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Brian Surtees on his TZ250

In the whirl of wheels streaming by- spectators, cheers and late summer blue skies…The Race is on

Historic downtown Basking Ridge, NJ was once again the setting for the 18th annual Olde Mill Inn – Tour of Basking Ridge. The Labor Day race is always an eventful contest near the end of the road cycling season. The  event features 8 separate races accommodating all abilities- from pros to amateurs. Presenting Sponsor, Liberty Cycle puts on a great community event each year.

The 1.12 mile sweeping course features six turns around the bucolic borough. The Start/Finish line located on South Finley Ave and Lewis St., which is the front stretch of the short circuit- that rises and falls into turn 1-  a fast left onto on Henry St that leads to Turn 2- a quick left onto Rankin.

Turn 3 is a sweeping right/left combo onto Dyckman then a slight rise towards the left hander onto Colonial. The final corner, turn 6 is another left onto S Finley to the Finish line.

The final sprint race of the day was the  category 5 event. The competition was a short 5 laps that saw 36 riders line up for the start. Atop my Hutchinson-shod, Pro-Lite carbon frame, I lined up at the start line on the left, about midpack so I would have an inside line into T-1. Local guy Doug Ernst, Joseph Meyer-Fuchs of Oakland and Nick David from Hoboken were among the top favorites and all quickly went to the front at the drop of the starters flag.

Not being a true “racer” (this was the my first race of the season, and really had no training in my legs to speak of- read: I am slow) I planned my strategy around the design of the tight course. I knew that attacking the corners was the only chance I had of a top 20 finish.

As the pack tore off into T-1 I was mired somewhere in between the chaos of lap 1. Immediately I powered through 1, and 2 the left handers, closing up on the guys in front of me. As we headed onto the back part of the course I would lose a bit of ground. But dive bombing the turns would bring me onto the wheels just ahead of me.

I have found that some riders are a bit hesitant and stiff when cornering. I have found that I can exploit that weakness by not slowing and going as fast as I can through the turns- whenever possible. Eight seasons of motorcycle roadracing has its advantages.

The gap to the front grew as I watched the leaders quickly pull away. I settled into a sort of frantic rhythm dicing it out with 4 other riders- who kept the pace at about a 23 – 24 mph average. (good thing this race was only 5 laps!)

Doug, Nick and Joe were picking off riders at the front and waiting for their opportunity to take command. Yours truly was hanging on for dear life in 26th spot with 2 laps to go. The four guys in front of me would gap me on the straights and I would suck right back up in turn 1- a fast sweeping left, which I took at full speed, about 28+ mph.

More riders fell off the lead as Nick and Joe were moving up to the top spots. Lap 4- out of T-2 our pack of 5 pass two guys who seemed like they were standing still. So far I’m thinking- “This is cool, I haven’t been lapped and I actually passed a couple of riders” But I’m sucking wind hard, and my legs are burning with lactic acid.  This was it, the crux of race, gotta hold on one more lap….

Past the start/finish we begin the “bell lap” the final circuit…

The imperfect and often awkward synergy of Man and Machine…merge for a fleeting chance of perceived glory…fore now the battle is between heart and mind

I can hear the crowd but its muffled. My vision is tunneled as I flick the bars and lean the bike in for the hard left. The gap of nearly 50 feet quickly disappears as I close up. I’m sitting last in our group of 5, trying to draft and save any energy I may have left. I’m watching to see if anyone is going to try and jump- as we bend into the right/left combo T-3 & 4- so far nothing.

I wait for turn 5. I swing slight right of the pack and square off the corner. Arc it wide and keep pedaling through the corner, as this gives me the momentum I was looking for. I swoop up on the four riders in front of me and jump out of the saddle to add some power to the pedals- I move right and pass all four.

Meanwhile Joe and Nick had control of the last lap, sprinting towards the finish, as Nick popped up and made his move for the lead and the win. Across the line it was Joe who took the victory followed by Nick and Doug garnering the last podium spot in third.

As I set up for T-6 I glance back to see what- if any gap I might have. I tuck my chin into my left shoulder and see a substantial space between us. As I crest the rise on S Finley I spot another rider just ahead of me. I’m in the drops and keep my head down- but eyes up. I can see he is as tired as me-

Shoulders rocking, cadence faultering…”I have to get this guy, I have to.” I put every last ounce of breath and energy into the my weakening legs and watch the distance between us shrink. The finish line is in sight as I’m closing in on his rear wheel…once again, I swing right and pass the lonely rider- with a familiar grimace on his face.

I fly pass the finish, totally spent. Sitting up I try to catch an elusive breath and give a thumbs up to the guys around me- I make a feeble attempt to say “good race” but not much comes out as I am somewhat oxygen deprived. The guys at the front are not even breathing hard, while me and some of my similar competitors are shagged. smiley


My post race thoughts were a combination of satisfaction and disappointment- after finishing 19th of 36 riders. Sure that was a good result for my first race of 2009, but as a ‘competitior’ I wanted better. But what my mind wanted and what my body gave were just not equal- Yet still the moment was good, the day fulfilled.

