26 April 2005

Race Report: Branchbrook, Newark, 23 April 05

Welcome to the Jungle

Submitted by Matt Purdue

When Chris F. and I rolled to the starting line, we knew we were in for it. Of the 40-some riders in the field, only five of us were unattached. The rest of the field consisted of teams of various shapes, sizes and colors.

The attacks began as soon as the race began, with riders flying off the front, attacking and counterattacking almost immediately. Teammates would surge to the head of the pack, then drop back to let other teammates counterattack. It felt like I was floating in a hot air balloon watching F-18s dogfight around me with 50mm cannons.

Half of the Branchbook Park course is a narrow, rather twisty flat that runs along the backside of the park. Along most of this portion, riders were literally rubbing shoulders and elbows at 26 mph. If you were caught on the inside of a turn, you were squeezed against the curb by the pack. This seemed like a recipe for disaster. Finally, on lap 4, the pack pinched an unattached Century rider against the curb; I was directly behind him, and saw that he literally had nowhere to go. In hindsight, the only thing he could have done was hold his line, stick out his elbows, lean back into the pack and hope for the best

Instead, he drifted into the curb. I first heard a loud “tick, tick, tick” that must have been his pedal scraping the curb, then I saw him pitch violently to the right and catapult off his bike. His tire blew with a shrill “PSSSSSSSS” and the pack flew by. (Chris later talked to him; he was dirty but unhurt, having landed on the grass.)

Chris and I spent most of the race trying to stay out of trouble. I wasted too much time on the front, battling my ever-increasing heart rate and the wind. Chris spent too much time off the back, trying to fight his way up through the pack. Meanwhile, riders were constantly taking wild chances, shooting through gaps no wider than 42cm handlebars.

The finish came down to a field sprint and neither Chris nor I were factors. I finished about 18th and Chris was not far behind me. So for results this race gets a C-. But as a learning experience this race gets an A.

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