3.13.2012

Andy Zalan has some wonderful images from the Diamond Derby in Crystal City


before the information fades away let me throw down some words on the Diamond Derby...
so much to say... so much to cover... but where to start?

What is the Diamond Derby? How Did I get involved in this event? Who was this event for? Who was this event promoted by? Who did this event cater to? Who catered this event? A Race Report from the Diamond Derby? and yes... WHAT IS A DIAMOND DERBY?

there should be lots to tell
let me see what I can remember

What was the Diamond Derby? no matter how the questions were ordered... we need to know what a Diamond Derby is!

What is a Diamond Derby?
This is a question that was asked for the months leading into the event...
What is the Diamond Derby?
Well... now I think I can tell you... now after the event I can more clearly tell you what a Diamond Derby is

the short answer... The Diamond Derby is a mock messenger race for non-messengers...
or more simply... a bicycle race with a scavenger hunt for non-racers...

The Diamond Derby is a race and an event, a day for both racer and spectator.

The Diamond Derby race itself is a unique race with an intention to mix fun with furious competition while giving the spectators something to watch. Think coliseum... throw in the cyclist. The race venue for the Diamond Derby was a parking garage in Crystal City, a city just across the bridge from Washington, DC near National Airport, a place that is pretty much a ghost town on weekends. Now... I do not know who approached whom... I do not know who was the brains behind this creation... but I do know that the town of Crystal City was in full support of this event, The Crystal City BID (Business Improvement District) backed this event in more ways than just giving them the green light... but let me stop here... I do not know the answers to these questions... you do the research... then you write the article on who masterminded the Diamond Derby... here are a few names to chase, Eric Brewer, Sheba Farrin, and James Kerns... take it from there... I do not have the information or the time to do the research
but I will share this link...

Crystal City BID

In the spirit of the Six Day Races there was to be a course that looped around a lounge. In the lounge there was DJ Music, food, drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), sofas, chairs, a video screen displaying parts of the current race, and socializing all with a good vantage point to see the racers pass on various sections of the course. Outside in a parking lot on the exterior of the building there was a polo tournament that acted as a Polo exhibition. Then of course, there was a slow paced group bicycle ride from The Smithsonian Metro to the parking garage in Crystal City. Although I am not sure of the route of the ride I know that it that went along the river and the monuments before ending in Crystal City. This ride was designed with the same energy as the DC Tweed Ride and the DC Sear Sucker Social... with the same minds behind it. (Eric Brewer? Sheba Farrin?)

The day of racing would have racing for kids, racers, messengers, and non racers... riders... urban riders... commuters.... whatever. Anyone who wanted to race could race... no US Cycling License Required!

RACE REPORT: The Diamond Derby in Crystal City
I do not know much about where this idea was spawned
it is not clear to me who the brain is behind scripting this day
all I know is that Sheba Farrin called on me asking if I would be interested in being the "race director" of the kid's event
there was hesitation... there was curiosity... there was more hesitation
then there was commitment... anticipation... effort... and then on race day
gratification

there was email communication
there were phone calls there were a few visits to the race site
once I rode out with adults to test ride and tweak the course, and another visit where I drove out with kids and their bikes to see if children would be capable of riding on an abbreviated version of the adult course

Sheba had created a logical loop and she brought along a few people to offer some suggestions... along with some hesitations and fears
I think that there were some good suggestions
apprehension was valid... low ceiling... unforgiving concrete walls... massive cement pillars EVERYWHERE!
it all seemed so abstract

sure we could walk into a parking garage and say... "this is the course... this is the lounge area.... we will do a mini course for small kids here... we will reroute the big kids here... bike polo will go here... etc. etc. etc."
but really... we were not sure how the pieces of the puzzle would come together


it was all very exciting
yet it was all very abstract
being an extravert can be awkward... working with other apparent extraverts can be interesting
there is a strange acceptance for waiting until the last minute
anxiety yet also confident that it will fall into place

when race day approached I woke to a pretty standard Saturday morning
made some bacon and eggs for the boys then sent them off to Karate
walked the dog and then started to pack the car
periodically glanced at my watch to be sure that I was somewhere near my intended 11am arrival time in Crystal City

I had glanced at the bikes... air in the tires and lube on the chain
two adult bikes for me and then one bike for Dean and one bike for Grant... I would also bring the boys unicycles... helmets-gloves-clothes and change of clothes had been packed the night prior along with some capri suns and some fruit gels for the kid racers


bikes on top of the Honda Element... bikes on the rear mounting rack on the Honda Element
unicycles and all sorts of good and gear inside the Honda
Element
clothing... change of clothing... alternate clothing