And in the end, on dreams we will depend…


Machine Specs

Frame/Fork: Pro-Lite Carbon  | 53cm

Drivetrain: Ultegra 10 | 53/39 | 12/27

Wheels: Neuvation | M28 Aero 3

Tyres: Huchinson Equinox (slick rear) | Quartz (intermediate front)

One of the most prestigious, long-standing bicycle races and sports events in general- is “Le Tour de France”. The Tour is the third largest sporting event around the globe, following the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup.

The 95 year old race event creates  massive interest from the international media, as it is broadcast on TV in 180 countries. The race brings in representatives from 75 radio stations in 25 countries and over 450 newspapers, photographers and media from 26 countries in total.

The Tour involves shuttling, accommodating and feeding over 4,500 people each and every day for the full 23 days (21 days of racing plus two rest days) A total of 2,400 vehicles will be following the race, including race director with support, team vehicles, medical and general support.  Then there is the matter of the huge, dedicated, fanatical crowds that line the routes for three solid weeks.

The entire budget for the Le Tour is estimated at nearly 100 million euros, or $140 million U.S. dollars-  of which, approximately 50% derived from the broadcast television rights, 40% from title and presenting sponsors and the remainder from participant fees paid by each town where the stages start and finish.

The 2009 edition of the Tour will see the competing cyclists span about 2,200 miles, visit 34 towns, pass through 560 municipalities and make stops in a total of six countries- Monaco, France, Andorra, Spain, Switzerland and Italy.

Each and every town in every country will feel the effects of the Tour from spectators, media and team personnel in the way of traffic jams, long lines, and crowded streets- but most importantly; money spent.

The event organizer- the ASO, or Amaury Sport Organisation owns the newspapers and magazine publications l’Equipe, France Football, l’Equipe Magazine, Vélo Magazine, Le Parisien and Aujourd’hui in France.

Created in September 1992, the ASO  is a specialized organization of sporting events, and in addition to the Tour de France, they put on the famous Dakar Rally and the Paris Marathon.

Aiding the ASO in France will be the French police and emergency services, who will direct and assist all the French municipalities in dealing with needed highway repairs, road signs, safety barriers and the planting of yellow flowers in all of the prevailing open spaces.

The cost of these operations is approximately three and a half million euros- with technical costs accounting for over two million euros and the rest spent on miscellaneous items including, communications and local ancillary supporting events.

On the financial side, along with the promotion of tourism in each city and town there will be a substantial increase in the traffic and flow of people in and out of restaurants, hotels and merchant shops. The subsequent impact of the large increase in traffic will spur positive economic upshots for all commercial merchants involved.

A major retailer, the Champion supermarket chain, which is the presenting sponsor of the “Polka Dot Jersey” or “King of the Mountains” for the best climber, will have 21 vehicles and countless personnel in the Tour’s caravan.

For the 2009 edtion of Le Tour, Champions managers have planned a very aggresive, dedicated marketing and promotions campaign for their 1,000 stores in France, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Greece, Turkey and Argentina.

With Spain being one of this year’s major themes for the supermarket, the chain’s plan is to have the in-store hostesses wearing outfits designed by one of the country’s most famous fashion designers all in hopes of attracting more female customers.

It is estimated that there will be approximately 15,000,000 spectators over the 21 days, spending an average of three euros per day- for a whopping total of 45,000,000 million euros or $63,000,000 million U.S. dollars.

The result will be a significant economic impact for all of the participating countries, cities, towns and boroughs. It is no wonder that over 200 towns in France alone apply to the ASO every year for a spot on the famed Le Tour route.

Wednesday, August 27th 2008

Bicycle racing is Hard, Eh. No shit, you don’t say there sherlock. Well, yea to all those cyclists who are in the know! But if you don’t have the experience or an appreciation of just what it takes to push your body to its physical/aerobic limits then let me reiterate. Bicycle is racing is hard, no wait, make that really, really f*cking hard.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a local club- Century Road Club of America. Basically, a bunch of guys and girls who participate in a variety of club races, both road and off-road. I recently joined and took a shot at the Thursday night Road Race event which happens to take place near my apartment. First let me set the stage. I have not ridden much this year, due to a host of crap and what not. So, between some solo and group rides I had logged only about 800 mediocre miles before attempting my first race of 2008.

Not exactly a great idea…but I threw caution to the proverbial wind anyway! The 21 mile race is a three lap event that runs on a 7.2 mile circuit through Readington and Hillsborough NJ.

