned my numbers to my gillet, but couldn’t decide as to gloves and feetwear.  Though my wool racing socks were warm, I still put on the overshoes just to see.  If it wasn’t warm enough I’d go with the DeFeet Woolie Boolies.  I had on my full finger gloves with the half finger Castelli’s over them, and went out for a short warm up ride.

I went across the bridge instead of turning left to ride up to the course initially.  Got about halfway up the hill leading away from the course when I realized “Why am I spending so much energy going up this hill?”  I got to a driveway, turned around, went back down the hill and rode up to the third corner on the course.  There was a police officer there managing traffic.  I decided I really didn’t want to spend any more warm up than necessary, plus we had a neutral roll out to this point, so I headed back to the school.

I think I swapped gloves 4 or 5 times, but Tina’s advice was most prescient: “How are you going to shift?”  I had to agree with her — though I knew the Rapha gloves would be warm, they didn’t quite make it easy to shift into the smaller rings.  So I’d rough it out with the hybrid setup.

After a run to the bathroom, I did a couple laps around the parking lot and proceeded to follow directions set out by Ruth to go get staged.

I figured that since it was a neutral parade out to the route, it really didn’t matter where I staged, it would be a vortex of moving up and dropping back at the start.  There were a couple odd things though, since we were the first to roll out, we would be racing once we got on the course, but did that mean right after the left turn, or after we passed turn 3?

Once we hit turn 3, people started racing in earnest.  It was a bit odd, because we were not given direction as to the center-line rule, so we all crowded into the right side of the road.  Eventually a couple guys yelled out loud “This isn’t a center line race is it?” and the response was “I don’t think so.”  And then we started taking both lanes, which was good, it was getting a bit cramped being in one lane, and there were some dicey riders in the pack.

The route features a long but shallow climb from turn 3 up across the finish line, and then a couple false flats and descents, and then the hill kicks up to 8-9%.  After a flat right hander, the last 4/10s of a mile is a solid 6% leg sapping climb.

There was an initial surge once we hit start of the course, but after that it was a solid big-ring climb that toned things down — still a good effort, but manageable.

Riding up to the finish line, the road was marked with 1km, 500/400/300/200/100m to go.  Right before the finish line on the right side of the road was long but shallow pot hole.

After the short flat after the finish line, the front group put in a bit of a dig, which got nowhere because there was a fast descent afterwards.  Then it was a scramble to conserve momentum up the last bit until the turn.

First time around I took the inside line in the hill, and had to hit it hard to catch up to the group as those up front chose this time to try to put some hurt into the pack.  Two minutes of 385w to keep with the group up the hill.  It was tough; really tough, but after last night’s self-pep-talk, there was no way I was getting dropped.

Then over the crest, and I put my plummeting skills on display — I plummet so well there was no sitting up, and sloughing off speed, I was on the brakes to make sure I didn’t end up on the nose of the peleton.

Someone decided poorly that it was the best time go off the front.  So, of course, a couple few decided that they should try and bridge.  We hit the second turn, and after getting situated back into the group, I looked back and saw that the first hill was the selection time — I was in the back of the group.  Time to do some moving up!

There were a couple of surges, and slowings and ups and downs on the rollers.  Right turn as we hit turn 3, and then back to the steady climb.

It was at this point in time, sitting probably 12th wheel that I took time to look at the composure of the group — 4 of the Long and Fosters team were there – three on the front, and then a 4th hanging back with me, so I made sure that I would do my best to stick on his wheel at least.  If his team was working for him, then I would just make sure he didn’t get away.

Clay was doing awesome work marking every surge and breakaway… Whenever more than two went off the front, he was the last one, and sat on their wheels.  At turn one again, a group went off the front and pushed the pace hard.  I fought hard to keep up with the group, and rolled over the top just a couple bike lengths behind, again so amazingly easy to catch back on after the descent.

Again, 4 or 5 went off the front, and again they all came back.  I understand the mentality – why wait around in a Cat5 pack, as squirrelly as it is, if you have the fitness to do so.  But given the nature of the wind, and that pretty much most of the group that was left was able to keep up and pull you back, it was going to be a sprint finish — there were really only a couple in the group that had the typical climbers build, and that long climb wasn’t hard enough that us fat guys couldn’t keep up.

