As I Rode It

1996 Master's 35-44 Louisiana State Road Race

This was one fun race! Riding the warm-up lap with the team, I was impressed with the exceptional NOBC turnout. Nine new NOBC jerseys made their debut for the 42-mile event that featured a new and challenging 6.1 mile course in Jackson, Louisiana. Although the much-discussed turn #2 turned out to be an insignificant factor, the climb that followed proved to be a crucial spot in many of the races.

At the line for our race were NOBC riders Troy Constance, Reggie Bresette, Howard Luna, Ken DiGeronimo, Randy Legeai, Brian Magendie, Jerry Morrison, Robert Miller, and Robin Robert. Starting out at a brisk pace, the pack negotiated the two key climbs on the first lap with a bit of caution. Jerry Morrison soon rolled off the front without much of a challenge, and with his teammates to monitor the pace of the pack, together with his hard effort, he found himself with a lead of well over a minute by the mid-point of the event. Guy Cross (Red Stick Racers), Scott Martin (Cajun Cyclists) and their teammates, not content to watch first place get away so easily, were visible at the front trying to minimize the damage, but appeared reluctant to make a hard effort so early. This situation continued for a couple of laps, with lead moto/referee Robert Massart shuttling back and forth between the break and the pack giving times. Then, with three or four laps left, Guy Cross attacked the Miller Road climb, causing much gasping among the group, and stringing things out badly. This was clearly a crucial moment in the race, and I strained to close the gap to him and Brian Magendie, who had matched him up the steepest part. When my vision cleared, I saw that there was a significant gap, maybe 10 seconds, behind us. Guy continued to push the pace, and as Brian and I weighed our options, Robin Robert bridged up to us and went straight to the front. With Scott Martin still way in arrears, Robin saw an opportunity and took a strong pull, encouraging our little group to get organized. With one teammate up the road and three in this 4-man break, we couldn't ask for more. Meanwhile, back in the pack, Troy and Howard were forcing Scott to do most of the work in chasing. As we turned off of Miller Road, our break had a good gap, and although we weren't going all-out, we worked together at a fast pace all the way to La. 10. Now the race had gone from being negative (trying to maximize Jerry's gap on the field) to positive (trying to drop Scott and Co. and set up a 5-person break, assuming we would ultimately catch Jerry, containing 4 NOBC riders). Despite our efforts, however, Scott and most of the pack caught us about half a lap later. As a result of the quickened pace, Jerry, who was starting to feel the effects of his long solo, was now clearly in sight of the fast-moving pack. On the other hand, Scott and a number of other riders, were clearly tired from the hard effort. Soon after the pack came back together, Jerry was caught and the pace, predictably, slowed considerably. With only two laps to go, the stage was set for a pack sprint among the surviving 8 or 9 riders. Jerry, however, had other plans!

On the final lap, the group rolled through the two climbs without much action until shortly after the turn off of Miller Road. With around 2.5 miles to the finish, Jerry made a gutsy move (again!) and jumped out of the pack, quickly establishing a 20-second gap as his teammates sat at the front. Coming around the third turn, with just over a mile to go, Jerry still had a clear gap, but Guy Cross and a number of other riders were picking up the pace. Just as we started the long, fast downhill prior to the last turn, Robin Robert exploded from the pack down the right side, opening a big gap. Brian and Scott were near the front, with me just to the left of Scott's wheel. I started to react, but hesitated, hoping that Scott would take up the chase, which he did. Now we are flying down the hill toward the final turn at 40+ mph, with Scott closing in on Robin. Just before the bottom, Brian rockets past on the left. Jerry is still clear, but the pack is closing fast. I jump hard to catch a bit of Brian's draft and we fly through the bumpy final turn. First through is Jerry with maybe 5 seconds, then Robin with Brian now coming past, and me on Brian's wheel. Everyone mashes hard up the steep turn and over the top with 200 meters left. Jerry is still away but Robin has blown up, passed by Brian, now with me on his wheel. I jump hard over the top and past Brian, wondering which sprinter, Guy or Scott, is on my wheel. Jerry and I are really hurting now. 50 meters from the line, I'm pulling at the bars and pedalling squares, just trying to make it to the line without anyone coming around. Just before the line, I passed Jerry, who held off Brian and the rest of the pack to finish second. The finish order: Randy Legeai, Jerry Morrison, Brian Magendie, Guy Cross, Stephen Katchur, Ken DiGerinomo, Scott Martin, Robin Robert, Dean Herbet, Sherwood Cox, Robert Miller and Reggie Bresette.

Everyone agreed that it was a great race and an excellent course. Scott, Guy and the other Baton Rouge riders rode a fine race despite being so outnumbered, and are to be congratulated for their noble efforts and competitive spirit. Ken DiGerinomo, who has improved rapidly this year, rode impressively in his first State Championship Road Race, and Brian Magendie as usual provided infinite horsepower at the front. It was fun.


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