Thursday, May 6, 2010

Michelob Ultra Circuit Race 2010: First Crash

I was signed up for a class out at the track, but rain was threatening and I felt like doing this race instead.. a circuit race out across The Sound, in Glenwood, Wa. (initial confusion offered by Google put this near Mt. Rainier, way far away! Luckily it was just a drive out to the Port Orchard area)

Seven of us loaded in the Recycled Cycles Van and headed south to drive around The Sound via the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Cool temps, gray skies & little sprinkles on the way down reminded us this isn't SoCal, but then the sky returned to its dry gray and we were reminded this is indeed racing in the Pacific Northwest. Rain or shine, let's do it.

The Course

The course started off on a slight downhill, leading to an easy right turn and then we started the undulations. Just as the profile showed, there was plenty of ups and downs here, but nothing lasting longer than 30 seconds or so. "A course for punchy riders" I think the flyer said, and I thought that sounded good for me and my riding style. Looking back I'm not even sure what "punchy" means, and whatever it is I need to train my punchyness..

But for some reason circuit races just aren't my thing. I can hang in long and slow(er) road races, and short and blazing-fast crits. But the circuit race is somewhere in between, you basically go fast for an hour and a half or so, the laps going by quickly and the speed not letting up all that much. My worst placings last year was definitely at the late-summer circuit races, usually it was the top-end speed coming through the finish that would almost drop me, putting me at 35th place or worse.

The Race

Short neutral rollout and then we were off to a nice pace. Most everyone was smooth, with a few notable exceptions (in fact even a "repeat offender" from Vance Creek!), and the riding was nice until we got on the short but steep-ish climbs. Not that I really wanted to climb all that fast, but we would just jam into the backs of riders slowing in front of us, and have to climb at a crawl it felt. Shouldn't be surprising, as this is the way the pack-dynamic works - those in the front slow down as they hit the hill, but still in the draft you end up having to brake to not hit their wheels.

Trying to Get Away

About 20 minutes into the race we were on the backside on the slight 2-3% uphill, doing what felt like a ridiculously slow pace all of a sudden, I think it was 16-17 mph. So I worked up the left side, and put in a dig to make separation, my new favorite past time in bike racing. It was early in the race, probably too early, but this is a great test of how the legs feel. And people will generally let you go since it's a doomed mission 95% of the time anyway..

Sure enough, while the pace seemed "ridiculously slow" while in the pack, it was taking 190 bpm (my max is 196-200 bpm, mind you) to stay off the front, and all of a sudden being in the pack felt like a better idea.

Looked back, had a gap, rested a bit, but the HR wasn't going down. Yikes, not a good sign for the longevity of the solo break.. get back in the pack! Tried to go once more on a different lap in about the same spot, but just couldn't hold it.

Team mate Ian went off the front once or twice, and Jason did too. I wanted to go again but didn't have the legs, and I actually cramped a bit on the 2nd to last lap, that sucked. Was just hanging on for the finish towards the end, really didn't feel like I had anything to offer at the end.

The Crash!

The last lap came, and there was still one rider pretty far up the road, and given my position in the pack and his big gap, I'd pretty much given up on the catch, just wanted to see what happened in the sprint for 2nd place.. well a lot happened.

We took the last corner, jammed it and got ready for the slightly downhill, the pack speeding up to at least 35 mph I'm sure, getting ready for the sprint. We were close to the 1k to go sign, or maybe just past it, and with thoughts focused on the field sprint ahead all of a sudden there was commotion in the pack ahead, and a big crash, right in front of me.

Slammed on the brakes, skidding, fishtailing a little.. I remember at least one bike on its side in front of me, and just not wanting to run over it or its rider, who was also on the ground, sliding. For a split second I thought I'd saved it once again, but ran out of space and before I knew it my front wheel was swept out from under me, and I too was on the ground. I think I landed on a bike or two, not sure.

The next thought was "am I gonna get hit next?!" and I glanced up to see people slamming on their brakes, but somehow nobody fell on me. Then I thought, "Wow, it finally happened."

Actually my first thought was probably "DAMMIT." The top 12 or so missed the crash, but just about everyone behind that was either on the ground or having to go around the mayhem. And given a few sketchy riders I witnessed during the whole race, I wasn't too surprised it happened. Even more motivation to get to the Cat 3's, where I don't think a big stupid crash would happen like this.

In the end I really have only myself to blame for being a Cat 4 and not being in a winning position (top 10) in the last 1k of the race anyway.

Looking at the Garmin data, I think I was only stationary for about five seconds, then I got rolling again! Felt longer, I guess everything does at 180+ bpm.. didn't notice the gash on my shin, the big hole in my bibs on my hip, or the small blood spot on my elbow, I just wanted to finish this damn thing.

After crossing the line I saw Rob from Second Ascent puking on the other side of the road - what a race! I love the carnage. He was on the front a ton during the race, and stayed up there to stay out of trouble and come in somewhere around top 10. That's what I should've been doing..

The Results

Somehow came in for 25th (out of 80+ total in the 4/5's field, lots of DNFs though) overall, which was surprising given I was on the ground.

The Raleigh Prestige got a big ol' gash on the top tube, you can see the carbon weave and it's soft to the touch.. sounds like it's repairable but I'm not sure I want to race on a carbon frame I repaired.. (I can even hear it shearing just by grabbing the seat & bars, not good)

Looking to get my hands on another Raleigh and get back out there, Ravensdale road race this weekend, then Wenatchee the weekend after! Gotta get them points and get up to the Cat 3's.


Jansen said...

Not riding the CIOCC?

Rob McDaniel said...

Did you see how quickly the bar filled up with plaid after the race? THAT'S HOW WE ROLL!!! :)

Matt Brittain said...

I got a flat, halfway through the last lap. Even after a wheel change, there were still people on the ground when I rode by. I ended up half of the field. That was one nasty looking crash.

trantor said...

I don't understand riders hesitation for repairing carbon bikes. We've been repairing carbon on race sail boats for years and it always comes out the same as new. Hardly any weight or visual difference even. That's one of the beautiful things about CF as a material. It's just as strong repaired. Take it to a boat yard with a case of beer and you'll get setup no problem.

trantor said...

p.s. sorry to hear about the crash though. Glad to see you made it through safely.