I ate and drank as I drove
coffee.... powder Gatorade... banana.... and this amazing mini clementine
or was it a mini seedless tangerine... it seemed too tart to be a clementine
then more coffee

arriving on location and I could see the tent being raised for what was certainly going to be a three ring circus... okay... there was no tent... but the course was being marked with bi-lingual caution tape and snow fences
the course was starting to be take shape
and "the lounge" was starting to be assembled

crews were assembling benches and bars... setting up chairs and couches... art was being hung... catering crews were setting up chaffing dishes

first I unloaded my car and lugged all of my crap to where I was going to set up the kid event and also set up my home base
then I grabbed some caution tape and some orange safety cones for the mini kid course
in no time at all the course came together nicely....
some course tape... some orange safety cones.... some sidewalk chalk
a test spin on the bike... then some small modifications
I was done with the mini course and onto the dog leg for the kids to abbreviate the adult course

it pleased me how easy it was to set up the course

as the minutes rolled past more and more people showed up
each piece of the puzzle fit neatly together

so much is a blur it was a blur then and even more of a blur now seeing this idea come to life in front of me was amazing
several times I paid a visit to the porta johns
the coffee and gatorade were racing right through me

a few social laps on the course and it was getting to be close to the time to start the kid event

the Diamond Derby is a strange unknown
it was on everyone's radar
but that big question mark seemed to keep the numbers down in terms of racers
as a first year event it is important to expect lower numbers
I had kids looping the mini course as soon as they all started to arrive
then I had the kids gather for a parade lap on the long course before having a mass start with all the age categories
there were not enough kids to split release times

the mass start worked well my boys Dean and Grant attacked the course
it made a father proud

the kids all finished up their laps and it was smiles all around
there were medals and a podium
and of course a photo opportunity

the race ended and most of the kids rushed back to do more laps on the mini course

there was some time before the next event so I took the boys out front so that we could watch some bike polo
I looked at my watch and started to think about racing the OPEN category
both my older son Dean and I were signed up to race in the Open
then I saw the cast of characters that were racing in the Open category and I understood things better
instead of racing I grabbed my camera and took photos and assisted my wife lisa with her Diamond Check Point

the Open Category was the ACTUAL DIAMOND DERBY
this was the event that added the messenger aspect to the urban cyclocross road crit
each lap would earn each racer ONE DIAMOND
but... on each lap there were numerous "check points" where they could earn a Diamond for fulfilling a task

there were packages to be delivered... U-Locks had to be tossed... duct tape had to be lifted from one orange safety cone and then placed on another without putting a foot down... an option to run through the Velocity Bike Coop Van... and a few other check points I did not witness and can not name or describe

it was fun to watch....
it looked like it was fun to race

racers and spectators were smiling

more on the Diamond Derby in another post
these words should correspond with these images
the Diamond Derby unfolded in front of us and then the course was open for the 4 Person Relay
initially Cargo Mike was going to be on an all DCMTB relay squad... then something caused a conflict pulling him out of the anchor position
then Joe Foley of DCMTB filled the open slot only to have to cancel as well
we thought we would try to race with three... then learned we would need four

I hustled around... scanning the crowd for someone who was moderately fast and had not been at the bar all afternoon
somewhat random I grabbed a guy from Harrissonburg I had just met... Sean Quinn may have been his name
at least I have the Sean part right... but I am not sure how he spells it

Sean had just enough time to register, find his girlfriend who had his bike lock key
, and then take one test lap on the course

the Relay Event had two heats
there were four teams in each heat
each team member would race ONE LAP
the top two teams in each heat went to the finals
our team was in the second heat

we watched the racers blur by and tried to figure out a strategy
easy enough...
RIDE AS FAST AS YOU CAN AND DO NOT CRASH!

a four lap race on this short winidng course that loops through a parking garage does not take much time
it takes a lot of energy and focus
but not much time

the first heat was done in no time and we were lined up for the second
we knew the break down... we had to place first or second to make it to the next round

four teams lined up at the line
the DIAMOND CARD would be the baton
passing the baton would ad to the madness of the moment
where to store the said baton would be a curious task

I can not recall the details of the event
I was third in our rotation
Kate rolled in... passed off to Sean... and then Sean passed to me
sure enough... it took a very long handful of seconds for Sean to get his Diamond Card from his storage compartment
which made for a more exciting lap

the distance that Sean had put on the chasing racer was erased by a sloppy hand off
I took to the course with a racer chasing right behind me
perhaps just the fire I under my ass that I needed to put in a fast lap
I tried to ride fast and smart

going a tad slower in control would be a smarter strategy than over cooking a turn... thus crashing... and then being passed

