Get these Mother F&%king Snakes Off this Mother F*&king Alley

It’s a little tardy, I’ve been licking my wounds from Quad Cities this past week (getting back at 3 am to Cincinnati Monday morning didn’t help either).

My one year spent in the south left me longing for the great midwestern race weekends. Sure there were a few good race weekends down south there, Johnson City Omnium is in Tennessee this weekend (a teammate asked me which city the Johnson City Omnium was in)……ok well that’s pretty much the only one I could think of. Nothing really encapsulates Midwest racing quite like the Snake Alley Weekend and I was looking forward getting back to Iowa…

Yes good ole Iowa where one week a year hundreds of cyclist descend on the very small towns of  Burlington, Muscatine, and the Quad Cities. I’m pretty sure there is no other group of balanced individuals that would look forward more to spending their Memorial Day vacation in Burlington Iowa…except maybe people who actually live there.
Anyway not wanting to miss out on a single moment on the racing this year I took Friday off from work for the Burlington Road Race. The road race is always a big game of poker. It’s a 100 mile road race that’s usually super easy. It’s always fun because you’re out in the fields and banks of Mississippi, you have a full road enclosure (not that there area really that many cars), and it’s pretty in an Iowa sort of way. The reason why it’s a crap shoot is that it’s least important (read prize $$$) of the 4 races but easiest to burn your legs out on. So anyone who’s looking to do well at Snake Alley but isn’t above normal ability…ahem…COUGH COUGH, or the champion of a European nation just sit’s in and uses the race as a 3 hour leg opener.

The race situation quickly formed into a irreversible situation with 20 riders off the front of the field. The reason that’s irreversible is that EVERYONE had a “guy up the road” excuse for not working and those that did work would have to put in a simply massive amount of work to chase down the very determined group of guys. Not interested in burning the legs for the weekend everyone sat in and the gap ballooned to 6 minutes. At that point a chase started to see if the break could be reeled back in with Kenda, our own Knapp, Nick Frey of Boo Bikes doing the majority of the work. This effort was pretty solid and created huge splits in the field. Then a few things happened, after taking his pull Frey pulled out of the race (by making a turn out of the field from 3rd wheel), and we got an updated gap of….6 minutes. This took the wind out of any chase’s sails and we cruised in for another hour and half. Luckily our “guy up the road” Bob put in a good ride to finish 4th.

The Snake Alley Crit is a whole different animal from the previous day’s RR. One and a half miles with a brutal 75 of climbing per lap condensed into a tenth of a mile that is tame for half that and then this:

for the rest. Since the course started at the bottom of the lap there’s always a mad dash to the base of the snake. I had the best starting position of the team at 23rd. After the gun went off I pretty easily held my position going up the snake the first time in the top 10 of the field.

I’m not sure if it was due to my good start or improved fitness but being in the lead group was a lot less difficult than what I remember from years past. Watching the start video it’s pretty apparent that if you’re a good ways back going up even the first time you’re so far down on time by the time you get to the descent that it’s all catch up afterwards.

So I was happy about being up there and things were looking good, both ryans were right up there as well, and Paul had moved up from about 80th starting spot to the front group in a single lap (feats of elbow throwing and corner chopping I’m sure were required). The plan was to sit in for the first handful of laps to let the Snake thin out the field before starting to ride tactically. Knapp was out 5 in after a guy put his skewer into his rear wheel. I attacked to chase down a Team Type 1 guy. I spent a good two laps off the front sort of in between the field and the TT1 guy. As soon as I got back Paul went on the attack, I tried to run interference up the snake by riding a relatively leisurely tempo (read only one eyeball popping out of my head).  Luca Damiani went on the attack to follow Paul just before we got into the snake. This seemed to work pretty well as they got a decent gap fairly quickly. I was still pretty gassed when Ryan A went up the road with Isaac Neff a few laps later. By that point we were just getting inside 10 laps to go out of 20 for the race and the tunnel vision was starting to close in. I got off with Pat Lemieux from Kenda for a while and that’s when we saw Luca coming back to us going about 1 mph up the snake, he was blown. Up the road I managed to spot two light blue Panther kits cresting the snake together with Neff in tow.

By this point all tactics were out the window and I was just pain caving it up the snake every time.

Paul and Ryan went 1-2, and I got out sprinted for the last spot in the top ten for 11th, my best result on the snake yet plus I was able to help a little on the team side.

On to Muscatine!
he oval crit with a speed bump you hit at 40 mph every lap. Our plan was to be aggressive. This sort of back fired. On races like this where it’s fairly easy to sit in it’s best just to leave all your matches to the end. Inside of 10 to go a large group got up the road with Paul in it. We were holding back since there was only a small gap and it didn’t look like it was going to stick then…things just sort of eased up a bit and they were gone. We lead out Ryan A in a pretty argy bargie field sprint.

The final day of racing was in the Quad Cities itself with a pretty open 8 corner crit. We kinda had the same plan as Muscatine, be aggressive especially with how the race played out last year. Things got weird super quick in this one. A few laps into the race Knapp got off the front in what looked like a pretty average move, but Cleveland Clinic somehow thought otherwise and hit the front only a quarter into the race. The next 10-15 or so laps they spent on the front not really going fast enough to bring anything back but fast enough that no one was attacking..EXCEPT WHEN ADAM YORK WAS ON THE FRONT AND DROPPED EVERYONE BECAUSE HE WAS SO FAST AND GOOD LOOKING. I guess they were shooting for the sprint points because they brought back the move just before the sprints and shortly thereafter their sprinter was on the attack getting points here and there.

Panther spent some time with guys up the road as well. I put in a dig with a Texas Roadhouse and an Astellas rider. We had some OK gaps but we didn’t quite have the firepower to finish it off and were brought back with 5 to go.

I don’t like to jinx things so I’ve been quiet about my good record for the past while, but the last time I’d had a legit crash was Charlotte in 2010 (which was a really bad one). After I was brought back and before I could even do one lap sitting in I was brought down by a crash. It was my fault that I was that far back that close to the finish (maybe mid-pack). It was frustrating to have to watch Panther hit the front that early, Paul and Knapp were in front of Ryan leading him out but with 2 laps on the front they really could have used one more guy (like me!).

I’m feeling relatively healed up now and am going to take an easier weekend to just race in WV at the tri-city crit.

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