Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Monday, April 21, 2014

Redbull's Race the place

Anyone who followed my blog post a couple of days agoknows that I was lined up to race in a crazy Redbull event called “Race the Place”. It was a race targeted at the crazy international non-sanctioned bike racing community – a lot of whom are ex track racers and messengers. There were numerous guys from different places in the world – including “The Fish”. As the day went on I kept hearing stories of this legend called The Fish...Ex National Dutch Track Champion...Just won the Alleycat race in Spain...Tattoos...You know, typical stuff, right?

Why do you think that they call him The Fish? (hint: look at the gears)
Pic borrowed from RedBull article spoiler alert

The event was a mixing pot of all people who like bikes and crazy things – with a large amount of messengers. There were dudes in jeans, cutoff jeans, baggy shorts, short shorts, flannel, all the way to guys dressed as if they were in an international road race in full spandex and logos with team tents. The course was opened in the morning from 7-10am for practise laps, and there were plenty of riders there early. Everybody seemed to have their idea of what bike was best for the course, but I think that I chose properly with my Trek Madone, I took everything that me or the course could throw at it!

The course began with a small straight section, then there were 4 more tight turns before any passing or anything could happen. Then there was a thin pot holed section that ran along the water into a tight 90 degree turn. The following section was a designated no-passing zone because it was tight, had another incredibly tight 90 degree turn that was about as wide as a sidewalk, and led into an uphill with another 180degree tight as sidewalk turn onto the bridge.

The bridge led to the abandoned theme park island and finished in a downhill that spat us onto another skinny potholed path along the mainland side of the island. This led into a couple of tight turns that skirted the outside of the island that were fast, but if you made a mistake you may end up in the lake! The final section before the amusement park and crazy features was a dirt section right by the lake, then it was a outrageously tight turn that sent us flying into the amusement park (there were many close calls through this turn). In the park there were a few tight switchbacks then the cave. The cave was like a sudden lights out, and about as long as two parked cars, and there was a left turn in the cave. A pack of 80 riders through this gave me nightmares. Out of the cave was another insanely tight turn then a long sweeping S bend which sent us out to the straight flat back section back along to the start. The end of the lap was a zigzag then some “whoops”. Watching the time trials it became painfully obvious why there were called the whoops.

It was a good thing that there were lots of paramedics around
(David Albert-Lebrun Photo)

This guy in the track category had the right idea!
(David Albert-Lebrun Photo)

Taking a bit of air through those (David Albert-Lebrun Photo)

The whoops were taken out of the course for the actual race.

After open course practice time were the qualifying time trials; the top 24 track riders and 56 open riders were taken for the final race, each seated according to their ranking on the in rows of 6. I thought it was of utmost importance to be in the top few rows to avoid dying in a crash (too bad it didn’t work out for me!). I unfortunately had an incident before my time trial; while not paying any attention and only riding with one hand and turning around on the bike, I hit a big piece of electrical conduit and as on the ground before I knew it with a scraped knee, a chunk of the skin missing from my palm, and a potentially broke wrist. IT WAS SO EMBARASSING!

Getting all taped up (David Albert-Lebrun Photo)

After the time trials I was sitting pretty, ranked 4th fastest of the day, within seconds of the second place rider, which granted me a position in the front row and spotlight! The real race didn’t start until 6:30pm but it was great to hang out on course with all of the sponsors and exhibitors at the event. Redbull knows how to throw a gig, and with the big Oakley pavilion and giveaways it was just an exciting time!

Watching the live feed standings as I warm up for my qualifier
(David Albert-Lebrun Photo)

When it came down to race time the crows showed up in the thousands! The energy was pumping and I loved the call up, I thought that I looked good and prepped, but some adorable little girl voiced concern for me
“Do your legs hurt?” She said looking at the bleeding and scabbed legs
“Yeah, thanks! I think that I’ll be fine”
The adorable little girl nodded and smiled and walked back to her Dad, but it was really nice to feel like someone was watching out for me.

