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Mississippi Gran Prix Race Report
April 21-22 , 2007
Brookhaven, MS

by Randall Legeai


As usual, Friday rolled around and I still didn't quite have the logistics down for the trip up to Brookhaven for the Mississippi Gran Prix Stage Race. After a number of emails and phone calls, I finally cancelled the hotel room I had reserved after Ed K. told me he already had a room and Francis and I were welcome to crash there Saturday night. Since Francis is up at LSU, we planned on meeting in Hammond to consolidate everything into my car for the fairly short drive up to Brookhaven. Some of these logistics were finalized via cellphone while I was having dinner at Iris with the neighbors who were repaying us for watching their dogs. While that was quite nice, it also meant that I wouldn't be home until late. So of course I was up kind of late getting my stuff together for an early morning departure. We needed to be up in Brookhaven by around 8 am. so that meant a 5 am wake-up call for me.

As I Rode the Road Race
Francis and I arrived at the road race earlier than expected, which meant that we got (a) a good parking spot, and (b) to use the bathroom before they ran out of toilet paper. The turnout looked quite good and as registration closed and I looked around I could see that the Masters race would be good and competitive. For various reasons, I would be racing without any teammates, but it seemed that a number of other teams were there in force. The New Orleans area NBO and Midsouth Masters teams had five and eight riders respectively, Herring had four, Alabama Masters had five, and there were riders from Mobile Velo and Memphis . Even Lonnie Kennedy was there from St. Louis. All of these clubs had strong and experienced riders, so I knew the road race would be an interesting 50 miles. Indeed, things started out fast and pretty much stayed that way. There were constant attacks and counter-attacks, especially during the first of the two 25-mile laps.

Since I was racing solo, I really had only two options. I could sit in the back with the sprinters and hope that the teams would all chase down each other's breaks, or I could stay at the front, go with everything, and hope for a small break with representatives from each of the bigger teams. So I chose the latter. As a result, of course, I did a fair amount of work. That included gambling on a couple of promising breaks that were nonetheless caught. So about halfway through the last lap I was starting to think that nothing was going to get away from this pack. I dropped back a little bit and tried to rest up as best as I could without losing my ability to respond if something did happen up front. There was one long climb on the course, and then in the last 5k or so there were a couple of good hills, including one at the finish, of course.

I guess we were around 5 miles from the finish when David Hyde rolled off the front. He told me later that it was really accidental at first. The front of the pack didn't react. We were close to the finish and by now everyone was thinking this would be a big field sprint for sure. I remember sitting there on the right side of the road near the front of the pack and looking around, wondering why the big teams with hot sprinters were letting someone who is a well-known time trialist and solo breakaway rider get away with this. Iknew one thing for sure, I wasn't about to tow all those teams across the gap just so they could smoke me in the sprint! My legs were already pretty tired. So David, realizing he had an opportunity, started pouring on the coals while the pack squiggled around behind in a nervous clump watching him ride off into the distance. By the time we hit the 1k to go sign, first place was gone and things were heating up for the pack sprint where there were still three bonuses up for grabs, not to mention the substantial stage finish prizes.

When we hit the 500M mark , the long uphill sprint started. It always starts early on this course, and although I've done this course a number of times, I still can't seem to get it right. I thought I was in a good spot, but somehow I got myself stuck over on the right side of the road as a big group went flying by on the left. I got free and passed a couple of people in the last 100 meters, but finished a disappointing 8th, feeling a little frustrated. Mark from Midsouth won the pack sprint, followed by Jim Brock from Alabama Masters and two of his teammates. NBO's Eddie Corcoran took 6th. The stage was set.

The Race of Truth
The truth is, I don't really enjoy time trials very much. In fact, I seriously question the mental health of those who do. Well, it seemed there were a whole lot of mentally unstable riders in the Masters race. Francis, Ed, Judith and I spent as much time as we could at the hotel clamping on aero bars, pinning on numbers, and basically killing time before the Time Trial. After the Road Race I had discovered a big slash in my rear tire through which the tube was bulging. I was lucky to have finished that race without a flat. Then I managed to strip one of the clamp bolts on my old aero bars. Somehow I got them clamped on adequately anyway, but I guess I'm in the market for a new set now. We arrived at the TT in plenty of time and I was pleased to find that they had already posted a complete start list. I did a decent warmup, but was really having some motivational problems with this stage. I was pretty confident that there were at least ten guys who could easily beat my TT time. Also, this particular stage race had a separate prizelist for each stage, so somewhere in the back of my head I was thinking it might be best to save my legs for the next morning's criterium. The 4 mile course had a couple of long gradual climbs in the first half, and I just couldn't get myself to go more than about 80% effort. My legs were still feeling the morning's road race and I was just basically feeling unmotivated. The second half of the course was flatter and I felt a lot better there and was able to push myself a bit more. I was glad they had put up mile markers because at the start I had pushed the wrong button on my computer so otherwise I wouldn't have known where I was. Anyway, although I didn't know my time, I knew it would be substantially sub-par.




