Which direction we go on this course makes a big difference, and I wasn't sure which way we'd go, as they like to switch it up a lot. When I gout there I found it was clockwise, and I had mixed feelings about this direction. That way means a more gradual 5% climb, instead of the more punchy (e.g. steeper but shorter) climb going the other direction. I like the steeper side, though it's not a whole lot easier. The other big difference is that the 140-degree turn at the top of the course feels really slow going clockwise, and it's slightly uphill that way.
One change from the Thursday routine was that the start/finish was in a totally different spot, on the slight downhill section instead of at the top of the gradual climb. This meant that instead of the usual uphill sprint finish (which I always liked), we were having to negotiate the sharp turn and then sprint, albeit slightly downhill. So we knew your position coming out of that corner on the last lap was likely to be your final spot. I was dreading that final corner, given that of course there would be a jam of bodies and bikes trying to all squeeze around it at once, but I knew it would be decisive.
Race Report 1 - Men's Category 4/5 - 9 AM
Jordan, Tim, and I waited next to the starting line about 10 minutes before it started, to get a nice position on the line. We got up front, waited through the official's talk, and I then proceeded to screw up by thinking that when the official said "roll out!" he meant roll up to the line, since we were about 5 feet behind it (that was the drill at some crits this year). So when everyone was sprinting away I was coasting with one leg down.. probably looked a little funny to anyone behind me, but slow people at the start aren't a new thing in bike racing.
After a few seconds I figured out what was going on (duh), clipped in and got in the race, coming in about the middle of the pack. That was stupid, but another lesson learned. No worries, it's pretty easy to move up at the bottom of the downhill or on the uphill, if you have momentum and room to move around.
It was, all mass start races are, a constant battle of moving up while being overtaken. They say if you're not moving up in the pack, you're moving back, and it's oh so true. You can be sitting in what you thought was 10 from the back, but look back and all of a sudden there's one rider behind you, everyone else has dropped off or moved around you.
So the battle is on from the gun, and the first few laps did seem a little speedier than our usual 4/5 training race on Thursdays. The swooping downhill right turn is always interesting, not everyone has the same idea of what the best line is around it, which can make for some confusion at 60 km/h leaning with your front wheel between two rear wheels. At that point you have to take their line, or end up going over their wheel on the ground.
Here's a shot of the pack coming up the hill towards the sharp turn:
There were a few close calls on that turn, but nobody went down. On the uphill if I was in back I had plenty of momentum moving up, but there just wasn't that much space to do so. Jordan said he stuck to the left side of the road there and found room, but I always found myself on the right side and boxed in. Need to remember that for next time.. but if you can find a way through it's pretty easy to use extra momentum to shoot by lots of people on that uphill.
Here we are coming around the sharp turn:
Here's a shot of me getting back up to speed after the sharp turn. Man I hate that turn in a pack, it feels like you come to a stop!
Here I am at the front of the peloton, pulling for no reason.
By the time I got around the sharp corner he was probably crossing the line, and I sprinted for what felt like 30-35th.. the results were only posted for the top 20, so I'm not sure of my placing but I was glad not to be DFL, lapped, or whatever. Another pack finish, I'll take it. And huge congrats to Jordan for taking the win! That kid knows how to ride a bike..
Here's a shot of the final sprint, about 50m before the line:
Big congrats to Jordan on his second USAC victory - and he's still Cat 5! Just look how he spanked these 4/5's in the photo above - and surely some of them are about to be 3's..
My race velo - Ciocc COM 12.5 steel, Campy Centaur, Open Pros w/ Pro+ PT: (~21.5 lbs):
Love that bike!
Race Report 2 - Men's Masters C/D (Cat 4/5 aged 30+) - 10:40 AM
It was my first "Masters" race and I wasn't really sure what to expect. Usually you hear Masters races are "faster and smoother" or something like that; the field certainly looked more experienced, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to hang on with them or not. I was eager to find out.
Here's a shot of the field (about 45 people or so) just before the start:
We set off and it seemed the same as the 4/5's just with different faces. This race was 5 minutes shorter than the 4/5 race, and was a bit calmer. Less people trying to go off the front, but when they did it looked a little more dedicated, and the pack didn't jump at them instantly. And less "squirrelly" action from the riders as well.