Lap two however was the site of my one near-miss of the race.  There was a guy on a Neil Pryde Art’s Cyclery-built bike, and he liked to weave across the peleton… Well as we were getting around to the 3rd turn (probably a mile or so from it), there’s a left to right descent, into a left hand bend up a quick climb, which then rolls into another descent.  Neil Pryde Guy is weaving back and forth across the peleton, and when we hit the base of the climb, decides he’s going to jump the wheel of the guy on my right…from my left.  I barely had time to brake and as I heard rubber on rubber… Luckily I slowed up just enough we barely tapped wheels.  Shot of adrenaline realizing how close I was to probably going down, and resolved to not get near that guy again.  So I spent a lot of the rest of the race marking where he was, as well as keeping a bit more on the outside of the peleton.

There wasn’t a big penalty for being on the outside, you just had to know which outside to be on.  With the wind from the south-south-west, you wanted to be on the right-hand side between turns 2 & 3, and on the left hand side between turns 1 & 2.  Between 3 & 1 it really didn’t matter – the climb had a slight tailwind.

Lap three up the hill, I gave it everything, and was starting to come unhitched, and then jumped on the wheel of a pair that I had been (unknowing to me) towing up the hill.  So drafted them over the top, and then back down the descent, we got back on.  Pretty much after turn 2, everyone stopped playing games and settled in for the inevitable race up after turn 3.

It was a hard dig after the turn to get back into the group, and there were a couple quick injections of pace into the peleton, but nothing that split it apart.  At about 1200m to go, an NCVC rider got on the front and led a short lived leadout / attack.  When he looked back to see where his teammate was, he wasn’t there, so it was a pretty pointless attack.  All hell broke loose at 1km to go, and I was able to keep on the group…

Until, about 750m, when my right hamstring started cramping up.  I had to back off the pace, and watch the group haul ass away from me.  I kept a good pace, passed the NCVC rider who tried the ill-fated attack, and then gave it a good hard 100m turn to go across the line.

I was just a bit pissed that my leg cramped up on me.  But I still finished hard, just off the front group, a hell of a better result than the week before.

Warmed down, waited for the Juniors and Women’s races to finish… Cheered Jackie across the line… Eventually they let us go back down the road, where I cheered Tina on as she was coming up the last 1k.

When I got back to the school, the next races were already being pre-staged… I looked at my watch and realized that it was already 2:15.

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Grabbed some pics of the guys lined up and waiting:

Mens Cat 3/4

Mens Cat 3/4

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I walked back to the truck, hung my bike up at the tent, and heard the announcement of the posting of the Cat5 race.

Walked up to the school still in my cleats (dummy!), and went to see the results:

Cat5 Results

Cat5 Results

16th.  Much better than last week.  Not a top 10, but I’m happy with how I did.

After changing clothes a bit, I grabbed the camera and went back up to the finish line to catch the last laps of the 3/4 race.  At the bottom of the hill at turn 3, I watched a bit with Clay and Tina, and caught a few snaps of the race:

Sean popped off the back

Sean popped off the back

Eric and Mike in the turn

Eric and Mike in the turn

After the race had passed, I hauled myself up the hill and made the finish line.  I found Brian, and Major Tom and got my first experience as a soigneur, as I helped hand out water bottles for the 3/4 race.

Legs of the soigneur

Legs of the soigneur

It did seem like the race blew up coming up the hill on the last lap, and the guys ended up just behind the lead group.

Mike leads Eric in.

Mike leads Eric in.

After the race, there were many stories, wattage comparison, and friendly discussions.  Much fun was had.

Major Tom understands

Major Tom understands

After the race, it was a long ride home.  It had been a long day, though instead of stopping for a 5 Guys, I opted instead for a Panera sandwich and chips — The 5 Guys is for after Thunder Ridge.

Next week is Easter, and after that is Carl Dolan — Double up again (ugh!).

Things Learned:

  1. Take advantage of your advantages.  Given that I give up 5-10kg in loose skin to the field, I do accelerate quickly on the descents.  So in races that have a hill + descent feature, I don’t need to stay so close to the front on the climb, as long as I’m able to make it backup on the descent.  I probably could have saved some energy by perhaps going 2-3% less hard up the hill because I was scrubbing speed to not jump out in front of the peleton on the descent.
  2. Century nutrition does not equate to race nutrition.  I need more confidence to drink more water during a 30 mile road race, and perhaps pop an extra gel.  Also, the Skratch goes in BOTH bottles.
  3. It’s much warmer inside the peleton – my gloves were more than enough for the race.
  4. As Clay said – Take the first mile or so and identify the squirrely guys, and make sure you don’t give them a chance to affect your race.  I did better this race than Black Hills.
  5. Have Fun.  I spent some time in the middle of Lap 2 to talk to a couple guys in the peleton.  There’s nothing wrong with that — we’re all part of the race, we’re all not pros, and if we’re not having fun, why are we doing this?  Just don’t be an arsehole 🙂

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