Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sardine Hand Up

No thanks.

That was my initial reaction when Jay Chesterman (SC Velo) told me that the race promoter was offering a chance for cat 3 riders to jump in with the cat 1-2 at this year's Twin Bing Classic road race. No thanks, because I was hoping to win some upgrade points in the cat 3 race.

But I hemmed and hawed over it. I scanned the cat 3 field. It was big and I had no teammates in the race.

Then I looked at the 1-2 field and saw MWCC's Lucas Marshall, Mark Savery, Greg Shimonek and Paul Webb. All are more than capable riders. But they had their work cut out for them against the six team Kaos riders. Four against their six.

I fretted some more until my gaze was caught by Lee Bumgarner (Kaos). He was looking right at me, nodding his head while pointing at the cat 1-2 field. He was calling me out.

I couldn't ignore that invitation.

Were my chances good at a cat 1-2 podium? Unlikely. In my two prior attempts at Twin Bing, I blew up well before the finish line. Spectacularly, too. One of them I even finished DFL. Even if I joined in, our team was still out numbered. And there was 69 miles of hills and winds ahead. There was a small chance of success. What was I waiting for?

The whistle blew. I sat in for the first lap. Shim got into a break that rolled off the front with Chris Spence (Kaos), Clark Priebe (unattached) and Michael Sencenbaugh (unattached). I was happy for Shim. He had as good a chance as any in that group. I was also relieved because with the two strong teams represented in the break, it meant that it'd be relatively easy street for the peloton.

But in the second lap, with about 35 miles left in the race, a report came through the peloton that Shim had flatted. Not just once. Not even twice. But apparently three times, and he was left fending for himself in no man's land.

Savery quickly organized the team to bring the break back. In a short while, we picked up Shim, who got some rest before jumping in for a few rotations. We also got some contributions from Jerome Rewerts (Zealous) and Cody McCollough (SC Velo). But it's fair to say that the lion's share of the work was done by Savery, Webb and I.

By the time we got to Climbing Hill to start the third lap, my legs were wobbly. Going up the hill, we heard that Priebe had dropped out of the break. With only two guys a minute up the road, a wave of excitement surged through the peloton. The pack accelerated. Unfortunately, I didn't. My legs were toast and I got popped off the back. Now there's a familiar Twin Bing feeling.

The break was pulled back a short time later by those remaining in the hunt. Hysterics and unbelievable feats of strength ensued until finally, in the end, it was all over: Bumgarner (Kaos), Marshall (MWCC), Ross (Kaos). Kaos actually picked up five of the top ten spots; Shim (MWCC) was tenth.

Considering we were outnumbered to begin with, and then were dealt a bad hand with Shim's three flats, it was still a moral victory that we were able to pull back the break to give Lucas a viable podium chance. I'd like to think that Kaos would grant us this concession. I mean, they were able to sit in for an entire lap while we worked our asses off to bring back the break. I suppose in a sense, we contributed to their success.

Maybe that's how I ended up on their team's social media page:

What team am I riding for?  (photo: Michael Dixon)

At least they offered me a sardine hand up. True story.

John Rokke offering Brady Murphy the sardine hand up  (photo: Michael Dixon)

Could somebody please explain to me why there was a tin of sardines in John Rokke's hand?

Anyway, despite my not so stellar results -- unless you're a fan of the Lantern Rouge and sardine hand ups -- the Twin Bing Classic remains my favorite road race. Why? Because everything about it is difficult. It's hills are punishing and its winds are unforgiving. Its remote location isn't easy to get to, and its facilities -- an old public school building --  are spartan. Put it this way, the toilet stalls have no doors and the bathroom's only sink has no hot water. Judging by the rust, the hot water's knob was broken off many many years ago.

The race itself goes off without a hitch. Yes it's tough. But it's a good one. Thanks to SC Velo for putting on this classic each spring. Don't change a thing.

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