Sep 12, 2011

Sacramento Grand Prix and rant

As far as the race was concerned, I don’t really have much in terms of colorful commentary. I’ve said it again and you will probably read these words on this blog many times in the future – I don’t do well in the heat. I think it was in the mid-nineties on Saturday when we lined up for the race around 2pm.

I was sweating just standing on the start line waiting for the whistle, so when the race started, the heat was really on. We had about 70 people in our field on a very fast, very open, 4-corner counterclockwise circuit. It’s the same circuit used by Tour of California for their finish in Sacramento, which I thought was very cool, but I too, would have like to have raced there in May, when it was probably a bit on the cooler side.

I didn’t realize what a toll the heat had been taking on my body until about the third or fourth lap when I decided to attack and test my legs. The field wasn’t really chasing, so I put some distance between myself and the front of the peloton and settled in. I was probably pushing something in the 400-watt range, which I can do for about 90 seconds to two minutes without much (if any) burn in the legs, especially that early in the race.

All of a sudden, I started to feel not so good, while my legs were still feeling pretty strong. I looked down at my Garmin and saw my HR was at 192 – I have not seen my HR in the 190s this whole year (I ultimately maxed out around 195, one beat off my max). The effort felt like I should have been in the high 170s. I knew then that I wasn’t going to be doing much in this race except trying no to overheat.

I tried to stay near the front for as long as I could, eventually finding myself in the back because I just didn’t have the extra energy to expend to fight for position. I would drift back and forth in the field for the whole race. With three to go, I started to shiver. The only reason to shiver in near 100-degree heat is that your body is overheating. So the last three laps were a balance of trying not to puke, not to pass out going into a corner and not to finish dead last. I rolled in about mid-pack, with my legs feeling like they barely raced at all, and everything else in my body feeling like it was ready to melt into puddle of amorphous matter.

My average HR was 183 for the race, that’s eight beats higher than the hardest crit I raced all year, which was Benicia. And seven beats higher than the Berkley crit I raced after a night of drinking, eating and 4.5 hours of sleep (my max in that one was 185).

Now for the (not so) mini rant

There were many things that the promoters of Sacramento Grand Prix did right, and I’d like to acknowledge and commend those first. The course was set up wonderfully, with all corners cleaned, all dangerous elements covered and railing set up to prevent pedestrians from wandering on course. The setup, announcer’s both, lap counter and all of that was very, very pro. It was also a nice touch to see my name on my number and to be able to grab Cytomax and/or Muscle Milk after the race. Lastly, emailing the results right after the event was a great touch and obviated the need for all to gather in one place to see a piece of paper posted on a wall.

From that point on, however, things took a turn. The numbers, while a great touch, were printed on crap. This probably doesn’t affect most of you, but it does affect me because I glue my numbers on and when only the top layer comes off upon removal, that’s a sign that the number was printed on cheap material. Nothing that Goo Gone can’t take care of in about 3 minutes, but still very annoying, especially when the back of the number has a beer ticket on it!

Yes, I know, by NCNCA rules I’m supposed to have my number pinned and my number always has pins in it. Now whether those pins actually hold the number to my skinsuit, that’s another story. If the officials want to call me out on it, they are more than welcome.  Frankly, if they do it after reading my blog, I will be both shocked and flattered at the breadth of my audience.

As far as that beer, I didn’t have a problem getting it. That is, after I walked the lady in charge of the beer garden entrance to someone who knew what the hell was going on to get confirmation on the fact that a number did really get those who raced one free beer. The choices of beer left A LOT to be desired. Let’s just say I’m sure they ran out of Sierra Nevada pretty quickly. I’m actually not complaining about the beer, it was free after all, and at $2 a glass (after the free one), no one was getting ripped off.

The biggest problem I had with the race is what happened toward the end. I guess this is the same thing that has been happening at other races this promoter has put on, but this was the first one of theirs that I raced. While the women P/1/2/3 race was going on, five or six young ladies showed up, dressed in very gaudy fashionably questionable outfits (I’ve spent a couple years clubbing 3-4 nights a week, believe me, these were bad), with absurd funny pink umbrellas, and headed to the VIP section. Turns out, their main role was to walk the P12 guys getting callups from where the field staged to the line – a whole 10 yards. And considering most guys met them half way, it was more like five yards.

First of all, for the promoters to assume that those women were there to give us (spectators) a show after the P123 women just raced very hard for 80 minutes is in my opinion extremely disrespectful to the entire women’s field, which I personally found much more entertaining (in many senses of that word) to watch than the umbrella girls (as the promoters called them).

Second of all, the riders couldn’t care less if the girls were there or not. Most didn’t know what the hell to do once greeted by them. The rest just wanted to get on with the race – it was very visible in their faces.

Lastly, no one came there to see the umbrella girls. We came there to see some of the top pros and amateurs duke it out in fashion. We were there to watch cycling, in its pure, wonderful, powerful form. The umbrella girls added nothing, but their presence managed to cheapen the whole thing. I still don’t quite understand why all this pretentiousness had to be infused into the race. It was the ONLY race this year where I didn’t quite feel in my own element as a spectator post my own race. But maybe that was just I, and I shouldn’t take objectifying women for no reason whatsoever so seriously, but that kind of goes beyond the scope of this blog. 

I could probably go on and on about how ridiculously stupid it is to have a VIP section at an amateur event of this type, but I won’t. Instead I’m going to suggest they get another announcer for their next race, someone who’s actually familiar with NCNCA rules and local racers. How the hell do you confuse Bubba Melcher with Dean Leberge – even from 200 meters out?!?

Rant over. Hopefully next year there will be some improvement, and maybe if the umbrella girls won’t go away, at least the promoters will consider inviting some variation of Chip ‘n’ Dale dancers to escort the women racers to the line. You know, in the spirit of keeping all things equal. 

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