Photos and Results

Sunday's race was either a short Circuit Race or a long Criterium. It was basically a fast and exceptionally smooth course through a community college that featured a nice steep little climb just before the start/finish. I checked the results when Francis and I arrived and found that although my Time Trial time was dead-center mid-pack, I was still in the money for one of the GC places. That was at least a little motivation. Looking at the other results, I figured it would be a battle for bonus points for a lot of the top riders. David had a solid lead, but the next five places or so were all separated by one or two seconds, so I was thinking that some of the teams would be going for the hot spot and finish bonuses. That might leave open an opportunity for a breakaway, so I decided to stay at the front and try to get in on something. Indeed there were a lot of attacks and counter-attacks, mostly by the Alabama guys. I went with a couple of breaks (and chased down some others), but to be honest I didn't really have the horsepower to contribute very much when I was in them. Jay and Jason seemed to spend a fair amount of time up front, and in the last few laps when a pack sprint was imminent he took some long steady pulls that probably discouraged some last-minute attacks.

There was a hot spot at mid-race, and I was determined to go for it since I could move up a place or two if I could get some of the bonuses. I ended up going about 100% for it but came across in 3rd spot, which basically got me nothing but sore legs. There was a little counter-attack immediately afterward, and I went with that too hoping the chain might snap, but we were caught pretty quickly. After the hot spot, a 2-man break got a good gap that was starting to look dangerous. Lonnie Kennedy must have thought so too, because he jumped out of the pack and made the bridge up to it. When I saw that, I got concerned. I mean, I might be winning, under the circumstances, to give up two places, but three were just too much. David must have gotten a little worried too when their gap started to exceed his GC lead, so ultimately the two of us put in some work and pulled that one back just to be on the safe side.

So things came down to the last lap and I was pretty well positioned up near the front. Just before the second-to-last turn, Eddie jumped early down the right side and I had to dig really deep to catch his wheel. I wasn't too happy to be second wheel with such a long way to go before the finish, but that's the way it goes sometimes. So we come flying into the turn really fast and as soon as Eddie gets through he lights the afterburner and goes hammering down the downhill leading to the last curve and uphill finish. When he did that, it gapped me off by a couple of bike lengths, so when I came through the turn the headwind hit me really hard. I felt like a piece of tissue paper in a hurricane, but whether I liked it or not, I was committed, so I went as hard as I could down the hill trying in vain to catch a bit of Eddie's draft. Meanwhile, Eddie was going so hard he rode off the road on a little curve, blasting through the gravel but hardly slowing down. I felt like I was in trouble before I even got to the start of the finish climb, and when I heard riders coming up from behind, I knew it. As I started the climb four of five rider came streaming past me on the left as I jumped out of the saddle and pounded my way up the steepest part of the hill. The best I could do was 5th. Naturally, the bonus points went only 4 deep. So I ended up 11th overall, but with the stage placing prizes I was pretty happy, winning almost enough to replace the clip-on aero bars and the slashed tire. Any time you break even on a stage race, it's a good weekend, eh?

While all of this was going on, Francis was having a much better race. Finishing 5th, 4th, and 2nd in the three stages, he came out 4th overall in the Cat. 4 race which was a great result. Ed Kendrick and Brooks Abel also rode the Cat. 4 race, although Brooks didn't ride the criterium for some reason. In the Cat. 5 race, we had 4 riders, three of whom went down in the same crash about three miles into the road race. Quentin , who was riding in his first ever mass-start road race, had bike damage as well as road rash and wasn't able to continue. Mike Rivault and Andrew Folse also went down but were at least able to continue. Ed Jones avoided the crash and finished with the pack. On GC, Ed ended up in 14th, with Mike and Andrew in 16th and 19th respectively .


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