80 riders all lined up for one hell of a time (David Albert-Lebrun photo)

 Now the race was really about to start and people were throwing money down as primes on laps - $200 for the first guy across the first lap, and $50 for several others. This last detail made me nervous, I knew that the race would be crazy, technical, and overly bunched up – but with money people tend to get pretty stupid. I know I would.
At the start it was The Fish, trackstanding (which I guess is ok because it’s an unsanctioned race) gave him a quick jump right from the gun, but I managed to reel him back just as we were blasting through the technical bits.

(David Albert-Lebrun photo)

I went into the cave second place, and absolutely screaming fast. This feature was pretty nuts because it was a bright day and suddenly lights out! You had to remember and do the cave by feel just hoping to make it out the other side with the rubber side still down. Unfortunately on the first lap I leaned too hard while cornering through the cave and I slid out and was down. I smacked the ground hard and didn’t even have a second to skid before I hit the cave wall, or to even get worried before Richard who was right behind me at the time (and won the $200 on the first lap) almost hit me. I still don’t understand how he managed to plant a foot and pop his bike up over me without even hitting me. The other guys were amazed at how fast I got back up and out of there (panic of being hit by other riders spurred me), and then the race was back on!

Leading the lead group zigzagging into the cave (David Albert-Lebrun photo)

A quick damage check revealed some serious pain in bumps, bruises, and scrapes, as well as a back brake that was making seriously odd noise and I figured was not to be trusted. I considered abandoning the race, it was suicide to try to race without a rear brake, right? Well there were other guys doing it and I was way too jacked up and determined to stop. So now I couldn’t use my shifting with my left hand (I could big ring it anyway, right?!), and lost the brake in my right hand, but my wheels still turned and I had come a long way to shut the show down early.

Sitting 3rd wheel in the chase group after my fall, just waiting for the moment to spring back to the leaders as we wind through the picturesque and haunting abandoned theme park (David Albert-Lebrun photo)

It took a few laps for me to catch back up to the leaders, but when I did I went hard and didn't look back. I stayed in the rotation with the top 3 riders in the breakaway group, always weary that if someone did anything crazy in the technical sections of the course they could either drop me behind the group or drop me to the ground (again).

It didn't take long until we had a group of 7 guys established as the breakaway group and other riders started to get pulled from the course as we were lapping them – this group was next level on anyone else it seemed.

Lapping riders and staying focused on each corner (David Albert-Lebrun photo)

I pulled through and drove the pace hard so that nobody would have a chance of catching  us, and realized that this race would be decided in the last lap, so for the remainder of the race was to stay ahead of the rest of the field. The middle of the race went with the same crazy guys doing the same crazy pace through the tight sections, over the bridge, through the tunnel, and along the back stretch, we got into a good groove as a group, and I never thought that I was wasting too much energy at the front. Every time we pulled through for a new lap the crowd went wild, people everywhere were taking pictures and yelling – I loved it.

Riders crossing the narrow bridge to the theme  park island

Coming through the start finish for the final lap is where the whole race really unfolded, I was leading through and then my buddy Jon just rocketed by me, and on him were The Fish and the rider from the East Coast Richard, and me? Well my legs were apparently tired and didn't have any real snap to them! One more guy made his way by me, and I managed to catch him back through the technical section. Here was some guy who had been sitting with the lead group and not lead the pace or touched the wind once, I didn’t even know that he was there and now he was ahead of me, keeping me just out of the money in the last lap. When I caught him I yelled “short pulls, we’ll catch them back”! And we started working together and closing in on the leaders who had broken away with about 2 minutes to go in the race. We were getting close and I had just done a solid pull as we went into the turns close to the finish when this guy just sprang away from me. I sprinted my best for a hopeless 5th place overall finish, as the crowds raged.

Congrats to the guys who definitely outplayed me, I have much to learn about road racing and when to take a break or when to pull hard! I may need to relax more, but finishing 5th place overall was still total rockstar status at the race, the afterparty, and on the RedBull website! (Check photo below from their site)

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