Apr 17, 2007

HPV Wrap Up!

I've been desperately trying to find pictures, but I've only got one. That's Rolla during the sprint event.

Saturday started well. The good news was the fix from the night before worked. It worked so well that we called the trike 'Band-aid' all day. I can't say enough about how well it worked. Derek and Calvert came up with a good design and the whole team worked well together implementing it. When we woke up Saturday morning the JB Weld had nearly hardened and after a little bit of time with a heat gun, it was ready for the sprint event. If that wasn't enough, the patch had majorly increased the torsional rigidity, which (obviously now) had been caused by the weak front sub frame.

If that wasn't enough, we won the design portion of the competition. Friday night, I was convinced that Portland, Cal Poly and Rolla had put together stellar enough vehicles that it wouldn't be likely for us to take design. Apparently I was wrong. From the sheet, you can see that we had a pretty well rounded vehicle. The guys from Cal Poly and UMR deserve a lot of respect. I believe this is Matt and Andrew's last year as undergrads at HPVC and they put together fantastic vehicles, as we'd see throughout the weekend.

Extra props should go to Montana State and Dr Jenkins, a past advisor at SDSM&T. They put together a good vehicle and a 7th place design. Not bad for a second year team.

The bad news of the day came once we got to the sprint event. Amid intermittent thunderstorms we found Mucker just off pace. Other top schools like Chico, Cal Poly, Portland and Rolla were finishing in the low 30's for their women and high 30's to low 40's for their men. We could only muster 25mph and 32mph respectively. I'm sure it wasn't the riders. Dyan, Phil and Baldy are in excellent shape and possess the talent necessary to hit 40. It was either the Sturmey Archer XRK8 hub we used which seemed to have a ton of drag in it or the combination of a short sprint course this year and a vehicle that weight 75+ lbs by the time we got it ready for the sprint course. Whatever it was, we just couldn't push the vehicle fast enough.

Saturday night we did a little tourist stuff, then practiced our rider exchanges and discussed race strategy for Sunday's endurance race.

Then endurance race is always fun. Racers get to push themselves to the limit and teammates take part in what effectively becomes pandemonium as each team tries to go their fastest while praying their vehicle stays together. This years course was a long, fast 1.5 miles and pretty bumpy.

Sunday morning was bright and sunny. Our team got their early so we racers could check out the course while the rest of the team could check over Mucker. The fix from Friday night seemed to be holding and (almost) everything checked out great, but more on that later. We were starting in 10th place and the hope was that Dyan and I could go out for the first part of the race and get us into a decent place for Phil, Calvert and Baldy to crank it up and bring us home.

I started warming up on the trainer when the race started and Dyan took off for her two laps. When she came around to start her second lap I was surprised and elated to see that she had moved from 10th to 4th place, behind only Rolla, Cal Poly and Chico. Later on she said that everyone was being tentative in the turns and she was confident enough on Mucker to carry speed through each turn and move up in the field. When she came into the pits from her second lap, we were only 30 seconds off Chico. Derek and Brett threw me into the vehicle, buckled me down and I was off.

I took the first lap easy. I was still uneasy about the frame fix and wanted to get a feel for each of the corners before I really pushed it. By the beginning of my second lap, I had caught Chico and was really starting to push it in third place. I was feeling pretty good and lapping slower vehicles on every straight. As I started the third lap, delusions overtook me and I thought that if I could only hold this spot, the last three riders would have a chance of catching Cal Poly or maybe Rolla. Then out of nowhere, Rolla passed me on the front straight and I knew 1st place was gone. I screamed at myself, dug down deep and tried to hold his wheel, but I knew that if we'd been lapped on the 5th lap, I had no shot of holding him. By my 4th lap, I was starting to feel like I was in a flying coffin. I was surrounded by black carbon fiber with only hazy plastic windows to see through. I could barely move side to side, and if I lifted my head at all it would smack the roll hoop on every bump. The uncushioned carbon fairing created a cacophony over every dip and crack in the road. All I could hear over the noise was my own breathing and by the end of the race I had the strange feeling of being buried alive. My legs certainly didn't notice as I was able to push myself to the limit over the last few laps.

Justin waved me in on my 6th lap and I pulled into the pits to switch with Phil. He roared onto the course and immediately set a new fast lap for the team. I was beginning to feel good as he continued to fly on his second lap. Then he threw a chain off its cog. It didn't slow him down much, but if we'd already thrown a chain this early in the race, it didn't speak well for the remaining 16 laps. Phil was able to hobble through his remaining laps, alternating between hammering out the course and throwing his chain on two separate occasions. Calvert was able to go out and stay in one gear for 3 fast laps, but when he traded with Baldy, the chain kept jumping off and it was obvious we weren't going to finish strongly. Luckily(or unluckily), Chico and UNR also had mechanical problems and we may have been able to hold onto 5th overall in the endurance race.

Portland put out steady laps without any major issues and was able to finish a strong race for 4th (I think). Cal Poly finished a strong third, first getting lapped by Rolla and then unlapping themselves toward the end of the race. Oregon State showed up with what was essentially a home built standard road bike. Not many of the competitors were incredibly pleased that they finished the endurance race 2nd. Rolla was able to overcome their demons and finish first in the endurance race and first overall on the weekend, something that has been eluding them for many years at West Coast. Congratulations to them and Andrew, especially, a guy who works harder than most.

It turned out that we overlooked one of the bolts connecting the rear dropouts to the frame and it worked itself out over the course of the race. That extra flex, combined with Phil and Baldy's aggressive style was the reason the chain jumped so much. Considering the bad luck we had on Friday, we're lucky a little bolt is the only thing that went wrong with the vehicle.

I'm really proud of what we were able to do this year. Two short years ago, Kyle, Chris, DJ and I competed as juniors with a vehicle that didn't do so well. We were able to put together a composites intensive vehicle which won design and, despite falling apart, put up a good showing in the two racing events. SDSM&T showed up with some of the best composites work at competition. We were one of the few teams to use carbon fiber structurally, and we did it well. We definitely had the best organization during the endurance race. Our rider changes were always less than 30 seconds, where other schools were at least a minute. Our rider fitness was stellar this year. I would put our team of riders against almost any other at competition, which really gave us a fighting chance despite a few mechanical issues. I think that we've created something on campus that could be used as a serious building block for future years.

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