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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Masters National Road Race Championship

[Special Note:  I have a "Music Player" gadget, 4th down to the right. You may run audio from it or the video as you see fit by pausing the music player or muting the embedded video. Enjoy!]

The above video of  the USA Cycling Masters Road National Championship Men 40-44 was shot at Louisville Kentucky on August 6, 2010.

Before I can properly discuss this race I have to review last year's National Championship. Several people were affected by it (including myself) and  I believe that the results had significance on this year's race.

Last year Roger Aspholm and I were in the leading break-a-way (leading by something like 20 seconds) on the final lap of the National Championship race.  I jumped first with 400 yards to go up a moderate incline and into the finishing chute of the course.  Eventually Roger inched up alongside me, until we were neck and neck charging to the finish line.  We both threw our bikes at the line and I instantly knew that he had beaten me by a couple inches.    It was so damn close!  I missed a National Championship title by the closest of margins!  Flashing through my mind were all of the countless hours of training, the expenses of equipment, traveling, and entry fees, along with the sacrifices, the suffering, and the hopes and dreams for this one moment,  only to be beaten by a nip at the line!  I let it out in a roar as I came to a halt.

But then, things went from bad to worse!

My friend Fred came up to me and said, "You better go protest."
"Protest?" I said, "I just got beat.  There's nothing to protest."
"You guys did an extra lap." Fred says, "They've got it all screwed up."

It turned out that we had indeed done an extra lap.  There were several reasons why.  1. The finish was on an attached chute or arm of the course (not on the main course).  The course was never closed for the finish.  In fact the pace motorcycle had led Roger and I around for another lap!  Race officials said that the course was left open to allow lapped riders (on a 5 mile course) to continue racing. 2. The lap counter was at zero on lap two and one. 3. Roger asked the pace motorcycle/official what lap we were on.  The official indicated one more to go (he was also confused, it was bell lap). 3. On the bell lap, there was no bell for Roger and me.  Apparently the bell ringer thought Roger and I were not the lead riders, but instead were lapped riders (there were many).  4. The bell ringer did ring the bell for chasing riders behind us (several people told me this).

So on what was the actual finishing lap Roger and I were clearly in the lead by a significant margin.  As we missed the finishing chute, spectators began yelling at us to turn back, but we had already made our turn and their shouting just sounded like cheering.  (this next part is from spectators/friends accounts) The next group of three also started to make the wrong turn, but they were able to understand the crowd's pleas and they turned around and started racing to the finish line, but they were caught by another chase group and passed in the sprint.

My understanding is that what would have been 5th place became 1st place.  Roger and I were officially placed at 53rd 54th.  They denied our protest and said that, "it is the riders responsibility to know the course." And that was that.

I took it a bit easier than Roger, mainly because I felt I was only cheated out of second place.  For Roger it was the National Title.  He swore he would never do another Masters National race again.  He wasn't too happy about the whole thing.

The next day was totally different.  I experienced something that I totally didn't expect.  In fact, even now, I'm still impressed by it.  I don't think I have ever heard of something like it in competitive sports. 

Daniel Casper was officially awarded the second place medal in our Masters National Road Race.   He came up to me and said, "This is yours", and handed me the silver medal from the previous days National Championship race.  I was amazed and I told him how much I appreciated it (and I really did).  In my book Daniel Casper is the true definition of a Champion:  first among competitors in honor and integrity.
So that's the background story leading up to this year's race that is featured in the above video.  Some things did change and some didn't.  The race officials went all out this year.  The course was completely closed off and did not have a special finishing chute.  The lap counter was high tech and digital.  The announcers were highly professional.  The officials even required riders to wear electronic chips to keep track of the riders in the race.   I was told (but I can't confirm) that last year's chief official was not invited to return.

So what didn't change?  The course was the same, and the race roster was nearly the same, including one Roger Aspholm.  He swore he wouldn't come back!  When I saw his name of the list of registered riders, I thought, "Damn it, he's going to be hard to beat!" 

Damn straight, he won again! (Sorry for the video spoiler).  I did the best I could, but I was pretty spent after a bridge-up to the lead break-a-way.  I never really recovered.

After the race I saw Roger and I said, "How did you do?" (I really didn't know yet)
He looked at me and smiled, "I won."
I congratulated him.  I was really happy for him and said, "Well, that ought to help make up for last year."
"A little." He smiled again.  
To which I said, "I'll do well tomorrow.  I always race better on the second day."

Damn straight!
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  1. Awesome! Looking forward to your posts on the Crit Nat'l Championship and the 4 Gateway Cup races...especially Benton Park. Keep 'em coming

  2. Why did you stop pedaling in the middle of the sprint? Also, was it a slightly downhill sprint?


  3. Ryan: Thanks. It's going to take me a while, but I will post them eventually.

    Austin, I stopped pedaling through the final left hand turn. I was concerned that I was going to get pinched into the barriers or possibly slide out.

    It turns out I was not in danger of either and as a result I lost possibly 2 positions. Totally my own fault, but I'm ok with that.

    Also it was an uphill finish and flattening out after the last turn.

  4. You: "I don't think I have ever heard of something like it in competitive sports."
    Really? This type of thing happens all the time. At Elite Nationals, World Championships and Olympics.
    ps - awesome bridge

  5. Anonymous said, "This type of thing happens all the time."

    I don't think so. It is uncommon for an athlete to give their award to a competitor, because they feel it's the right thing to do, especially when nobody is watching.

    I have spent a lot of time on the internet searching for an example and I can not find one. If anyone can, please post it here. (There must be cases of it, but I can not find any).

    I did find some good examples of good sportsmanship, but nothing that matched Daniel Cooper's act of class.



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