I finished my lap with the same amount of distance that I had started with
which had me feeling good about my effort

this sent DCMTB's Darren Biggs out with the task of holding his position and staying in second
which would take us to the next round
Keith of Phoenix Bikes is no slouch on the bike... yet Darren was able to maintain his position ahead of him
good work DCMTB plus Sean... we made it to the finals
in the finals there were two races
the race for 1st and the race for 3rd
our squad was no match for the Cyclelife Squad or the Messenger Mix Up Team
we would have to fight not to finish last

the final heat played out similarly to the first
we kept the same order and attacked the course with the same level of intensity
finishing 3rd... right where we needed to be!

after the relay event there was enough time for a Capri Sun and some socializing
then the Chris Soda 4X
this was also to be a qualifying heat with a final
30 minutes of racing plus one lap... very cyclocross of them to run it this way

the Chris Soda 4X started with a Leman's start
this means that racers start on foot... running to their bikes
this is a good way to separate the pack and keep there from being too much bumping and rubbing
which is good... this is a dangerous course for bumping and rubbing

the Chris Soda 4X was a leg burning, heart pumping, lungs crying out for more oxygen sort of event
in other words... it was a real race
part road crit.... part cyclocross race
the course weaved through the parking garage
tight twists and turns in between the pilars
straight always long enough to get some speed
only to feed into arcing turns
S-Curves that demanded comfort and control... and maybe a little more commitment to the turn that I was ready to offer

the course dipped out of the parking garage up the exit ramp and did a short 1/2 city block where it went past the polo courts and in front of the building only to return back into the garage down another ramp
more twists and more turns
then a cluster of mountain bike tires that were cleared by a wheelie by some and a bunny hop by others

the laps were fast
it was a tough course for passing
but there were a few good spots where a smooth safe pass could be made
the multi-lap race was more comfortable to me than the single lap race
I found a bit of a groove

early in the race I found myself with a good group of cyclist around me
DC Messenger Bruce was on my tail and Phoenix Bikes Keith was the wheel in front of me
one one lap when re-entering the garage Keith's rear wheel exloded... not his tires... but his wheel
his tubular tire came unglued and the rim made contact with the pavement and some material, maybe ceramic, started to chip everywhere
a little further into that lap or maybe the next Bruce passed

I hate being passed... even by faster racers
riding with Bruce was fun... being passed by Bruce worked to break my spirit
had me admit that I was tired
rather than chasing his wheel and trying to maintain speed I let him go

that was the wrong decision

with more time in the game I regained wind and started to hammer again
attacking the course where I could
getting out of the saddle and accepting the burn on the straight aways
trying not to break too hard leading into the turns

not sure of my placement I felt like I could have been top ten... but not sure
not even sure how many racers were in the event

I crossed the line smiling... crossing my fingers that I did not make the finals
I did not think I had another 30 minutes of racing to immediately deliver up

the finals of the Chris Soda 4X included the TOP FIVE
any or all of these guys are faster than me
which allowed me to step back and watch

THESE GUYS WERE GOING FOR IT!
the team from CYCLELIFE were really hammering... this is the team that Chris Soda races with... and they were their to represent their team mate who is recovering from a head trauma that he suffered in a training accident a few weeks back
Team Captain Mike Esmonde was bullet proof... this guy was the carrot...
there was a moment where his team mate lead for a lap... but that was all they he got
Mike cornered faster... accelerated faster... cleared the hay barriers faster... did everything FASTER!
which is why Michael Esmonde won it!
doing more practice laps than I could imagine
taking the turns faster and faster until learning how fast is too fast... OUCH THAT HURTS!

when it was all over it was not over... there was still hanging out to be had
that post race buzz
tails of the tape
comparisons of how the course effected them

you passed me here... I nearly crashed out there
over cooked this or shamefully snailed that

smiles... smiles... smiles...

hand shakes and pats on the back
competition mixed with camaraderie

a race day that was meant to be fun.... but WITH REAL RACING!
racing of a unique kind... but racing just the same

there had been a mental debate about the right bike
when asked before the event what bike to ride I told people "ride what you are most comfortable with"
I went with the road bike with the drop bars
although I may have done well with the geared cross bike

I brought the single speed cyclocross bike with flat bars
but thought that I would enjoy the gears... which I did
with the single there would have been over spinning instead of hammering
so I left the single speed cross bike on the side of the race course

others did well on track bikes... single speeds... mountain bikes with 26 and 29 inch wheels
a race that proves that "it is the indian, not the arrow"





Andy Zalan was involved in the Diamond Derby and its surrounding events...
somehow Andy was able to snap some solid shots with his Canon G12 while completing his tasks
I snagged a few of the shots
pretty much just the shots that pertained directly to me


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