Saturday, July 11, 2009

Redmond Derby Days 4/5 Crit

Today was another USAC (e.g. "official") race, the Redmond Derby Days Criterium. Apparently the oldest bicycle race in the U.S. Even though there are familiar faces and the ranks are the same, these official crits are definitely a bit tougher than Seward Park. They are flatter, faster, and seemingly more dangerous.

But to get another upgrade credit to get to Category 4, I needed to do this race. So here we go.

Ride to the Race

I allocated two hours to complete the ~30 kms it takes to get to Redmond from Capitol Hill, via I-90. That way I could take it really slow, and that I did, averaging about 22-23 km/h on the way over.

I like riding to rides of all sorts, but it's important to pace it correctly unless you don't care about "wasting" energy when you're not even in the event. This means turning down the sprint for a green light, or an uphill attack. Just take it easy, and ride like it's hour 20 of a brevet.

The skies were clear though the forecast called for a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Forecast called for a high of 85-ish in Redmond.. actually wasn't too hot by the time I got there.

The Course

I knew from their page that this was another four-corner flat course, but once I got there I saw it was even shorter than I thought. Sweet, this is gonna be nice and fast..

Criteriums like this come down to little races from corner to corner, and you're usually sprinting out of most of them just to stay on the wheel ahead of you.


I ended up lining up on the sideline/staging area first, just to watch the Men's Masters (40+) race, where one rider was on a huge breakaway, nearly 200m out in front. He got sucked up by the end though.

And the competition for the lineup didn't just start at the line, there were guys jockying for position even before we got on the road, squeezing in around me. Eventually the official blew the whistle and we rolled out for a 20-foot race to the line. Ended up in the 2nd row, slightly to the right. Guys lines up next to me elbow to elbow (as in touching elbows), I'm thinking this will be an interesting start! Just want to stay upright and get around the (inevitable) set of riders that can't clip in for some reason. This is why you really want to be on the line itself...

We get the whistle to move forward 5 feet to the real line, which of course a few riders think is the real deal and have to back up a bit. Lots of nerves.

There was a slight delay in the beginning due to a rider on a mountain bike, one official questioned another about him, but the response was "well he's got a number so he's good to go." I don't have a problem with mountain bikes/beginners getting in on these races, but pulling them (if they get lapped) at the right time is crucial. He came into play later in the race..

The Race

The whistle was blown and of course two guys in front of me had issues clipping in. Went around them and eased into a spot roughly 15-20 riders back, the front third of the pack. The plan was to play it safe, stay out of the wind, and get in good position for the final turn. I was exactly where I wanted to be. Of course, it takes a bit of work to stay where you are in a pack, and it's such a fluid thing that "if you aren't passing riders you're moving backwards." So you're passing riders just to stay in the same spot, if that makes sense.

It's hard to "play it safe" when you're surrounded by 60 other riders, all wanting to be at the front of the same pack, or somewhere near it. Of course, there are also those that were content on the back, or off the back and working to catch up.

Cornering in the pack is always interesting, but add in the gazillions of reflectors that were on the course and it seemed like everyone was all over the place. I'd pick a line and try to cut between two reflectors, but it probably made me swerve a bit. I didn't want to hit one at an angle, it'd be an easy way to go down it seemed.

And I even got yelled at for the first time, it was "Hold your line, 460!" Hmm, it was Kevin, someone I know, tell me to ride in a straight line. I'd just jumped into a spot in front of him - I suppose it was a bit of a dangerous move. It's easy to let the adrenaline take over.

The Mountain Biker

So when we come around to lapping this poor guy, for maybe the second time, I hear that sound, and look over to see a rider slider on his side. Ouch. Somehow going around the mtn bike guy a few people spilled.. I actually felt bad for this kid, he just wanted to have fun but instead probably got yelled at by a bunch of over-eager Cat 5's on $4,000 road bikes.

I guess he got pulled eventually, as I never saw him again after that.

Edit: Looks like someone captured this crash on video! Oh man... he's never going to live that one down. (Though it might not have been his fault that people crashed around him.)

Hanging In

The plan was to hang in and just stick it out for the final sprint, but I thought about "taking a flyer" off the front a few times. It would be similar to when the small French teams go on doomed breakaways early in a stage just for air-time. If I could stay out front for long enough, I wondered, would they even announce my name? (They'd get it wrong anyway..)

Of course it's one thing to get away, entirely another to stay away. Sure I might be able to move up, jump, but after about 30 seconds I'd probably be out of gas. It's hard not to go all-out but you have to for at least a little while when off the front.

But I didn't go off the front, I took the easier way out and sat in. Didn't chase any breaks, just kept moving up in order to stay in that front third of the pack.

