THE Piedmont Triad Omnium: A Old Guy’s Perspective

This weekend the first Piedmont Triad Omnium was held in Lexington and Thomasville. The event was organized by a local cyclist – Jim Martin, and sponsored by many of the local bicycle clubs/shops. The following is a brief description from my vantage point as a volunteer and Cat 5 cyclist (50 yo for this season).
Criterium – Uptown Lexington 7/11/08
I was off Friday and met Jim Martin at Lexington Farm and Garden at noon to help load straw bales to set out on the course. We loaded the bales and set up the 0.7 mile course using the bales and CycleSafe.org equipment to protect riders from objects close to the road (signs, fire hydrants, mail boxes, etc.). It took a group of about 10 volunteers until 3 pm to get the course set up. After setup was done, I sat at Cafe 35 and called up a couple of fellow Ramblers to try to entice them to join in the fun that night at 8:30. Greendog stated that he ‘might’ come, but it’s probably good that he didn’t. I chilled out sucking down water at Cafe 35 musing over the variety of fiberglass pigs around until 4:45 pm, when I hopped in the car and went to Lexington Barbecue for my pre-race meal.
When I returned, I registered for my event and learned that the fields had been split due to the size. My race (Cat 5 & 40+ Cat 4/5) would start about 9 pm. Our field was to be about 74 strong. Uh-oh. A criterium under the lights with 74 relatively inexperienced riders (mea culpa) was not looking very enticing. I spent the hour before the race warming up on some of the back roads with a teammate. We got to the line early and were in the front for the start. I had trouble clipping in and immediately found myself at the back of the field. I consoled myself that it might be a tad less dangerous there than trying to take the first couple of turns with such a huge field. Unfortunately, trying to keep up with the field with the yo-yo effect proved to be difficult. I found myself off the back of the field with a few riders by 10 minutes into the race. The pack I was with rode hard and kept relatively close to the main field. We probably were behind the main field by 3 tenths of a mile by the last lap. As we rounded the last corner and started jockeying for position to sprint in I looked up to see the Cat 1,2,3 riders lined up as we were coming in. DAMN! I didn’t get lapped, or pulled from the field, yet, I still didn’t get to come across the line flying. Arghhhh!!!!! I finished way back in the standings for the criterium. They didn’t event score the folks that didn’t finish with the main field.
Risk for serious bodily harm – 10/10. For those of you considering Crit racing, look for small fields and non-technical courses to begin with. The ‘pucker’ factor was HIGH during this event. Several things combined for this: field size, field inexperience, and dark conditions. My heartrate averaged 182 for the race (Threshold 173) and I felt strong for the entire ride. I might have gotten a better result if I had gotten clipped in and was closer to the front, but, I kept my skin and didn’t get pulled from the course. That may be the best I ever do in a Criterium since I’m not sure I want to risk injury this much in the future. I left the course happy to have my skin and eager to get to bed because I was scheduled for the 0805 start at the Road Race the following day.
Road Race – DCCC – 7/12/08
In bed by 11 pm the night before, I woke up at 0430 to start getting ready for the race. I arrived at DCCC a little before 0700. The Cat 4 riders left at 0800 and the field of 64 Cat 5 riders left at 0805. The race was controlled until we got to Yokley Road. The pace picked up a little on Yokley, but the entire field was together as we turned right on to Ridge Road. The folks on the front were content to ride slow for the first mile or two on Ridge until someone suggested that we pick up the pace to string things out a bit. A paceline was formed that ramped up the speed a bit, but the peleton stayed together pretty well. We turned right on to Clodfelter Road and were still together as a group. The first climb up Clodfelter to Old Greensoro went well. I’m sure we dropped a few folks on the climb, but fortunately, I wasn’t in a position to see them. The paceline resumed on Old Greensboro road until we turned right on to Yokley again, Lap 1 of 3 completed. Shortly after we turned on to Yokley, the motorcycle pacing us motioned the field to the left lane while he tried to herd a dog off the course. Unfortunately, the dog did not cooperate and I watched as the rider slightly ahead of me and to the right ran over the middle of a small dog and proceeded to go over the bars. Ughhh. The dog yelped and, as I heard later, the next rider ran over the dog AND the rider that was down. Yet a third rider then proceeded to stop on top of the dog and fell over as he couldn’t clip out. Just great. Fortunately, all the riders escaped without serious injury. The remaining field continued as they had been without any serious break attempts. I finished the second climb of Clodfelter with the lead group and was pleased as we turned on to Yokley that I wouldn’t get lapped today. Somewhere on Ridge a couple of guys went off the front but never gained much ground. The pack pulled them in after we climbed up to Old Greensboro for the last time. I was feeling pretty good at this point and kept jockeying for position as we ramped t hings up towards the finish. The field was some 35 strong as we came to the red cones that signaled the entire road was clear for us leading to the sprint. I stayed behind someone I knew was a strong rider, but he was bumped in the mayhem leading up the sprint and I watched as he tensed up and backed off. There was no place to go and I just waited for him to recover and followed him in. I finished 21st with an average HR of 160.
Risk for serious bodily harm – 6/10. Road races are more my style. The problems are that with such a large field there is little room to move up in the field due to crowding on the road. Also, it was difficult on the climbs as inexperienced riders often could not hold their line when they were out of the saddle. The sprint with a field of 35 proved to be dicey and possibly the greatest chance for serious injury.
After the race, I stayed to sit at one of the intersections and monitor traffic while two other groups went out. It made for a LONG day. I was in bed before sunset.
Time Trial – Thomasville – 7/13/08
Ten hours of sleep did me good. I arrived at Finch Auditorium by 0815 and proceeded to warm up. I lined up at the start around 0922 to head out on the 10.4 mile course (out and back) on Unity Road in Thomasville. The riders went out according to their Categories and I was the first Cat 5 to go out. We went out in 1 minute intervals. The traffic intersections were fairly well controlled and I cruised going out. The outward route seemed to be mostly uphill and I reached the turning point by about 13 minutes. After I turned, it was some distance before I saw another rider and I began to think I might not have to suffer the disgrace of being passed on the course. Woo hoo! I continued to suffer as much as possible and began to pick up momentum on the downhills leading in to town. While picking up speed on one of the downhills I became keenly aware that both policemen controlling the next intersection had their backs to me and were waving traffic through. Uh-oh! I started screaming and they figured it out when I was about 20 yards away doing something like 27 mph. I managed to slide around the car IN the intersection without losing too much momentum. I crossed the line in under 26 minutes and that was good enough for 6th in a field of 32. Average HR was 181.
Risk for serious bodily harm – 2/10. The major risk in this race was the intersections. That shouldn’t be a problem in the future as I expect they will seek a road with less traffic.
After my race, I headed out on the course to stand at one of the intersections to help alert the police officer when riders were approaching. It was truly humbling to watch this professional handle traffic in a potentially dangerous situation. Cars approaching the intersection were often confused at what was going on and their reactions were often unpredictable. This officer had no time to let his mind wander or people could get hurt. He did an outstanding job and I got an education just by trying to help him out.
Overall Omnium Results
Sheesh. I’m not even sure I got on the board. I will say that Jim Martin did a great job putting this together. For a first effort this was absolutely amazing. I don’t think he imagined this kind of turnout even in his wildest dreams. If you folks want to see an event like this first hand, try volunteering next year. The amount of work that goes into something like this will make you appreciate it more than you might think.
Greg

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