Thursday, August 21.
We set off at a blistering pace, about 25-26 mph out of the gate.  I’m going faster than I wanto to, but I have got to stay in touch with the draft. The group bends through the winding roads and the pace is mad- 28 mph. Now if this were 1/2/3 pro level race it would be fine, but we’re talking club guys here! Then there is me, the newbie, and slow as shit! Nearing the end of the first lap I’m barely hanging on and starting to fade- as I watch my speed fall from 27, to 25, to 21 and finally down around 19-20 mph.

It’s no use- I’m losing the draft but I’ve got to keep pedaling, got to keep going. By the end of lap two I’m done, and about to be lapped by the fast guys (who, by the way race in sanctioned events) So I give them plenty of room and slow it down letting them all pass. I’m not going to be the guy who took out the fast riders, or balked a move for the lead…that’s for damn sure.

I cruised in with a two lap average of 20.8 mph, lungs sucking hard for air, and my leg muscles on fire- no doubt filled with lactic acid. It was humbling to say the least, as I thought maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t get lapped…so much for that notion!

Wednesday August 27.
Ok, so I know that road racing is tough, so maybe I’ll try my hand or in this case legs at a Time Trial or as we two-wheeled blokes like to refer to as TT’s. The Wednesday night TT runs the same course as the road race, but it is only one lap- 7.21 miles of rolling terrain. It’s all out for one lap, right then, as quick as you like sunshine…Super.

I planned and prepared since Monday for this run, stretching properly, eating properly, hydrating, and so on, and I felt good on Tuesday with a short easy spin. Wednesday arrives and I feel a bit tired, but I figure it will pass as the day goes on and I get amped up for the TT. I roll out and decide to ride my bike to the start which is only 3 miles away from my door. So far so good.

I get to the start line of the course and sort out all my stuff, I take off my backpack, and set off to do about 45 minutes of warm-up riding. I get no more than 2 miles into my warm-up and BAM! My right quad cramps though not viciously, but enough to make the eyeballs a bit wide and my breath a bit shorter. My first reaction is anger, yup, I’m fucking pissed off, and cursing into the wind.

I cannot believe what is happening, I am utterly dismayed and disqusted at the same time. I turn around and head back to retrieve my stuff, and head home. I pedal easy spinning a low gear so as not to lock up the confounded muscle. I get off the bike and have a sit down, and good talking to myself as well!

I’m all like, wtf? what is going on here? Not that I was really expecting any answers, but I was frustrated and needed to vent. I stretched ever so gently, walked around a bit, drank a lot of water and powerbar mix drink, and tried to massage the knot out. I mean I didn’t want to throw the towel in, I wanted to run that damn TT – as it would be the last of the season.

I talked with a few guys and their words of encouragement gave me enough incentive to stay and give it a whirl. Eddie, the guy who runs the TT calls out our starting positions- based on previous times, but since I didn’t have one, I had to make a guess. I told him probably in the 22-23 minute range.

Slowly, my quad is feeling slightly better, as it has loosened up a bit. I feel better, mentally too. I pop an aspirin and a potassium pill, down some more water and get ready to roll off third in line. The only down side is that my warm-up was fairly slow and short, about 8 miles and not nearly at the pace it should have been.

I rotate leg and foot over and over, putting human force into my machine gradually building my speed. I try to quickly settle into a rhythm of around 21-22 mph, and get ready for the first set of rollers, where I know I will scrub off a bit of momentum. I’m down to 17-18 mph through the section of rolling terrain, but it soon levels out again and I’m back on the gas.

A hard right hander with scattered gravel in the road means hauling it down fairly well to negotiate the tricky turn, I keep my eyes up and keep off the brakes- and I’m through ok. On to the chipped stone road – which sucks balls btw, because it leads to the only short, but very steep hill.

I managed to pass both riders who went off ahead of me, and now I’m telling myself maybe only one or two of the real fast guys will come steaming by. Maybe it will be the guy on his P3 Cervelo- decked out in skin suit and aero helmet, or the gent on his beautiful Orbea TT bike, at least I could marvel at that their power and machinery as they go blowing past me eh? Well I just kept pushing, and hoping to make it to the end with no incidents, and as I approached mile 6, I could not believe that no one has yet to come past. Could it be that I won’t be lapped?

I didn’t want to get too confident just yet, so I put my head down and pedaled as hard as I could for the finish. The last 1/2 mile is a false flat and really burns the legs, so I held back a hair to have some reserve in the last few yards or so.

As the finish line came into view, I glanced under my arm to see if I was going to be passed in the waning seconds…and to my surprise there was no one there! I spun up the rpm’s then shifted to a higher gear, as high as my legs could bare, then I threw every last bit of energy and force I had left into those cranks and pedals- breathing extremely heavy as my legs burned- so much more than I have ever experienced this year.

25 yards to go…10 yards to go…now 5…whooshing across line I flew- it’s over man, it’s done. I began to slow my effort, shifting into an easier cog, but I’m breathing so heavy I can barely get the breaths in and out. That was suffering! That was Hard, but fun.

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