A "Racer's" View
1996 Louisiana State Road Race Championships
It is amazing how much fun you can have in less than perfect conditions!
Sunburned, dehydrated, hungry and physically exhausted ....... with a less
than perfect bike, is how I started the 96 Senior 4/5 LA District
Championships. My lengthy explanation, in 3 parts, follows.
Part 1 - Bicycle Enthusiast = Race Worker
My lack of conditioning was the result of a number of factors. 1st, very
little training time in the previous months set the scene. I so often hear,
"Well I haven't had time to train.... so I can't race." People would be
surprised what you can learn just by starting a race in whatever shape.
Glenn Gulotta and I were very concerned about the race attendance because of
the bad weather Saturday morning. We could reach up and touch the rain
swollen, black clouds in the torrential downpour.... no exaggeration. We did
not try because the lighting would have zapped us and we would have been
washed into the lake near our hotel by the small flood that was occurring. I
told Glenn that my windshield wipers were on full speed and we still could
barely see the road. Amazingly, we saw 2 bicyclists on the road pedaling into
Jackson, LA. . It must have been a sign #198#
After some coffee & "butter biscuits" at Bob's drive in the skies cleared and
the sun started drying the course rapidly. Racers began to arrive,
registration was underway, and we had a race!
I borrowed Jim's trailer to bring my XV 250 cc motorcycle to lead the bigger
fields around the course. If you have a choice between a lead or follow
vehicle, something to "sweep" the road in front of the racers is the
choice....makes the race safer. It is unlikely the peleton will get smashed
from behind. It could be a major disaster if they get hit head on or someone
turns left in front of the group. You can do this job with a car but the
motorcycle is smaller and much more maneuverable with cyclists on the road.
Miller road is rather narrow and the motorcycle worked very well for this.
I was motorcycling as a lead vehicle from 10:00 am till almost 3:00 pm
Saturday. I did not bring enough to drink. I had nothing to eat. I did not
even think of sunscreen.... OUCH! My picture is now in the encyclopedia under
"redneck". When I finished I was beat. I felt much more tired than if I had
ridden a race on the bicycle.
I am sure part of this was the nervous energy involved in looking for
obstacles and cars ahead and keeping track of racers behind. Glenn and I kept
our novena candles going that no one would be injured on the course. I tried
to stop at the corners when possible and inform the police of race progress.
(Please do this when possible..... they often know little to nothing about
what is going on in the race). I tried to give racer's time splits as well.
It would be nice to have a few extra cc's to zip (65mph+) between the break
and peleton. No one got hurt in any race I moto marshaled...... Thank you St.
I had some people say, "It must be great to watch the race from the
motorcycle." It is great fun, BUT looking in the 3" mirror is rather limiting.
In the future 2 motorcycles would be much better. Moto #1 could cover the
corners and possible road entry in front of the race while Moto #2 could stay
100 meters in front of the peleton. When a break clears 1 minute, the 2
motorcycles could cover the 2 groups.
Everyone could tell I was exhausted Saturday pm at dinner and later. While
everyone was talking I just consumed my food. I began thinking there is no way
I will race tomorrow. When we got back to the room, while everyone was
watching football, I went to sleep before 9:30 pm..... the alarm was set for
After our delayed hotel departure, we arrived in Jackson to a beautifully
sunny & brilliant, cool day. The race promoters were in good spirits from day
one's success. They had nothing but positive feedback from all the racers.
They told us they kept hearing " Great race course" from racers after their
events....... " We will be back next year."
With the main event, Senior 1/2/3, LA District Championship on the start
line, we got underway with only a 15 minute delay. This slight delay was
caused by the police covering the corners having to find some prisoners that
had escaped from the State Criminal Forensic Prison near Jackson! We told the
racers not to pick up hitchhikers.
It is hard to describe the beauty of the racers climbing the "Miller the
Killer " road in the beams of sunlight that cut through the crisp, cool air!
One could have imagined this scene in any European road race with ease. The
roads were clear of heavy traffic and the racers were ready for their 97 mile
test of fitness and tactics. I will leave it to others to describe the race
Part 2 - Bicycle Enthusiast = Bicycle Racer
I knew I would be on the road from 8:00 am till 11:30 am. I only had time for
some coffee and a power bar early. I thought, "I am so ill prepared for this
race, I will just skip it."
After watching the 1/2/3 race develop, something clicked. ...... Glenn calls
it the "Cosmic Tumblers". I decided to start the race. I dismounted the
motorcycle and loaded it on the trailer. I ran over to registration and got
the last number before it closed. $12.00 to ride a 61.0 mile State
Championship Road Race..... what a bargain!
I quickly pinned my number on, dressed, and installed my race wheels. I knew I
needed some food on board and downed a couple of PowerGels with some fluid. I
was hoping they would stay down long enough to be absorbed. I heard Glenn say,
"We will start your race in 10 minutes" .... better make sure my bike shifts
OK. My warm up was 5 minutes.... not great but the bike worked.
