2011 Ion Smack Down – Charleston, South Carolina

Originally posted 4/16/11  

I headed to Charleston, SC for a weekend of criterium racing.  I left on Friday, April 15th after going for a 25 mile ride in Mooresville.  We arrived in Charleston around 6:30 and Leah and Neal arrived shortly thereafter.   We all went to dinner and celebrated Neal’s birthdays. 

I woke up early (5AM) Saturday morning to help Neal set up the crit course. We arrived at the venue around 5:45AM and started unloading his trailer to get the stage and truss setup.  Things were pretty nervous as the forecast was for major winds and rain.  We got everything setup with 15 minutes to spare.  The good news was that the rain held off and the course started drying up. 

Leah (Giordana-Clif-Bar-Brica) raced the Cat 3/4 race and took her first road bike race win!!  Congratulations.

After the race, Leah headed back to the house with me.  Tracy, Leah and I jumped on our bikes for a ride and headed down the coast.  We ended up at Fort Multrie.  Turns out this weekend was the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.  We were treated to volunteers in authentic Civil War era clothing and a musket demonstration. 

We had lunch, an awesome blackened flounder sandwich and headed back to the criterium race site at I’on Village.   I was racing the Cat 3/4 criterium race.  The previous year I raced 35+ Masters race and got dropped and struggled in the 3/4 race.  I haven’t ridden much this year so decided to just do one race. 

The bike race started and I immediately worked my way up to the top 3rd of the group.  The good news is that I felt pretty good.  The course at I’on is a lot of fun with a small roundabout to navigate on the front stretch and 3 90° turns.  Turn 3 has a section of rough bricks at the apex of the turn which makes for some exciting action.  Our race was 50 minutes.  My plan was to just sit in and see how the race would play out.

After about 30 minutes, things started heating up.  A group of two bike racers managed to get off the front.  Usually, I would have chased but I didn’t feel like I had the fitness to do so.  Another group of between 6-8 riders managed to get off the front.  Now it was game on.  We had 8 laps to go and I went to the front.  I pushed it up the front stretch as hard as I could to see if we could get some guys to work.  As usual, no one would pull through. 

I pulled off the front on the back stretch because I knew I couldn’t sustain the effort in the headwind.  We did this for a couple more laps and I had another go.  Three other bike riders and I managed to get a small gap but when we tried to work together, only one rider pulled through and we were caught by the main group.

One of the guys that seemed strong asked me to help.  So with 3 to go we went to the front and drilled it for two laps.  We didn’t get much help and I had to sit up on the backstretch on the last lap and finish with the group (26th Overall).  I saw a picture of the final sprint and the main group managed to get close to the leaders, so our work on the front made it interesting.

The good news is that I felt great, stuck my nose in the wind and raced.  It was a good way to start the season.  Interesting fact, our average speed was 24.5mph, the exact same average speed as last year, but I felt much better this year.  Maybe training is overrated??

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