Mid America TT Series

In the (Feed)Zone - Three Time Trials and a Stage Race; Overcoming My Existential Crisis

By: Mark Swartzendruber
Posted: Jun 26, 2013

Photo @ Michael Dawson

Doughty, Stone Pony and I did the O’Fallon Grand Prix Omnium a couple of weekends ago.  I won the time trial stage, finished 5th in the road stage and DNF’d the Criterium because I couldn’t see where I was going.  Stone Pony finished 5th in the time trial, 4th in the road race and won the crit. Stone Pony finished second in the Omnium and I third.  When all was said and done, the Omnium Winner, Clean Gene Tolli who’d finished 2nd in all 3 stages asked me “Are you over your existential crisis?”  I said “I don’t know, but this was fun”.

After flailing about in Fort Wayne, I took the following weekend off because my right leg had gone numb again.  I rode up to Glencoe and enjoyed watching the races.  There were a lot of crashes for some reason this year.  The Cat 3,4 women had two particularly harrowing accidents that necessitated deployment of ambulances and race stoppage, and ultimately cancellation.  The Masters 45+ had several mishaps as well.  Our guy Mongo broke his c-bone in a particularly ugly fashion on the last lap of the 35+ race and that was when the course was dry.  I guess a downpour occurred during the women’s Procrit and several of the ladies fell down.  I was gone by then.

The weekend after Glencoe I decided to travel north for the famous Bong and a half 30k time trial.  It’s not how it sounds.  The Ganja Weed is not a required element of the event though some might say it’s recommended.  The name is derived from the fact that the time trial course is on the roads that circumnavigate the Bong State Recreation area in Southern Wisconsin, just west of Kenosha/Racine.  The area is named in honor of one Richard Bong.  Wikipedia says this about Mr. Bong “Richard Ira "Dick" Bong is the United States' highest-scoring air ace, having shot down at least 40 Japanese aircraft during World War II. He was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Army Air Forces and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.”  This was an era when it wasn’t a negative to have the word “Dick” for a nickname.

Anyway, given that my leg was numb, I set modest goals for myself and that was to average 27 per, which in my mind is sort of the demarcation point between a good TT and a Flail.  I did the 30k in 40:17 which is a 27.4 mph average.  My team mate Ottomobile who is truly fast was about a minute and a half better.  I felt good about the results but not great.

The following week as better in terms of having sensation return to my right leg, so I went north again to a town called Harvard, IL to do another time trial.  I was going very fast before I was forced to abandon because I broke the chain on my bike.  I had been through the very difficult head wind sections of the course and was on feeling pretty good about the effort.  I’d topped out at over 40mph on one section with a tasty tailwind.  Rounding a corner, I stood up to pedal and get back up to speed when I felt the chain jump.  Then it started jumping about every other pedal stroke.  I knew that failure was imminent; I just hoped I’d be able to make it to the finish line before it happened.  The poor chain finally gave way on a tough false flat section just before I could catch the 4 final miles of wind aided road to the finish.  I was averaging 27.1 up to that point and given the wind, I’m quite certain I would have raised that number considerably in the final 4 miles.  I told TLK about it on the way home and she genuinely felt badly for me.  “Man, you can’t catch a break.”  I took a more positive approach.  “Hey, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to generate enough power to snap a chain.”

If you let me stay at your house I’ll cook dinner for you.

The following weekend we ventured south to the St Louis Metro area for the O’Fallon Omnium.  I must at this point thank my friends and gracious hosts Russ and Adrienne Murphy who own the Quantum Mesa bike shop in Clayton, MO.  I invited myself to stay with them and they didn’t turn me down.  They allowed me to use their Wolf and Calphalon toys in the sweet remodeled kitchen. They gave me wine and a bed to sleep in.  Very cool people indeed.  They even spoke with me and told bike stories that were fun and entertaining. Russ won the Masters 50-54 Track 2k TT national championship down in Texas in 2010 and Adrienne was a rock star dirt and road racer.

The time trial stage went well.  The course is a 13.1 mile track on rolling terrain with grainy chip seal roads.  Again, 27 was the goal but I only managed 26.8, which given the terrain and road surface, I was happy with as my 29:16 ended up being the winning time by well over a minute.  The good guys like Justin Macekiewicz were turning times in the low 28 minute range.  In our 45+ division Doughty was 3rd and Stone Pony was 5th so we were off to a good start as a team.

Druber and Doughty sporting fancy Pactimo state and national champ speed suits.

The road stage was also the IL State road race championship.  The goal was to win.  We didn’t care who won, but we wanted it back with Scarlet Fire Racing as it has been for 8 of the last 9 years.  Very early in the 56 mile race a couple of domos went up the road which drew no reaction.  Ideally we’d have liked to put Hollywood Sills into the early break but Stone Pony went to keep tabs on it.  Now this is very odd, but it gives you a window into the mind of the Master’s peloton.  Stone Pony has won more road and criterium state championships by at least double over me.  I’ve won the road race 4 times, the criterium once.  Stoney has won the road race 6 times and the criterium at least 4 times.  Yet, when he went up to the domo break, not a soul reacted, because as one guy put it “He’s not in an ad in Velo Magazine”.


