Sunday, August 25, 2013

A full weekend of racing

I have just returned from the annual pilgrimage to Wichita Falls, where the Hotter'n Hell Hundred attracted something like 15,000 cyclists this weekend. Wow! The geek factor is huge, as you can imagine, but fortunately I had very little to do with that as I was the chief for the mountain bike races and an official for one of Saturday's road races.
Day-of-race packet pick-up at the Bridwell Ag Barn, where the races started and ended
I had traveled to WF on Thursday morning, when it was nice and cool (well, at least until 10 a.m.), to be on-site for packet pick-up for the Wee-Chi-Tah Trail Races on Friday. We were in the MPEC, a multi-purpose civic facility that for one weekend becomes a beehive of activity for cyclists. Things were busy, but our pick-up was organized and there were only few delays and problems. Sandy, the race director, and Michael, in charge of registration, really did a bang-up job implementing ideas that I had brought up during my site visit two weeks ago, and that carried through the entire weekend. Nothing like working with organizers who actually listen to what I have to bring to the table. And with people like this at the helm you end up with an amazing group of volunteers, as well—it was an experience hard to top.
My club-mate Brian Alger's legs post-race
Friday morning I was on-site at 7:30 a.m.. We had a total of 352 racers who took to the trails in four separate staggered starts throughout the day, and there was not one negative comment that I heard all day. Our staging was world-class (really, our boxes and staging were World Cup worthy), the 11-mile course was much tougher and challenging than many riders had maybe anticipated, and of course, it was hotter than hell! I tell you, when I finally left the site that evening around 8 p.m. (to attend the officials' meeting for Saturdays road races) I was sticky and pretty tuckered.
With RD extraordinaire Sandy Monson, about mid-afternoon
While I had been chief for the mountain bike races, the road races (as well as Friday night's and Sunday morning's crits) were in the hands of Rey Trevino, who was also my roommate in our two-room suite at the Baymont. I tell you, chiefing does have its privileges. So, on Friday night all the officials met their wheel-truck drivers and other support staff in a big meeting, and we were given last-minute instructions. While we ran the mountain bike race with two paid officials (my Chief Judge, Lura, had brought along her commissaire husband, Joe, as a volunteer, which was a nice benefit), a road race has so much more personnel infrastructure. I was responsible for the Masters 35+ Cat. 4/5 race, and we had me as COM 1 in a truck plus Stearns as a moto official plus a wheel truck behind us—and then there were another two or three volunteer moto drivers for assistance, plus of course a State Trooper to lead the caravan of 69 starters (the field had been sold out at 75 racers but, as usual, a few didn't show up). Multiply this by about 10 races, plus personnel for the finishing stage, and you get an idea of how many people are involved. (And not all races were as full as mine—some had field sizes of only 35 to 40).
The Masters 35+ Cat. 4/5 field snaking its way to the finish
I had expected lots of fireworks in my race, especially since it was only a 100K race instead of 100 miles, but nothing happened. The field stayed together, the riders mostly behaved themselves, and my driver and I were getting ready to call it a day when with less than a kilometer before the finish we had a massive pile-up of at least 20 riders. Oh man, the carnage! Somebody had touched wheels while jockeying for position, and the next thing you know thousands of dollars worth of carbon parts are trash. Worse yet were the injuries. Aside form the usual road rash (in some cases fairly major) there were two racers with at least broken clavicles if not worse shoulder injuries and one concussion who had to be transported via EMS. So, instead of enjoying a thoroughly easy day I was back to taking up incident reports and doing the usual paper stuff that is required in such a situation. (We had had one broken clavicle in the mountain bike race, the only injury.) Nevertheless, I was able to scoot out of Wichita Falls before noon and make it back to Lubbock during the hottest part of the afternoon. What a great race weekend, although I feel sorry for the guys who went down so hard.
WTCA members Bobby and Brian with Jacob, Donna, and Susan after the Wee-Chi-Tah
And now it is Sunday, less than 24 hours before leaving for Europe tomorrow morning. It may be a less pleasant than normal flight for me as my upgrade for the transatlantic flight still hasn't cleared and only few seats are left, but any streak has to come to an end sometime. I had really hoped for this upgrade on the new 77W with the lie-flat seats, but whatever happens, happens. I still have to pack, take a lot of eBay packages to the post office, and do the usual pre-trip preparations. The next time you hear from me I hope to be either in Madrid or the Canary Islands.


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