February 21, 2016/ Guest
This guest post is by Hardy Swinson (you may know him as trplay) who raced a new Vendetta V20 in the 2016 Bike Sebring Century event. He also owns and loves his Silvio. Thanks for a wonderful report, Hardy.
“If you are waiting to get ‘ready’ like I often do, most likely you probably will never be ‘ready’. Just go ahead and enter that race/event. You don’t have to win it… You can still have a grand old time. Besides, if you ever do get ‘ready’ these not-ready races will just make you faster for when you are.” – Hardy Swinson
“The only thing the rider is responsible for is the chip. No chip at the turnaround means no time for the rider,” announced the Race Director over the intercom. These words have significant impact for me as I listen to the race instructions. I am at the starting gate for the 2016 Bike Sebring race and I have already lost that darn chip with my race number 178 across it.
Hardy at the start line. Photo Credit: Duane Ball
Oh well, I think, once I get to the turnaround at Frostproof I will beg the Chip Meister for mercy. Right now I need to focus on making a plan. I really need a plan. I signed up for the 100 mile race, the shortest of the four races. All four race groups are now lined up together at the starting gate. They all come to Sebring, the who’s who of super elite ultra racing. RAAM champions, state, national, and world record holders are here. I can’t win a local sprint to a sign post but here I am, chipless, without a plan, 21 pounds heavier than my last visit to Sebring in 2011 and It doesn’t matter. I’m here –Sebring, one of the best ultra races around, especially if you ride a recumbent. Besides, I have a secret weapon. I am riding a new Cruzbike Vendetta appropriately named VaMoose.
VaMoose, Hardy’s beautiful racing machine.
This is an extremely aero bike that is outfitted with a funny shaped 16% Doval ring and 145mm crank. This baby will fly. I hardly have to pedal. Simply put a little pressure on the pedals and point, VaMoose will do the rest. Just for a little insurance I changed my almost flat proof wheels and tubeless tires for the much faster Flo 90 wheels and Conti race tires. I’m ready but I still need a plan.
This is when I spotted Maria Parker of Cruzbike fame three rows up from me. Maria is the 2013 RAAM champion and holder of several world records. I have been in several races with Maria and know she likes to start out with a reasonable pace and pick up the speed once she warms up. I know this because she always blows by me around the 30-mile point and goes on to win the race or set a new record. The fact that she wasn’t lined up on the front row with the other fast Cruzbike boys had me guessing this would be her tactic today. I have a plan! Today VaMoose will pace Maria as long as possible and then find a group to draft the rest of the way.
The race begins and just as anticipated the front jumps out like rockets out of Cape Canaveral. The sun hasn’t quite come up so it is hard to pick out individual riders and I quickly lose sight of Maria. During mass starts like these, it is hard to maneuver due to the hustle and bustle of scurrying riders. It’s really best to stay in your lane and let things sort out during the first half mile or so. I finally spot Maria about 500 yards ahead. By the first loop around the track I close the gap. During the second loop we are in no-man’s land where we can see the lead group ahead. But Maria and I create our own group with another group behind us. By the third loop, the lead group is out of sight and we start to pass some of the overly energetic riders from the lead group who couldn’t hold the rocket pace.
Hardy and Maria working together on the track.
Thank goodness! For once I didn’t fall into that well known fast start trap. Eleven miles down and we are off the track and on the way to Frostproof. VaMoose is saying “lets go” and I’m saying “no, no, no.” I know a group of honchos are behind us and coming up fast. Finally at mile 18 they appear. The plan is to ride this peloton like a rented mule into the wind all the way to Frostproof. At the turnaround I’ll have a tail wind and that’s when VaMoose will be let loose. The goal is 4 hours 45 minutes and a negative split. Things are going great. The train is here and I’ve got a ticket to ride.
It’s a full-time job holding back VaMoose but I manage. Then it gets better. My pit crew finds my chip and chases me down so I would have it before the half-way point. After a drive by conference (can’t stop, won’t stop), the plan is to pick the chip up from the pit crew at the turnaround. No way am I getting off this train! Then it happens. About a mile before the turn and 11 miles short of Frostproof, I start to bonk. I’m losing the group on the hills. Yes, they have hills at Sebring. They’re small but they’re still hills. Five hundred yards on a hill just before the last turn to Frostproof, I hear a clanging metallic sound. I fight to stay with the group but keep falling back. At the turn my front tire rolls off the rim and I go down. I wasn’t bonking at all. My tire had a slow leak and I’m running on a flat tire! I drag VaMoose off the road and while I’m fixing my flat I look up and Maria is there. The Parkers are such fine people. She heard from the group I crashed and came back to see if I was OK. I assure her I’m Ok and just need to fix a flat. I feel really bad. Her turnaround wasted several minutes and caused her to break from the group. This act of kindness probably cost her the overall women’s title. (Sorry Maria!)
After a fairly fast tube change, I’m ready to go again – except I left some of the tube on the outside of the bead. A little weight on the tire and “POW!” Another flat. A second tire change with my last tube and I’m ready to go – again. A friendly pit crew beside the road not only pumps up my tire but is kind enough to give me another tube in case I have another flat. If they’re reading this, please let me know who you are so I can return your tube. A quick 10 miles to Frostproof and my chip is waiting there for me (I really had some lucky breaks with good people this race).
Hardy at the turnaround, chip in hand! Photo Credit: Team Moose
Chip handoff to me and then it goes into the bucket. At this point VaMoose has an attitude and I can’t hold him back. The VaMoose is turned loose! We have a great run back in with a finishing time of 5:04. I averaged 20 mph total time for the 101.5 miles with a moving time of 22 mph. I’m happy. For the first time ever I just had a moving time negative split. VaMoose can’t wait for the next race, of course he will be sporting brand new tubeless tires.
If you are still reading this and happen to be one of those who keep planning to race in one of these events but never do because you aren’t “ready yet”. I offer this. My pit crew consisted of my wife, daughter, son-in-law, grand kids, and even the grand dogs. My medal was a great time and a fine family affair. Perhaps the best race yet. If you are waiting to get “ready” like I often do, most likely you probably will never be “ready”. Just go and enter that race/event. You don’t have to win it or even place. You can still have a grand old time. Besides if you ever do get “ready” these not ready races will just make you faster for when you are.
VaMoose hanging out in in good (fast) company before the race.