August 25, 2016/ Jim Parker
This is an annual race here in my home territory of flat eastern North Carolina, so I try to make it every year. Alvin Maxwell is the race organizer and a friend so I like to support his race, and he puts on a great event. At this race in 2014, I had the honor to race with legendary BMX star Dave Mirra, who had turned into a powerful road cyclist. I blogged about that event here, describing how Mr. Mirra helped me achieve a lifetime goal of a sub-4 hour century, and set a mark I would never again best (or so I thought).
I re-post this photo of Dave in honor of an incredible athlete and sportsman who lost his battle with depression in February of this year. He was posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which was very likely due to numerous head injuries sustained during his long BMX and X-Games career.
In 2015, Dave Mirra and his fast roadie friends did not come out, making it easy for Larry Oslund and I to take 1st and 2nd place on our Cruzbike V20s, with the 3rd place finisher coming in eight minutes after me. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t very worried about this year’s race. I did no tapering for it, and had done a very hard mountain ride the weekend before. My “form factor” (TSB) was a negative 35, meaning that my body was exhausted going into this event.
The night before the race, Larry hurt his back while helping Alvin set up race headquarters. Maria (the famous Parker for those who don’t know my wife) was waffling on racing at all, but decided to race the 100 also. She’s not in great cycling shape either, having added a lot of running into her workout routine in preparation for a run across the Grand Canyon coming up in October.
If Maria and I take a race seriously, we’ll get there at least a day ahead of time and scout the course. This time, we didn’t even make the long drive the night before. We just woke up in our own bed at 4 AM and left for the race. We arrived just in time to register, put on our bib numbers, helmets, and head to the starting line. To our surprise we were also met by our friends and friendly adversaries, John & Jacquie Schlitter. How many married couples are there in the world who make and race recumbent bicycles? It’s a small club, and beyond the Parkers and Schlitters, I don’t know any other members. But the Schlitters weren’t racing… instead they brought a surprise for us: three young Schlitter Racers; Alex Strouhal, Sandor Kormos, and Jesse Groves. These cycling studs weren’t shy about why they were here. Their job was to stick to Larry and I like glue and then beat us to the finish.
Young, lean, and shaved as smooth as a baby’s bottom, they came all the way from Florida to poop on our party. Here they are with their awesome coach, Jacquie Schlitter.
As soon as the race started, I headed to the front and was pulling a huge peleton of standard and recumbent bikes. How stupid of me. I assessed my situation: two against three and even though Larry is a superman on a Cruzbike, he’s also injured and not tapered. It’s two old men vs. the three musketeers, 20 years younger than us (Sandor and Jesse) who came with a mission. I figured the best strategy was to conserve and wait for an end game. I fell to the back of the pack and waited until the 4th and final lap. I tried a brief breakaway, but they were all over me, chasing and shouting as if I had stolen their bike. I went back to the back. A few miles later, Schlitter racers Jesse Groves and Alex Strouhal, with one DF racer, made a successful break-away while Larry and I weren’t paying attention. I would find out later that Alex had rested one of the 25-mile laps after getting a flat and had re-rentered the race on our final lap. Alex had been the one to lead the break-away. Alvin was officiating the race and told him that was a no-no and made him drop out, but the damage was done. I moved up to the front and led a 2.3 mile surge to close the gap.
I was making progress but I couldn’t do it all by myself. And I was wearing out. Where was my Lieutenant, my helper, my teammate? Where was Larry?! Finally, the cavalry arrived in the form of Larry’s V20. I slid in behind him as he passed me, but it might be too late!
The breakers were now immediately ahead in our sights, but the finish line was just around the corner. I had been redlining for the previous several minutes so I couldn’t go much faster. But Larry shot ahead like a rocket and took out everyone but Jesse before the finish, and he was only a few seconds behind Jesse. I finished 10 seconds later in a crowd of about five people. This was like a photo-finish for a 102 mile race. We were all under 4 hours for the distance. Watching Larry’s videos from his front and rear cameras, I see he got boxed in by cyclists and cars that delayed his final attack. I have no doubt he could have won if he had started a bit sooner, but that is racing. Jesse deserved the win and the Schlitters deserve congratulations for bringing up three strong racers.
If you want to witness the final 5-minutes of the race, here is the link to Larry’s front-facing camera, and if you have absolutely nothing better to do, the link to the rear-facing camera.
I am grateful to be able to race at my age, and grateful to have such a fast and comfortable bike to race on. The V20 definitely allows me to race at a level far above anything I could do on any other bike. There is nothing quite as exciting as a good race. Alvin said this year’s was the best 100-mile race he’d seen yet. Even though I didn’t win, I surprised myself by beating the PR that I set with Dave Mirra in 2014. The lesson here is that competition makes us all better, and that teamwork in a drafting race is vital.
As for Maria’s 100-mile race, she won easily in a time of 4:36, riding all but the first 18 miles without drafting.
L to R, “The Kyle” in 3rd place (a DF racer), Jesse Groves in 1st place, and Larry Oslund in 2nd place. All finished the 102 mile race within seconds of each other.