Monday, April 4, 2011

RACE REPORT King of the Burlingame TT - or: How I learned to accept not making the podium (for now)

What?  A mountain bike time trial?  In early April??  In New England??!!

Yep - that it be.   The King of the Burlingame looks to be a relatively newer race in these parts.  I found some prior race results browsing  the EFTA website - and they go back to 2007.    The race itself  winds it's way nearly 7 miles around Watchaug Pond in Charlestown, RI - none too far from the ocean.  And it's a damn good thing too -lots of New England is still covered in snow.

For example - this was the scene leaving my house - (38 miles north) two days before the event:

Here I was that same Friday at work downing some chocolate caked laced with cherries.. perhaps... resigning myself to the idea the race might get cancelled??

As one expects around here - the weather flicked a booger at us on April Fools day.  The following Saturday:  Snow melted, birds singing, flowers blooming & seriously overcrowded garden sections at the Home Depot.  I even got inspired enough to start tidying up around the house.  Later that afternoon I endeavoured to flex my newfound expert muscles on the trails about a mile from the house with my $300 mail-order single speed.  This bike rules     me.

After a good night of sleep I woke up Sunday around 6 am.  Temps at the house were about 35º when I left at 7:00, but within a half hour driving south check out what my superior car display had to say:  

Hell yeah!!  it's 7:30 in the morning and 40º!!  It only gets better:

While driving down Rhode Island's longest stretch of Rte 95  - my cruise control started working again.  That was either a sign, a miracle or maybe a temperamental German car that goes real good in snow when it's working.  Right about then, I was digging options one and two.

It felt like everything was coming together.  I mean, I am Alby "King", I am heading to the "King" of the Burlingame.  The weather is turning out great and I am a brand new CAT 1!! 

Arriving at the parking lot the scene was abuzz.

The wind... a- blowin'

Pictures of waves never look as impressive as the real thing, but those are 1' waves on the pond.

I checked in at the NEMBA tent and proudly announced (in my deepest casual voice) "Umm, Expert class", then prepared my gear and rode around for a half hour to warm up and headed down the road to the starting point.  The starting point is on a separate park access road about a mile from the main lot.  When I arrived the assembled group was quite chatty.   You could tell alot of these guys knew each other by the conversation being tossed around.  The sport class never quite had this going on - not that it was anti-social or anything.  My guess:  Alot of the experts have been at it for awhile.   Almost everyone knows who everyone is.

The start order was determined either by where one finished last year, or when they registered online.  I was  thinking maybe I should have registered a bit sooner than I did as I came in 37th.  I believe in total there were 38 expert men & 5 expert women. 

The starts themselves were sequenced 30 seconds apart.  A stocky, confident man held onto your seatpost and counted down.. 10,9,8...  I have to say, the business of having someone hold the bike was a little weird for me. It was unnatural so  I kept wanting to track stack - which meant I was wobbling all over the place.  My apologies kind Sir..

Like a roller coaster clicking up the incline - it was only a matter of time before the bike holder offered:  "GO!" And off I went, praying like hell my nerves wouldn't result in a crash in front of the cool kids.  

The first section was fairly smooth - but it quickly led to a root infested quagmire that brought things from about mid-pace to nearly two.  I muddled through and up ahead saw  rider #36. Maybe this starting late business is good after all.. It's kinda nice having a target up ahead to egg you on.   I continue through some more techy muddy terrain and catch up with the rider  - quickly offer my proposed passing intentions - and cruise on.  Within another few minutes of huffing and puffing on some smoother terrain the next rider appears in the distance.  I know this guy:  Jesse Taylor.  He offered earlier in the group  at the start "hey, when you catch up - let me know and I'll get right out of the way"  Damn gentleman right there.  When I approach,  I announce "hey, Jesse it's me"  and he makes way as efficiently as one can. 

The next mile or so I am alone and starting to get my groove on.  The terrain here is less techy - more kill it with your roadie powers  and soon enough, I catch #3 while going up the steepest climb on the course.  I pass him near the top and continue on. 

From there the race kind of gets blurry.  I was certainly in a zone - the kind that blanks out all but the most interesting parts.  One interesting part: "the steps".  During recon about 3 weeks prior I told myself to "stay to the right - it's smoother".  Nothing like finding yourself  at the moment of realization - far from where you had planned to go, but it all went fine.  I allowed the spinal beating to happen and carried on.   The next fairly memorable moment:  I approached rider #4 and pass with some gusto - flicking the bike in a "stylin certified" fashion through some tech.  After gaining about 20' on him - I make a bold attempt to fit my bike between two rocks that aren't quite wide enough.  Result:  stoppage - and complete chain drop.  Damn, damn, damn...  The guy stops behind me - I mutter and snort "go on through.." and get off the bike to re-position the chain.  He gets about 50' ahead and I finally catch up at the first road crossing which for legal reasons required full dismounts.  While a bit stupid (its a race) I figured now was a good time to practice my first "cross" dismount and... drum roll..  IT WORKED!!! Yay me.  I think I was blubbering about trying it while doing it.  The Marshall's appeared moderately amused. 

On the road it was all go.  I continued past #5  here and made my way back into the woods towards the finish.  It was on the last bridge to flat to bridge section I feel I should / could have pushed some more because the finish  just came out of nowhere.  

Overall I was pretty satisfied with the effort.   No severe mechanicals & no crashes. At the finish I hung around with a few guys talkin' course, bikes & bike stores (your welcome Bikeman!) - then headed back to the main lot (another mile or so away)

The overall mens winner:  Daniel Barry - with a time of 28 minutes prit'near flat.  That's a new course record.

I got a photo of Dan's other half donning the coveted crown at first - as Dan was nowhere to be found during the awards:

Then a shot of Ellen -She's just 16 years old- Noble (sorry Ellen)- who was crowned Queen of the Burlingame.  Ellen's got a future with this bike racing thing:

Then finally a picture of the King himself - caught in the parking lot:

Side note: He has like zero body fat - not that I was spying.

So - my dream of being a complete King was washed away.  I fulfilled the emptiness with the last of my King Bar stash.  Timely too, these things expire in 4 days.

It was then I happily realized:  I already own some King Bling: 

Maybe I can get Lucy to knit up a crown for me..

My own result:  8th overall I think.  And I think a time somewhere under 30 minutes.  We'll see in a couple of days. 

Afterwards I went on a tour around the park with Dan the rigid single-speed man (3rd or 4th expert 19-39 depending on whether or not you include Dan Barry "The King" ) for another 12 miles or so we and found a nice well laid out trail amongst many rock features. 

Burlingame park may have to be visited with the Fam-Dam this summer - this is on the other side of the pond:

At a minimum I'll be back for the race.  I want that silly crown.

Update:  The official results are in. Talk about bittersweet.  2 seconds between me and 2nd  / 3rd place. 
Time to figure out a solid way to keep the chain on.



  1. nice job. can't believe you guys are racing already. i'm still in "base" mode myself...

  2. Lotsa races right around the corner.

    Soon I shall cross the infamous divide: ROOT 66 Fat Tire Classic. Currently trying to get USAC to move me up to CAT 1. Trophies are nice - when you earn em'