So, the multiple time state champion rolled up the road with a couple of wobbledonks while the rest of the race lined up on the wheel of a guy with a herniated disc and a withered leg who hasn’t won anything other than a time trial since 2010.  Makes perfect sense to me.

Of course, Stone Pony dropped both his break mates the first time the road pitched up past 2% and spent the next 40 miles all by his lonesome while Hollywood, Doughty and I nullified various attacks.  No one ever really did mount a concerted chase.  Clean Gene attacked the first time through the feed zone which wasn’t cool and caused quite a lot of chaos and panic from the poor wives and girlfriends who were scared shitless to be handing off bottles to riders  at a crawl, let alone ripping past at 30 per chasing a no class feed zone attack.  Other than that things were pretty quiet until non IL residents G. Dyer and legendary D. Hixson went up the road.  I let them go.  I figured at this point anyone not from IL who gets up the road with Stone Pony is an asset and locks down the State Championship for the good guys.  So, I didn’t chase and neither did anyone else.  Dyer and Hixson made their way up to Stoney while the Hammer Down team supporting strong rider R. Landes finally figured out that the race was up the road not on my back wheel and mounted a legitimate chase.

Once we finally started going fast, the race split into a group of 7 off the front that included Doughty and I.  We caught up to Stoney and I liked the odds we had.  Of the 10 off the front, 4 were from IL and 3 of them were us.  Over the course of the last lap, we mounted various attacks only to have them covered by Landes.  To his credit, we gave him all we had and he matched it.  In the last 5 miles, I took to the front knowing that Doughty and Stoney were our best chances to win.  1k from the finish line there is a 500 meter long hill at about 7% where the race always erupts.  Sure enough, Dyer attacked and 4 guys got to the top separated from the rest.  Dyer, Tolli, Stoney and Landes.  Landes won the sprint to the line.  He rode well and deserved to win.  Stoney finished 4th but 2nd Illinois rider and I pipped Doutghty at the line for 3rd place in IL.  Turns out that Dyer got deeked for crossing the center line when he attacked with Hixson to get up to Stoney.

Photo @ Michael Dawson

The Criterium stage was raced in a monsoon.  I have poor vision.  I wear prescription lenses in my Oakley’s.  So I figured the best thing to do was to ride the front and keep the pace high.  Shit, everyone likes to ride my wheel anyway and this keeps the spray out of my face.  So round and round we went on the 10 corner course with about 12 guys that hadn’t been shelled on the first lap riding the Druber train. About 15 minutes in, a couple of guys attacked and the racing started.  This presented a problem.  As long as I was on front, I was getting clean rain water on my goggles and visibility was fine.  Sitting in line behind riders, I was getting muddy, street film grossness sprayed into my face, which coated my lenses and I lost vision.  There were manhole covers and potholes strategically placed on the inside of 5 of the 10 turns on the course and being able to see the right line through the corners was pretty important.  I used to be able to take my glasses off and squint through the rain and see pretty well, as in this photo taken during the Elite National Crit Championship in Downers Grove several years ago.

Anyway, that was a few prescriptions ago and long story short, when I took my glasses off to try and see the  line, it was worse than trying to see through my mud spattered lenses.  So I backed off the group taking 4 guys with me who were clearly operating under the delusion that because I am in a magazine ad I would eventually attack and blast through the group ahead and pull them to the finish line.  As I slowed to a crawl to withdraw from the race - I am not making this up – I had to turn around and tell the feckless lickspittles that were doggedly attached to my rear wheel “Dudes, go around me. I can’t see!  I’m dropping out of the race”.  Some guys just have habits that can’t be broken I suppose.

Stone Pony galloping to a V at the OGP in a deluge of rain.

As the race rolled on Crazy Tracy went on a long solo flyer, Stone Pony pursued and eventually caught him on the last lap.  The chase detonated the field and Stone Pony won the 45+ division of the race.

This story ends with another time trial.  The ABR state time trial championship is held on a course at Paw Paw, IL over 40k there is about 700 feet of elevation change and because the course runs through a wind farm, it’s always windy.  In my opinion, it’s the best time trial course anywhere. I rolled a 53:30, which isn’t up to normal standard, while retired pro and TT hammer Bryce Meade rolled a 52:02 which is more like it.  But, at this point – I’ll take it.  I and my withered leg won the 50+ division by over 5 minutes and my power output was 404 watts on average. 

So, am I over my existential crisis?  I guess so long as I resign myself to time trials and Fondos where the ability to accelerate isn’t requirement I’m okay for now.