Looking closely at the power data from the race, I was basically pedaling hard (600-800 watts) for 8-10 seconds, then coasting for a few seconds, and doing that over and over the whole time. (With bigger spikes coming out of most of the corners)

There was hardly a portion of the race where I pedaled for more than 20 seconds at a time. It's because I'm accelerating into a draft, hanging in there for a bit, slipping back, then accelerating back into it. In the end I spent a lot of time coasting, and that was one of the goals. (To conserve energy for the end)

Final Lap

Coming out of the 3rd corner on the last lap, I was probably 20th wheel, e.g. not positioned well on the last lap with one corner to go. So I put in a little (Ok, big) effort and moved up the side of the field, closer to the front 10 or so.

It seems like whatever position you're in coming out of the last turn is what you'll end up with more or less.. that is of course unless something gets in your way..


As we straighten out for the final sprint, a rider two ahead goes down hard, sending the guy behind him down too. (I bet it was a reflector that did it) So the guy in front of me just went down, and his bike ends up sliding to the left on its side towards my path.

So in this split-second I'm thinking "here we go", I was picturing how the bike on the ground would scoop out my wheel and send me down - most likely to break my collarbone, the most common cycling crash injury. I was trying to turn out of the way but it didn't seem like I was going to beat his bike.

But somehow, magically if I don't say so myself, I did a tiny bunny hop off his wheel! At least it felt that way. So I was actually an inch or two off the ground, and as I came back down I resumed my sprint. Of course through all this I'd tapped the brakes, enough to lose 5 spots easily.

Wow, I got really lucky not to take a spill in that race. It seems like I'm getting closer and closer to crashing though... got me thinking about trying to ride back home with road-rash, that could really suck. Or if the bike was totaled, I'd have to bum a ride or take the bus. Oh well, it's a risk I'm going to take.

This racing stuff is risky, but fun!


I felt like I'd done a solid 15th or so, but upon checking the results list it showed me as DNF/?. What?! Even though as a Cat 5 it only matters that I started the race to get an upgrade point, but I just had to check what happened. I wanted to know where I came in.

I asked an official and upon reviewing a sheet of scribbled numbers, I was indeed missed for placing and should have been 18th. I'm sure they were laughing to themselves that I even cared, but I just couldn't let it go.


Here are some photos from the race, from of - I'm definitely going to be buying some shots from this race, there are some nice ones.

Cat 4/5 race lineup (actually from flickr):

Off we go:

Here's Kevin pulling the pack around. That guy is strong.
Mtn bike in the race!
Crash when going around mtn biker:

Hey look it's me! I look like I'm solo or OTB ("Off the back") but I swear I'm in some kind of pack/paceline here..

Jordan, enjoying the pain:
The peloton with three laps to go:

Race Power Data

Duration: 36:23
Work: 507 kJ
TSS: 47.8 (intensity factor 0.888)
Norm Power: 253
VI: 1.09
Distance: 25.364 km
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 958 232 watts
Heart Rate: 112 195 179 bpm
Cadence: 19 132 87 rpm
Speed: 6.3 59.9 41.7 kph - a tad slower than Joe Matava crit, but a little faster than Ballard
Crank Torque: 0 199.7 23.1 N-m


Anonymous said...

Hey Matt... great write up as always. I enjoy your re-cap of all the events. Sounds like Redmond was a bit sketchy..yikes.. sorry i missed it. hope to see you at Seward on Thursday.
Take care. Mark M.

Unknown said...

Nice write up Matt. We were going into the corner side by side when you started to come over to avoid a turtle. This is what causes crashes 9 times out of 10. Rolling over a turtle okay as long as you don't freak out or try and change your line mid way through the corner. Holding steady much safer bet for you and the guys around you. If you're bouncing off them you're probably got you tier over inflated.

Anyway we both finished upright and avoided the crashes. See you soon mate.

Aaron said...

Good read, thanks.

Hida Yanra said...

nice write-up. Good work keeping it upright on the reflectors, they take some getting used to.
See you Thursday at Seward Park perhaps? I'll try to make it.

Владимир said...

Sorry, just wanted to ask if you're going to support your site / tool. For some reason it does not generate elevation. Is it browser-specific? I tried to work in Chrome and FF 3.5.

What is worse, tcx files generated from my routes, are not readable by Garmin Training Center. I tried to copy them directly to Garmin Edge 705. When I try to see map for such a course, Garmin immediately turns off.

mattm said...

Hi Vladimir,

Sorry for the issues - as you can see from the blog it's been a busy summer of bike riding, bike racing, and of course work hasn't been slow either.

I'll take a look at these issues and see what I can do this weekend - thanks for the feedback!