2013 Frankenmuth Road Race Report (Cat 3)

By Paul Skorupskas

Cooling down post race with the entire crew (Doug is not pictured since someone had to take the photo).

For the Tour of Frankenmuth, the CAT 3 team brought six racers (Derek Delzer, Chris Matthews, Doug Burcicki, Jerry Gase, Brian Wachlarz and myself [Paul Skorupskas]) to the start line to be one of the largest teams – if not the largest team – represented in the field. This group added three racers to the mix compared to those that represented the team at Cone-Azalia included our newest addition to the racing club in Brian Wachlarz.

Having such a large presence in the race meant that we would be on the attack throughout. This gave us two distinct advantages in that we didn’t have to worry about chasing down any groups off the front since we tried to always be represented in the breakaway groups and it let some of us rest up for later in the race while everyone else was busy chasing down the attacking moves.

The race started with Brian immediately jumping out front and forcing the group to start chasing immediately. Anyone that has ever raced with or against Brian knows that this is typical of his aggressive and team-oriented racing style. The first lap was filled with moves being made by us and other teams, and we did a very good job of ensuring that all moves were covered very well. Doug, Jerry, Brian, and Chris certainly made our presence known in the first half (plus) of the race. You know you’re doing your job when you hear comments from other racers in the group like: “that move doesn’t have a chance – [Team] O2 isn’t in there”.

Midway through the first lap, there was a hiccup with a marshall not being present at one of the key turns, causing most of the peloton to have to regroup and turn around to eventually get back on course. It seems that this happened in more races than simply ours, but was corrected on the further laps. The real pitfall with missing this turn is that it caused us to mix with 35+ field. Fortunately after 2 laps of us passing in and out of the 35+ field, a few crafty racers assembled our field and we as a race group agreed to neutralize ourselves for 3-4 mins giving our race enough of a gap with the 35+ race group so that both races could finish alone in their respective final laps. It was great to see a lot of people on different teams work together to self correct and neutralize the group to allow for a good finish to the race… and what a finish it turned out to be.

The entire race was a battle of little moves trying to get away, but on a pancake flat course with no wind and several determined teams, everything was getting pulled back before much of a break could ever materialize. That was until an unattached rider began to creep off the front about 6-7 miles from the finish. At first it didn’t look like much, but before long, in what turned out to be a very cunning move, a racer stealthily created about a 15 sec gap for himself and it was looking like he might have some staying power. At this point I wanted in at a chance to get away and join him up front. I was in good position in about 10th wheel to put in a little attack and work on bridging up to him. Before long I had cut his lead in half and was looking good, but a quick look back and I realized that I was bringing quite a few others with me, luckily including Derek Delzer. I made a decision to ease up and right on queue Derek jumped and made short work of the remaining gap solo while I, and my chase group, slowed. The peloton caught us, but now we had Derek with another strong rider off the front in perfect position to stay away. Derek and the unknown rider were able to stay away until just before the final turn, but long enough to put Derek in perfect position in the turn. With the group together going into the final turn, Derek was able to sprint for second. I worked to get 5th position in the final corner and settled for 6th at the line. The rest of the team also had strong results (see below) especially after the work that was done earlier in the race.

2nd – Derek Delzer
6th – Paul Skorupskas
21st – Jerry Gase
23rd – Chris Matthews
24th – Doug Burcicki
28th – Brian Wachlarz

2013 Cone-Azalia Race Report (Cat 3)

By Paul Skorupskas

Photo courtesy of Cristin Robb

Another Cone-Azalia race has come and gone and now the road racing season is officially underway in Michigan. For those who are not familiar with the race course, it takes place in Milan, MI, is a pancake flat 10 mile circuit race course, typically very windy and 40% dirt roads whose conditions vary from year-to-year. Aside from being a very difficult race, the pre-race decisions that go into what kind of bike to use (road or CX) whether or not to use race wheels, what kind of tires to run, etc. add another interesting wrinkle to race that reminds of last fall during CX season. My setup this year was the same as last year, road bike, clincher training wheels with 24mm Vittoria Pave tires with reinforced sidewalls. This is the same setup that I used last year when I won the Cat 4 race so why mess with something works. The rest of the team was on a mix of CX bike with road tires and varying widths. Seems everyone has their favorite setup.

This year is the inaugural year for O2 elite race team and Cone-Azalia brought out most of the racers so that we had good representation in the Cat 3, 35+ and 45+ fields as well as some racers spread out throughout the other categories.

Jerry Gase, Doug Burcicki and myself showed up to the line to race the cat 3 race. With 3 similarly strong racers our plan was simple. Attack! Attack early, counterattack and continue attacking the field. The race really starts strong every year once the field hits the first dirt section about .5 mile into the course. This year was no different. We had a few marked riders on other teams and they did not disappoint driving the pace as soon as we crossed the train tracks and hit the dirt section. The pace was fast, but Jerry and Doug took turns covering the mini-breaks and bringing them back while I waited. This continued for most of the first lap until the pace really slowed on the drag to the start/finish into the headwind when no one wanted to pull the field.

Eventually a rider had a enough and put in a little attack. Our team was content to let him hang out front for a while where we could see him. He looked to be getting a good enough lead that we needed to start thinking about bringing him back even though it was early in the race. However right as we all made the first turn of the second lap, the entire field including the mini break was stopped by a train. A new experience for me in this race. In any case, we now had gruppo compacto right at the beginning of the second time through the first dirt section. Immediately after the gates went up, some teams put in a big attack and got off the front, but Jerry or Doug were able to make their way into this break as well. Within a mile that break was brought back which meant that it was my turn to put in a big attack. I gave it a good jump and quickly found myself off the front with a substantial lead. Getting some rest in the tailwind section and finding that my lead had grown after exiting the second dirt section, I started to think about pacing and staying away for the rest of the race. Little did I know what I was in for.

For the next 6 miles I got my pacing down but also realized in the carnage that is the chattering roads of Cone-Azalia I lost my second water bottle. With little water remaining on a hot day and no reserve I thought better of trying to ride the next 30+ miles solo and decided and slow down and go back to the group, re-group and we’d try again later.

Fast forward to the fourth lap, the eventual winner put in a huge attack that really blew up the field. We had Doug and Jerry following so I stayed back wondering if they were gone for good. However, I could see that he was getting away and so I decided that I should try to bridge up. Coming through the second dirt road section I started picking people off, and found out that the leader was up the road along with a group of two chasing him down. Coming out of the final dirt section on the 4th lap, I found myself solo in 4th and decided I need to work as hard as I can to bridge up to the chase group. After a very difficult 10min effort I was able to bridge up to Clay Monahan (one of the strongest breakaway riders in the field) and Brian Wachlarz. We worked well together sharing the workload to try to catch the leader on the 5th and final lap, but when it became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to catch him, it was time to try to conserve energy for the sprint. Clay put in a really good contest for the sprint and took the 2nd place finish while I had to settle for 3rd thanks to some tired legs.

We certainly achieved our goal or racing well as a team, making our presence well known in the field that day, and putting a racer on the podium. Some big highlights of the day were having racing together for the first time this year with some great teammates, getting a podium, 3 racers in the top 10 of the cat 3 field, no flats by anyone on the team in the most treacherous road race on the calendar, and of course seeing Jim Ignash in the 45+ field soloing by our field at top speed for the win in the 45+ division.

Great day of racing for the team and many thanks to everyone who helped put on the Cone-Azalia road race. Another year of another fantastic event.