2016 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 4: Not With a Whisper

06.28.2016 | 8:22 pm

A Podcasting Note from Fatty: I just posted the most recent episode of the CyclingTips podcast, and it’s my favorite so far: extreme racing, like the Trans Am Bike Race (remember that awesome documentary by Mike Dion) and Everesting.

It’s a panel discussion with the guy who won Trans Am last year (Jesse Carlsson), the guy who invented Everesting (Andy Van Bergen), I couldn’t help myself and wound up doing a lot of talking.

You can find this episode at iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, by RSS feed, by downloading direct, Google Play, and by just listening in the handy player below:

I assert — no, I demand — that you will enjoy this episode and then subscribe to this podcast without further ado.

2016 Rockwell Relay Race Report, Part 4: Not With a Whisper 

I was being hangdog. Self-pitying. Despondent, even. In one single first leg of the race I care about more than any other race, I had put us an incredible seventeen minutes (at the time, I had thought it was eighteen but the results have since made me feel one minute better about myself) behind Beauties and the Beasts.

“Guys, I am sorry,” I said, sincerely and dramatically. “I’ve ruined our chances at winning this race. I am fat, and he is fast.”

As it turns out, only two out of those things were necessarily true. Because while I am fat (the same nine pounds too heavy I’ve been since February) and Nate is fast, we didn’t know anything at all about whether the rest of The Beauties and the Beasts (let’s call them “BatB” in the rest of this post, to save me typing effort) were as devastatingly strong as Nate was against me.

And since the BatB rider had a seventeen-minute headstart against Lindsey, we wouldn’t know for a while whether we were gaining on them, or whether she was increasing BatB’s lead.

Which is, when it comes right down to it, a big part of the Rockwell Relay’s appeal: you can plan and strategize all you want, but for big parts of the race, you just have to accept that there’s a lot you don’t know, and then do the best you can on the bike.

To Go or Not to Go

With Lindsey off and riding, I took a few minutes to clean up, change, and keep an eye out for the FiverZ teams. I knew Mary had had a couple of flats, so figured Marci, Mary and Bill would be at least a few minutes behind me — but considering my own dismal performance on the course, I wasn’t sure. 

But twenty minutes later, they were still not in and we were starting to worry about leaving Lindsey out on her own for too long. What if she had a serious mechanical issue? What if she were out of water or food? What if she needed more cowbell?

So we figured an at-least twenty minute gap in front of who we had expected would be our main competition would be enough knowledge for now. They’d either be closer or further away at the next checkpoint, and find that out soon enough.

As it turns out, they’d come in a few minutes after we left: twenty-three minutes behind us. The Strava Flyby of that leg shows that thirteen (or so) of that minutes was due to them being at two complete stops — fixing flats, I assume.

So while I had lost eighteen minutes to Nate, I had gained ten moving minutes (plus thirteen not-moving minutes) on the three Z5R teams working together, even though I had been twisting alone in the wind for a big chunk of the leg.

Which makes me feel better about myself. A little.

My Niece is Awesome

I am happy to say that Lindsey (my sister’s daughter) was definitely taking care of the “do the best you can on the bike” part of our race strategy.

She had gone out with the three Racer 2 counterparts of the group I had rolled in, and was working well with them. 

Which means I had, inadvertantly, done one thing right: setting Lindsey up with a paceline to battle the headwind (or crosswind, depending which way the road was currently winding) with.

And as the smallest person in the group, she was guaranteed a good draft. Check her out, in third position (Friend of Fatty Chris, of Team What Were We Thinking, Part Quattre [WWWT4 from here on out] is leading):

Thumb IMG 0238 1024

We had put Lindsey in the Racer 2 slot because of two things: 

  1. She’s a great climber
  2. She’s a great descender

And for all three of the legs she’d be riding, both those attributes would come into play. 

But in this leg — more than the other two — climbing and descending would be vital. It’s a punchy rolling segment, with lots of quick climbs alternating with steep and twisty descents…and then ending with a big descent at the end.

We got out often, cheering. Lindsey looked great. Fast. Happy. Strong like bull.

Thumb IMG 0299 1024

The wind improved as this group of four — which winnowed down to three — just hammered away. They were making fast time — as witnessed by Lindsey’s Strava results, which include no small number of QOMs.

And then, the group got to the final climb, which ends at the exchange: 1200 feet in five miles. Not an especially big or difficult climb, unless it’s a really hot day and you’ve been racing for thirty-nine miles already.

Which of course was the case.

