Race Report by Shane Haga
This past weekend was my first run-in with the Tunis Roubaix. While the road race could have gone much better, I’m still proud of myself for finishing all six laps of the Hell of the South, despite exploding all over the road on lap 3. Never has 22 miles felt so lonely. Oh, and a special thanks goes out to Shimano for their reliable products. Reliable as in: I can count on the rear derailleur cable to shear after a couple thousand miles, leaving me with a horrible gear combo for the last three hills of an already disheartening race.
I WANT SRAM! WANT SRAM TO RIDING THE SRAM PLEASE!
While the only thing I have to write about the Roubaix is that I managed to finish, the crit is a whole different story:
The day began way too early. 6 am. Like I said, way too early after the most brutal race I’ve ever encountered. The night before I’d done what homework I could convince myself to sit down and do, before cleaning my bike and replacing the aforementioned sheared derailleur cable, and slipping into bed at midnight. It was one of those sleeps where it feels like you no sooner laid down than you had to get up again. Fortunately, the trailer was still loaded from Saturday, so packing up and leaving was fairly quick and easy. The 5 minute drive to the course was pretty convenient too. As the sun rose and the racing began, we watched the D’s, C’s, and B’s do their thing. About the time the B’s were reaching the halfway point, Chad, Herc, Cody, and I decided it was time to get a short warmup ride in. Off we went around the familiar campus roads to warm up our legs and talk a little strategy. Today, Chad had come up with the idea to flip our racing strategy 180 degrees. “Too long” he said in his awe-inspiring presidential voice, “we have raced defensively against MSU. Where has that gotten us!? No longer shall we put up with their ‘no work’ strategy! We’re going to attack! And when they sit up, we’ll attack again! This shall be our plan, as I have decreed.” And we all said, “Oh yes, you are so wise. We shall do this.” Okay, so that might be a little bit of embellishment, but you get the idea. We weren’t going to put up with MSU’s crap any longer—we were going to control the race.
We actually had a sizeable field compared to years past–5 Aggies (me, Shane, Cody, Herc, and Tom), t.u. had a few riders, and MSU had once again stacked the field. I wasn’t so concerned with their cat 3 riders as I was the 4 cat 1’s. Jason and Todd were carryovers for last year, whereas Alexi is a recent addition, as was Josh Carter…husband of the MSU coach. I was in a playful mood, so at the start line I loudly asked which lucky fella had Haga-duty.
The race turned out to be a comedy of errors for MSU, and I was beside myself with laughter. As I learned later in the race, here was the sequence of planned events for the race:
1. Carter would attack immediately. They expected I would follow. I did.
2. Carter would attack again immediately. They expected I would follow again. I did.
3. Here’s where things went wrong for MSU: After Josh’s second attack, Jason and Todd were supposed to counter and leave me behind.
The way things actually went? I ended up off the front with Josh and and Joseph from t.u after the second attack. We didn’t really push the pace…just kind of rode tempo for a little while expecting the counterattacks to come flying by. We checked back and saw we already had a 10 second gap. Josh blurted out, “Well that’s not the freaking plan.” He confessed that he would not be working with us, as he was not the chosen rider of the day. Joseph and I decided we’d keep the pace a nice tempo just as a placeholder. There was no way we would stay off the whole race, so why burn too much energy? Funny how things work though, when MSU forgets a simple plan… By the first climb of the first lap (about 10 miles in), we were out of sight. Josh was irate with his team behind us. At this point, Joseph and I had a decision to make: we could sit up and refuse to drag Josh around all day, and go back to the pack where we would again be outnumbered by MSU, or keep going and hope that we could drop the sprinter on the climbs later on. We pressed on.
Now that I’m finally on the way home after being snowed in at my grandparents’ house in Oklahoma, I suppose now is as good a time as any to write up some race reports….most importantly that of Nationals.
Yes, I’m referring to collegiate mtb nationals from October. Don’t doubt my memory! Besides, the two months between the race and now provides the opportunity for some hyperbole—and nobody will be the wiser!
After the pre-ride of the cross country course, we settled in for a night of Cool Runnings (yeh mon!) and spectacular cooking (I don’t recall if this night was Krishna’s chili, Kyle’s salmon, or Hattaway’s pasta).
The women started first the next morning, so Kathleen headed to the start line while the rest of us had breakfast. Shortly before they were to start, we jumped in the van in time to walk the start route through the village area. Two areas in particular had us concerned—the u-turn at the end of the starting stretch and the bottleneck at the stairs leading to loose gravel. We wished Kath the best, then headed for where the course dumps onto the gravel turn.
We were pleased to see that the gravel didn’t cause too much trouble, and headed to Steve’s rock garden to watch the carnage—er, racers. We debated the best line choices as the racers came through, planning our own routes when our time arrived later in the day. Steve was feeling peppy, and took the opportunity any time a girl slipped up to compliment her bike: “Sweet brake cables! Awesome wheels. Thanks for stopping to show me.”
The drive was long, but good company made it alright. We left the trailer at home in favor of a 15-passenger van with the back two rows taken out for bikes. We picked up Kyle from t.u. in Ft. Worth and kept on chugging. The only notable points of the drive was the drive down the strip in Vegas, looking for a place with free wi-fi to turn in some homework assignments and being accosted in the McDonald’s parking lot (that’s right, we went to Vegas and stopped at Micky D’s) by a creepy thug who just had ‘one question’, or the drive over the Hoover dam and seeing all the construction that’s going on there.
The rain/snow the resort got a few days ago served only to firm up the course. In fact, the course times now are so much faster than when the course is dusty that they’ve added a lap to all of the races!
My, what a crazy weekend! Before I really get into it, a quick recap of this season from my point of view: I kicked it off by giving new meaning to the phrase ‘hand-brake’. My stubbornness and impatience and a cumbersome splint prevented it from healing as quickly as it should, so I attempted racing camp eagle with a splinted pinky. Before actually racing, I had my best (worst?) mtb crash ever at nearly 30mph on the super-D preride, threatening a prolonged finger healing time. So I decided maybe I shouldn’t race that weekend and was Feedzone Man for the team.