State Road Race Championship. Autobahn Country Club
Road races are near impossible to organize in our densely populated and trafficked region. Finding 20 miles of quiet road without stoplights or dangerous junctions a near impossibility. In prior years Intelli Cup ran one at willow springs, but that race itself suffered from dense population&traffic of competitors. The equation of big fields and the centerline rule with cars coming the other way just didn’t compute. An army of expensive cops and marshals was needed to make it happen, and it wasn’t pretty.
So it’s a brave new dawn at the Autobahn, essentially a fancy country club, but instead of golf holes, it has a motor racing track. We have the whole place. To. Our. Selves. And that includes the full length course.
This is not some moronic Nascar circuit, it’s a natural terrain course with different slow and fast turns, elevation changes, dips and crests, a mini Nurburgring. I pulled up in my Alfa Romeo, and I’d love to take a blast around in it. Sadly 280 Italian horses won’t be doing the work, one British donkey has to suffice. Unload and warm up.
No recce lap, so off the line and into the green unknown. A big field, but the course is wide and we have all of it. Cornering lines are not a problem, if you want to move up, move up.
Move up I do, I’m lapping up this course, with smooth tarmac and room for neat racing lines. Off the front and gapping the pack by lap 2 without even trying. Just fun in the sun.
But this fooling around carries on, with little discipline and occasional lone attacks lap after lap, the big teams have 8 or more riders but nobody is attempting to control the race, set a strategy.
I do notice that a tight line around the inside is possible on all the turns, especially the one before the finish, which has a weird double apex that sends the bunch out wide. Stay tight and take easy places lap after lap. Noted for the end.
By the last lap I’m not really tired, the pace has been leaden, but heating up. The bunch is 3 wide around turns and up to 6 wide along straights as people hunt for advantage jumping on wheels, fragmenting off wheels and going around them, generally swarming around.
With no team sending riders to the front to sacrifice themselves and drive the pace it is a free for all, very hard to control. Coming into the backstraight I’m about 5th. Within a few seconds I’m still fifth wheel, in a criterium that’s ideal placing, but here suddenly there are 5 other streams of riders, so in effect I’m 25th back.
Then the barging starts.
At some point the track is no longer wide enough to support the ‘do whatever’ moves possible up to now, and lateral lunges force riders across the track and off the edge. This happens once and riders are edged off into the grass sideways, including amusingly one intent rider knocking his buddy off the course. I’m one in from the side, and just stay on the track. We then go into a turn and it happens again, a ripple on the inside and riders are veering off and crashing into each other. Evasion needed instantly. I can safely veer off on to the hard dry grass, but ahead riders are down and sliding to the outside of the turn and more are then veering off into the grass and then going down there. I’m taking a bigger and bigger detour off the track, before finally I’m past the endless crashing and can turn back toward the course. Cyclocross in July, how did it come to this.
On any other lap in this race, we would have got back, but the sound of sliding carbon has the bunch turning on the turbos as they head to the line. I get back on the track and latch onto a group of two. We burn some serious watts and start passing other riders who were gapped or have given up with the finally fast pace. Down that long drag to the turn for the finish I’ve run out of help and I’m still miles behind. I have to solo up to the back of the pack that’s still shedding riders. Tight around that last turn on the kerb just like I planned, but it gives me two places to grab 30th? Not the result I wanted. Frustrating that poor riding and lack of team strategy made a mess of this race.
See the less than excellent bike handling at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT15nT7yxqM
Yep thats my arse right in front and center at the start of the clip, in my white summer jersey.