The field was a mix of ages, as seen in this photo:
On the start of one the uphills Mark M. (strong Starbucks rider) stood up at the front of the pack and hammered, and he's been known to break away, so I for some reason decided to follow him. I was second or third wheel anyway and jumped behind him, soon passing him and hoping he'd jump on my wheel for at least a symbolic few laps off the front, or even a winning break. Instead he shouted "make 'em hurt!" and I pedaled on. I should have sat up, but in the moment I decided to follow through and see what happened.
Off The Front?
Here's the sequence of my jump, at the bottom of the hill:
Enjoying the silence as I briefly leave the peloton:
So going into the hard turn at the top of the course I was solo, with maybe 10 meters of separation between me and the peloton. I didn't look back, I knew I was away since it was all of a sudden silent, the clicks/buzzing/whoosh sound was gone, if only for a moment.
Going through that sharp turn by yourself is so much nicer (well any turn, but especially this one), you can pick your line and maintain speed around it. It felt great to maintain speed and be able to accelerate from a decent speed and not what felt like a stand-still, in the pack.
On the flat stretch before the uphill, I was still away but not by much. As we got to the uphill (about where I'd launched my "attack") I couldn't do it any more and the peloton consumed me left and right.
The thing is I was doing about 25 km/h and they were doing 30-40.. so even though I felt cooked it was time to jump again, just to get up to their speed and not get blown out of the back due to a stupid early attack.
So I gave up a good 20 spots but latched onto a wheel, and tried as hard as I could to keep up. I did, but going around the sharp turn I felt like I was going so slow coming out of it. 18 minutes to go and I'm cooked, but recovering in the shelter of the wind. It was pain, but not like what I felt at the Gig Harbor Circuit Race when I got blown off the back on the last lap a few weeks ago. At least this pain was more manageable.
The rest of the race consisted mostly of me getting boxed in on the uphill (what else is new), and trying to make up spots on the flat spot on the back-side of the course. A few more attacks went off, some primes were won, and my sights were now set on the finish.
When the final lap came around I don't remember where I was in the pack, but it must not have been anywhere close to up front, since when we came around the sharp/final turn, I was pretty far off the front of the race, but not as far back as in the 4/5 race.
We came around and I think someone in front of me had a mechanical/handling issue, since they were stopped and I was all of a sudden sprinting from what felt like a track stand. More than one grunt of the release of energy was heard from behind.
As we came down the swooping downhill bend to the finish, I was giving it good gas for a possible top 20 but then a tire popped loudly, and I eased up to see who it was and make sure they weren't in front of me and about to stop. The flat guy was off to the right and slowed down a few people, and I barely squeezed around him to place 25th overall. Not great, but not terrible either. I felt much better in this race than the first for some reason - maybe not a good enough warm-up before the first race?
In all it was a great morning of racing! Thanks again for Kira to coming down and taking these great photos. Racing two times in a day was great, I wish there were more opportunities to do that. The last race of the season (for me) is next weekend, the Blackberry Crit in Bremerton. One last chance to have some fun, and maybe even improve, before the season is over..
More photos from the Masters C/D race here.
And a few shots from the Women's 1/2 race here.
Men's 4/5 Race Data
Work: 570 kJ
TSS: 70.8 (intensity factor 1.027)
Norm Power: 293w
Distance: 25.962 km
Elevation Gain: 573 m
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 949 236 watts
Heart Rate: 116 181 170 bpm
Cadence: 24 135 85 rpm
Speed: 0 117.2 38.4 kph
Crank Torque: 0 204.6 24.3 N-m
Masters C/D Race Data
Work: 473 kJ
TSS: 63 (intensity factor 1.043)
Norm Power: 297w
Distance: 21.965 km
Elevation Gain: 468 m
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 1025 227 watts
Heart Rate: 104 186 170 bpm
Cadence: 27 136 87 rpm
Speed: 4.2 73.9 37.7 kph
Crank Torque: 0 197.5 22.2 N-m