Sunday, May 11, 2008

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag

As of May 3rd, 2008 I am a professional motorcycle rider. Note I said rider, not racer. The Poolesville RR was my first gig as a USA Cycling motorcycle referee. After the race, I got handed a check. For riding a motorcycle. I was so happy, I couldn't stand myself. It wasn't a big check, but a check none the less. Thank you, NCVC and USA Cycling! Woot!! Truth be told, I would probably do it for free. I love riding my moto. Finally, after years and years of throwing money away on bikes, parts and entry fees i have found a way to sustain my pass/fail racing and pay for maintenance on the big Duke. Valve jobs and timing-belt replacements on Ducati 4-valve watercooled engines ain't cheap. Lucky for me I know how to do everything else.

Anyway, lemme reflect on my first day as a motorcycle referee. Number one, it's a hard job. I used to make fun of the those fat guys on the Beemers, but no more. I have a new found respect for them all. Riding a moto all day is not for the faint of heart. If i get picked to moto at the Tour of Washington County, I'm gonna check to see if the mileage and time will qualify for an Iron Butt category. While you don't need uber cardiovascular fitness to ride a motorcycle all day, you do need stamina and a strong constitution. In a 12 hr work day a rider can easily burn as many calories as a competitor does in one race hour. So while the effort is not nearly as intense, it is a slow burn that eats away at a riders endurance. Riding the same roads over and over and over and over and over wears away at your will and concentration. I found my self yawning yesterday at Ft. Ritchie during the Cat 4 race. Must be something about Cat 4 races, as I tend to yawn during them as a competitor too.

Poolesville was an interesting event to work for my first time. Before the race, I was as worried as the racers about the dirt section. A 120hp Ducati ST4s with grippy Conti Sport Attack tires is not exactly the perfect tool for off road riding any more than say a Colango C-50 w/Zipp 404's. I was also loathing the wash job I would have to do on my shiny red bike after the day was over too. Dirt like that gets everywhere and that means stripping the fairings off the bike to get it cleaned out. That's never fun. It's time consuming and every time I do it I find that the wellnut fasteners that hold the fairing sections together get wore out a just a little more with every removal.

I can say with out reservation that I was worried about nothing. The bike handled that section of the course with aplomb. The stock suspension on an ST4s is 2nd to none in sport touring circles with fully adjustable Showa Ti-Nitride coated sliders up front and a fully adjustable, remote preload, remote reservoir Ohlins shock on the rear. The bumps and potholes were barely noticeable. Judging by the number of ejected water bottles I saw, I don't think the riders can say the same thing. My first time thru the woods, I had thought there had been was a crash in the 40/50+ race that our caravan was following. There were so many of them in one particularly bad spot. There were a ton a pot holes too. As the lead moto I was doing my best to point them out with my foot and talking the best line down the road. I hope that helped them a little. Here's a tip fellas, take the same line as the moto. My partner for the day, Duane, pointed out to me after the morning session that the Cat 4/5 racers we were escorting were fastest thru the dirt than anywhere on the parcours. He was seeing 30+ mph allot on his speedo. I wasn't really paying attention to mine since I was too busy picking my way thru the potholes on that stretch of River Rd.

The rest of the loop was pretty to look at and pretty uneventful. Except for the 2 crashes that I had the misfortune to attend too. The first one involved NCVC rider Drew Armstrong. Drew took a flyer in the 2nd mile of the 4/5 race and after one full lap had built up a 45 second advantage over the peloton. However before the turn onto West Offut road, after cresting the little bump that leads to the fast downhill section before that turn, I found Mr. Armstrong lying on the side of the road almost in the ditch. I was thinking he had run into one of the OTB 40/50+ guys, but no, he had crashed solo.

Here and now, Lets put a rumor to bed, that I understand from Drew himself, that's going around the local blogs on the interwebs.

I did not crash him out.