Our group of @ 25 started slowly.... those novena candles must still be
burning. I knew I needed some time to warm up and get my food digested. I
tasted my gels on lap 1 & 2 at the top of the Miller climb...... but not
involuntary loss of stomach contents. (If you need to "pitch" or "hurl" please
follow racing's proper etiquette and do so at the back of the peleton.....
besides, it is a dead giveaway to your competition that you are not feeling at
I staked out my position at the back of the group with a couple of other Cat 4
Masters who were "double dipping" from yesterdays age group championships. We
noted some "less talented" bike handlers in the much maligned Cat 4 group, but
for the most part, the skills were more than adequate for a safe race. (only 1
crash into an soft dirt ditch, at slow speed, going up Miller climb, no
injury..... he finished the race.)
Lap 4, up the Miller climb, Maurizzio and Keith went away with 2 other riders.
Time for Robert to go to work. I went to the front and began my "contribution"
to the break. As the mostly Red Stick lead chase attempted to bring the
escapees back, I kept my presence at or near the front just enough to delay an
organized chase. I knew it was working as I heard the chasers in the hunt kept
screaming "keep it smooth and pull through" as my teammates rode away up the
After a of lap of my confounding the chase effort, I heard the Red Stick team
trying to organize, "Hey guys come back here". Plans were discussed. They were
going to get past me by sending 2 or 3 guys to the front hard and sending a
flyer past me. They tried, 4 or 5 times, but Ken, Gary, or Todd and I would
cover these moves and shut them down....... NOBC teamwork was very effective.
Lap 6,(I think) up the Miller climb, Gary & Ken rolled off. They were joined
by a Red Stick racer (Tim) and a rider from another team. I made a point to
tell the Red Stick team guys left, that they had a teammate in the 2nd break.
Two of them were not aware of this! I said, " You guys and I have no reason to
chase anything now."
Lap7, (I think) up the Miller climb, Todd, Ken Dunaway (Mezza Luna) and I
rolled off. I told them we had a gap and went to the front to work it.........
just enough to get us away. I pushed the pace up a little and took longer
pulls on Hwy 68 as I knew this was the critical point and probably the fastest
section of road. We needed to get a real gap here or we would be caught. It
worked. We were moving away by Hwy 10.
I made the mistake of pushing a bigger gear up the LA 10 - 952 junction climb
and I started to cramp ..... Big Time. I really wanted to stop. I kept moving
my position on the pedals to prevent a total lockup. Thank goodness Traci and
Brian were feeding me. I just kept telling myself..... "this too will pass".
It did, not completely but enough.
I kept the guys in our break motivated by telling them we were keeping our
position from the chase. I did not want us to catch break #2 as I figured Gary
and Ken had that under control.
Lap10, Bell Lap, up the Miller climb, I felt much better. I took our group
over the top and down Miller road. My companions were hurting bad and the
thought crossed my mind..... "Last lap, less than 4 miles left.... I could
drop these guys" . I thought for a second. Todd is a NOBC teammate, a new,
young racer and it makes more sense for him to advance. Nope..... keep it
I kept them going by telling them I could see the chase. I took longer pulls
and watched Ken prepare for his finish. When I asked Todd how he felt he said,
"Terrible." I said, "Just hang on."
As we turned onto LA 10, I wanted to keep the pace high & position Ken to
allow Todd a shot at 8th place. I motored strong and long. As we approached
the downhill before the final turn, I said to Todd, "Get ready to come around
me".... He said, "What?".... No time to repeat..... I had to make sure I moved
along inside and then in front of Ken so I could take him wide in the final
corner..... it worked. This time I yelled to Todd........ "Go!!!! "
Todd took off the inside corner and sprinted to 8th place. I dropped Ken for
9th. Our teammates took 1st, 4th, 5th..... great results for the team! Smiles
and congratulations all around.
I rolled up to Ken after the race and said, "I enjoyed racing with him......
sorry I had to maneuver you out but Todd is a young guy moving up and we are
having fun." He agreed and said he appreciated my effort to keep us away.
The best part was after the race when Todd asked me about his sprint..... "Is
that what you meant by going?" .... I laughed. Yes..... you got it ..... "Team
Racing" NOBC style.... everyone is a winner.
Part 3 - Life is more precious with friends
On our way home Glenn and I discussed a number of things...... the race,
people, next years race....... races of past. It is amazing how many good
times people share in and around racing...... things you never forget.
A question came up on the ride back. Why do so many of the talented area
athletes...... sometimes 60 or more "Giro" riders, fail to show up for real
races ? You know, real sanctioned, USCF, bicycle races. Real bicycle races,
where you pay a small fee and are challenged by clearly defined, competitive
conditions, athletes, and team tactics. Real bicycle races, where you can
exponetially develop your bicyle performance skills. Real races..... not just
training rides or imagined "race simulations"...... it is too easy to hide
from your true potential in an "imagined race."
Do they know what they are missing? ..... Probably not. The laughter,
friendships, and intense personal & team experiences are some truly precious
moments in our lives. We both agreed, the guys with the multi thousand dollar,
latest whiz bang bikes, who never even try racing, are really missing out on
some of life's exceptional "good times."
Yes, my weekend race was a "lower level" Cat 4 race.... but I dare anyone to
say I had a "lower level" of fun..... prepared or not. Ask anyone who saw my
smile at the finish!
This is all my long winded way of reminding people that "Racers Make Races
Happen"...... write it down..... it is like a law of physics. That is why you
see real "racers" out there just doing it, before and after their races.
I hope this article encourages others, particularly new racers, to step up,
help work a race and then race it. Even if you are not "perfectly prepared",
you will still be smiling with your friends in the end.
See you at the races,
Robert W. Massart
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