Nick Frank is the Mastermind behind the Charlotte Triathlete scene and this new game of Shootout at the Spamerton Corral. Nick is a former professional triathlete and could certainly still be, but the fact that he got bored and frustrated dedicating so much effort to that sport and the most important fact is that he and his wife just had a child. Although Nick took quite a bit of time off, he has come back and appears on fire.
He runs this "shootout" on Saturday mornings from The Booty Loop at 7a - 62 miles - Spamerton route. And man does he have the rules in effect, published, agreed upon and quite an ordeal. Essentially it is Nick and his team of faithful (whoever shows up and is not wearing a Triple Threat kit) vs. the local elite triathlon team, Triple Threat. They are made up of some strong dudes, but unfortunately some of them have as strong an ego. 5 sprints, 3 KOMs and many other detailed rules that create a sense of competition, award for putting it out there and plenty of opportunity for anybody to stake a claim on one of the prizes.
This Saturday none of the Triple Threat guys showed up. Not sure if that was intimidation by Nick or they just had other races in other places, but none the less we had about 10 guys show up and Nick split up teams accordingly (he knows everybody). I captained one team and he the other - fair play. Keep in mind that I have known and rode with Nick for years. He is a fascinating rider who I truly believe could be something special on the roadie circuit, but his passion was around tris and is now around running races. The dude can ride a freaking bike, but he can run even faster, so no wonder he was a professional.
I dragged Lars along, the only other true roadie. I realized pretty quickly that we were at a slight disadvantage being the only two with road bikes. But that is why you play the game. We are neutral heading out West Blvd. A nice time to make sure we know the teams, have some quick chit chat, strategy discussion and a little trash talking. Once we hit the airport... game on. Nick and I sat on the front catching up for a mile or so before he took a pull. I sat second wheel and he gave me about 1/4 mile, but when he came off I launched the first attack and went solo. For rule purposes, if you are in a break without a member of the other team for 3 minutes or more, 10 points. I felt good and thought I could pick up 10, but on the downhill at Old Dowd (or whatever road as I can't recall the names of these country roads), Nick had to single handily bring me back. I believe I had 1:40, but certainly not enough. Today will be about learning the route, where the signs are, the players, the strategy, etc.
We got out near the Whitewater Center before the attacks began again. My job was to mark Nick all day. One of his guys attacks and one of mine follows. Perfect, but you can't just wait. Those two could possibly make it to a sprint or KOM and depending upon who is representing it may not be your best card to play. Nick jumped and went across and i was directly on him. The four of us made a pretty significant gap and stayed on it because the first sprint was a mile or two ahead. There is no way I should be beat in a sprint with these guys period. Well, today I was. I read the sign location wrong and Derrick got a great jump on me as I was watching Nick. I picked up 2nd and Nick 3rd, so his team is up 2 (1st=3, 2nd=2, 3rd=1). The others roll up on us in Mt. Holly or is it Belmont.
The next section is a false flat for about 7 miles. Nick jumps and my guy, Jeff, goes with him. I am comfortable with that since it would take too much work to get to them and worry about a point. I figured we would get 2nd and 3rd and cancel 1st out, which is exactly what happened. But I saved a bullet and when we accelerated hard, we popped Seth and David, but our slowdown effort allowed my other two teammates to catch back on.
The next points are on Spencer Mountain... KOM (1st=5, 2nd=3, 3rd=1). I am usually pretty good on Spencer, but granted I am not the best climber. It is steep in the beginning, but rather short before flatting out. Nick puts in a slow attack of acceleration and Lars follows. I tell him to stay with Nick. Jeff and I are sitting 3rd and 4th. Nicks pace pops Jeff and I and I am good with that since Lars can climb but can't sprint, so we have essentially 2nd and 3rd (since Jeff stays on gas and away), which still puts us down a point, but plenty to go in my mind.
We regroup and head towards Lowell/McAdenville and a sprint coming up. Again, perfect for me. Again, I screw it up with two triathletes on both sides of me trying to sprint on tri bikes and barely hanging on to control those machines. This is where I fully trust roadies to hold their line and play the game fairly. These guys I did not and am already down some skin. Not sure of the results on this one, but I either got 2nd or 3rd and the other two spots by Nick and his teammate. We are down 2 on this one. My mistake. My man Jeff attacks beautifully. Nick has to cover. I cover him and Jeff gets in a little over 2 minutes, so almost picks up points for us. I couldn't counter because Nick catches him at a red light. In the rules, and rightfully so, you can't take an advantage at a stop light or stop sign.
We all regroup and head into Christmas town. KOM coming up. This one suits me well because it truly is a power climb. I roll off the front before we make the turn to start the climb. Nick has a slight mechanical but quickly recovers and comes across. He accelerates. I get on his wheel and not long after attack him and solo up for KOM. Not sure of the order from there, so with all of this unknown it truly is hard for me to tally the score, but Nick doesn't miss a beat or a number. Rest stop.
Next up is KOM in Cramerton. This is typically not a good climb for me. It starts out mild, is medium to short distance and kicks up at the end near the school. Nick is surely aggressive and confident today. He accelerates again and takes the pack up. David is sitting second wheel and I am third. Nick is winding it up and creating some gaps. He looks back, David is on the rivet and cramping it appears. I jump Nick, but am not sure where the sign he. He is gentlemen enough to tell me as we battle to the top. I put in another acceleration and pick up KOM. Nick 2nd. Not sure of 3rd, but about lose my breakfast on that one.
Next up is a sprint on Armstrong Ford Road. Nick tells me how far and the terrain. Sounds like it is on a slight roller up a few miles down the road. Everybody seems to know where it is. Nick sends one of his guys off. My guy, Jeff, follows and Nick jumps on and me on Nick. Nick's other guy launches and Nick follows, so I figure it is near. Yes and I jump and am taking Nick to the line. We get the sprint and Nick and his guy take points that equal it all out. I keep the pace high until we get redlights and downtown Belmont and then we regroup.
The fireworks are soon to follow. We get near the last sprint and common theme today, I mis-read the location/distance of the sign and battle two triathletes that may or may not know how to handle their machines, but they do put a bit of fear in me as they sway back and forth. Sprint after the Gaston County line bridge is won by Nick and his guy, Derrick, gets 2nd and me 3rd. Embarrassing. It won't happen again.
No more designated points, so now we are down three points and will need a breakaway to win. I send Lars off the front. He gets a nice gap before Tyler goes across to him. He probably was solo for 45 seconds. I am comfortable with Lars being up the road (assuming he knows strategy and what needs to be done) with Tyler. Nick and I can recover and prepare for battle. We aren't that far behind, but a couple of miles later I see Tyler unhitching Lars on the Old Dowd Hill and the clock has started. Lars is losing time quickly and I get to the front and start the chase. I am making ground but not enough to cover 3 minutes. I pull Nick up the hill and stretch out on the airport flat, but start cramping and my time window is closing very quickly. Tyler picks up 10 points. I blow and Nick attacks me. Perfect execution. David tries to cover, but Nick is a machine and has been waiting for this move. I put it down in hopes to catch him and have some help from Tyler, but not enough and Nick picks up 10 points. We finally latch on, but game is over and my team loses, but we certainly put in a valiant effort. Jeff, Lars, David and Seth - great job guys.
Get home with 75 miles and a great workout with a lot of fun and mental stimulation. Very refreshing to change up the route, the players, the antics and terrain. The Saturday morning BikeSouth ride is just too predictable anymore. At least Nick and I will be teammates next time out.