At this moment, physics came into play. Specifically, the physics of power-to-weight ratios.

In this case, this meant that my strong-but-very-light niece just floated away from the strong-but-not-as-light men (to be clear, there wasn’t a heavy, slow person in the group).

Lindsey rolled in with a gap of a couple minutes on the group:

Thumb IMG 0311 1024

I swapped the timing chip over to Ben, and he was off.

Thumb IMG 0319 1024

Into the wind, but not by himself. The racer from the 50+ team — the Mike Nosco Memorial Team — went out at the same time. You can see the rider in the background in the picture above. 

Ben wouldn’t be alone, but he would be on the hunt.

You see, I was being a little bit coy about how fast Lindsey and her group had gone. Because just three minutes before Lindsey came in, the BatB rider had come in.

That’s right. Lindsey had just pulled back fifteen of the seventeen minute deficit I had earned in the first leg.

A couple minutes later, the other riders pulled in and we got a photo with our team and Chris, of team WWWT4:

Thumb IMG 0015 1024

We still had no idea where the VZR55 team was (as it turns out, Lindsey had added to the gap I had built and they were now twenty-six minutes behind us), but we were no longer in a distant second place.

We were now just two minutes off the winning Coed team, and we had ourselves a race.

Which is where we’ll pick up in the next installment of this series.


  1. Comment by leroy | 06.29.2016 | 10:57 am

    Good lord, I’m loving this.


  2. Comment by kellene- sister, mother, sis in law and mother in law! | 06.29.2016 | 11:51 am

    I love this family play by play! Nice write up, and photos!

  3. Comment by MattC | 06.29.2016 | 11:54 am

    Great report Fatty. Not so much a ‘cliffhanger’ this year…more like a bluffhanger, or tall-wallhanger, or maybe even ‘a vertical-ridge-liphanger’. The drama is still there, but the MUST KNOW MORE facet is down to a more tolerable level. However, I’m still waiting to hear about those crushed helmets.

    That will be coming soon. Indeed, I think you’re going to find that within the next couple of installments, this story is going to go to a completely new dramatic level. Everything is just about to get very, very, very weird. – FC

  4. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.29.2016 | 12:02 pm

    I agree with Leroy. Best multi-parter Elden has produced.

  5. Comment by miles archer | 06.29.2016 | 1:08 pm

    I look forward to reading the finale on Labor Day.

    You’re probably kidding, but sometime in the next few days I’m going to have to have the story stay in exactly the same place for about three installments. – FC

  6. Comment by Bart the Clydesdale | 06.29.2016 | 1:12 pm

    Dang physics, I wish I had a way to eliminate the part it plays in that power to weight ratio.
    I know, I know I have the option to lower the weight, or increase the power, but I want an easy option. On a related note anyone out there want to take my extra unwanted 10 pounds, I’ll take it back after this year’s Leadville 100 I promise.

  7. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.29.2016 | 1:30 pm

    @Bart I’ll take your ten if you take mine. @Leadville we should work together getting that 20 lbs up the hill.

  8. Comment by Corrine | 06.29.2016 | 1:57 pm

    Great job, Lindsey. Way to go! Can’t wait to hear how weird it is going to get.

  9. Comment by MattC | 06.29.2016 | 3:03 pm

    But are there zombies involved in the upcoming “new dramatic level”? That’s what I want to know!

    No zombies this year. I confess I was disappointed. – FC

  10. Comment by old guy who likes to ride | 06.29.2016 | 4:21 pm

    Good Read.

    I bet Lindsey had an identical pair of socks in her gear bag…

  11. Comment by Triflefat | 06.29.2016 | 6:44 pm

    I’m going out on a limb here and trying to predict the outcome of the next leg based on some information contained in the photos from the first 4 parts of the story. That information is:
    1. Ben is young
    2. Ben is tall and slim and has an easy yet excellent vertical leap
    3. Ben has respectable quads
    4. Ben is a serious cyclist – he shaves his legs

    Conclusion:- Ben is going to murder this leg

    Elementary my dear Watson.

  12. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 06.29.2016 | 7:40 pm

    This is the ’side-bar’ ad that displayed while reading @triflefat’s projections.

    Hair tools? Seriously? Me, or you, Elden? Another way the Fat Man executes his comedic mastermind talents at all levels of his blog. way to go Fatty.

    I’m pretty sure you saw that ad because someone using your computer has been to a hair-related site recently. Hmmm, any chance there’s a teenage girl in your family? – FC


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