Drew was a victim of his own misfortune. He told me at the scene that he had one hand on the bar and one hand reaching for a bottle and hit a bump that sent him ass over teacups onto the tarmac. He looked pretty bad too when I got there seconds after he fell. I got to give a big shout out to the corner workers for helping me relay radio messages to get help. And thank goodness the EMT was following the 4/5 race too, they were on the scene pretty quick. It was quickly surmised that Drew would need alternate transport, so I called 911 on my cell phone to get it there. They got there pretty quick too. Drew turned out to be OK and only suffered a busted chin and lots of rash. Tough kid. I saw him at the Ft. Ritchie crit yesterday not looking any worse for the experience except for an ugly scab on his chin and road rash in the usual places.

While Drew was being tended too, A couple two, three fellas in the Masters 40/50+ race decided that racing was no fun anymore and promptly crashed themselves out right in front of the ambulances that were tending to Drew. How convenient is that? Two guy put themselves into the weeds and one guy hit the road. Two of them were OK and rode the mile and a half back to the school on broken bikes. The third guy got a trip to the E-room. He's OK too.

By the time all the roadside fun had been cleaned up, I remounted and caught up to my race in time for it to be over. Awesome! My first race as a moto and I barely get to ride. Just like my racing career as a Cat 4.

It didn't get any better for the afternoon session. After a very long break, Duane and I took on the Women's 3/4 race. Once again after what seemed like only one lap in (it was probably more) we came upon a nasty crash. This one was about as far away from start/finish as it could be. On an uphill section, a Cat 1/2/3 race participant, Steve Black, was lying on the road pretty banged up not looking well at all. They tell me he lost consciousness at least once. The problem with that part of the course is that radio messages again had to be relayed. After what seemed like forever and several more anxious radio calls later the EMT finally made it there. I let my race go up the road with Duane and I stayed behind to direct local and race traffic around the accident scene which took up the whole road save for a small opening up on the left side. There were some non-racing cyclist doing the Team In Training thing in the area who had sag support with them. The saggers stopped to help out too. A shout out for them! Bravo guys and gals from Team in Training.

Once the crash site was cleaned up and the EMT off and running with Steven Black I remounted to rejoin my field. The field had been well shattered so I took up station with about 4 ladies who were working well together after being detached from the main field. We finished up and I rode back on to the course to pickup another field. I ended up shadowing what turned out to be the winning break in the Men's 1/2/3 race. Damn those guys are fast. I like riding behind these guys. Very steady and not allot of need for braking and riding the friction zone, wearing out my clutch hand. Did I mention that my ST4s has a dry clutch? A Ducati dry clutch is a thing of beauty, but the pull at the lever is a bit much. The winner, David Fuentes of Battley HD elite team, broke away from his 3 companions on the hill leading to penultimate turn for the home stretch and just rode away from them. I followed him in to the finish and parked the bike. The day was finally over. And what a day. Great fun. I couldn't wait to do it again. I didn't have long to wait. The Cascade Crit at Ft. Ritchie was in 7 days...

Some observations.

1. Races don't look nearly as sketchy when viewing them from a moto as they do when your in them. But you can still pick out the problem riders easily. I cant believe Ii race with some of youse guys. Catting up to 3 is high on my list of cycling goals for the next season or two.

2. Bib shorts are not the best thing to wear under moto gear. That's allot of gear to remove just to take a piss. I don't own anything but bib shorts, so a trip to Performance for some regular cycling shorts is in short order.

3. Cycling shorts are a butt saver when the day calls for sun up to sun down riding.

4. Race day is not the day to find out your newly acquired radio headset gear don't work.

5. A Ducati ST4s can go slow if it has too. So can it's owner. And both can do it without much complaining.

6. I don't know why pro teams don't use spotters on motos to help develop race strategies as the action happens. You can see more and better from a bike than you can from a team car in a caravan. On the other hand, maybe they do, and I just don't know about it.

7. I need to ditch the stock clutch slave for an easier pulling Evo unit. My clutch hand gets quite a workout. My brake hand, not so much. In fact I hardly touched them.

Look for a Ft. Ritchie write up latter. That was a truly epic day on the moto.




Drew said...

Yep, that was me--glad we could put that rumor to rest about my face-plant. No blame there but upon me.

And, just fyi--it's Drew, not Duane.

Fatguy Racer said...

Sorry Drew. I've corrected it for ya.