Monday, May 31, 2010

Woodinville & Fremont Crits 2010

Saturday - Woodinville 4/5 Crit

The first crit in the 6-race Cascadia Crit Series.

Rode 20 miles to the start up the Burke-Gilman, but got there way too early so it wasn't the best warm-up. Got there with 45 minutes or an hour until the race, so the course wasn't even all the way set up yet. Signed in and said hi to a few familiar faces: Rob, Alan, Chad, Tim, and even met a guy from the East Coast here for the race! I wonder how racing out here compares to over there..

Took a few practice laps in the wet, and got a feel for the course. 3 corners, almost flat. The word on the street was some man-hole cover and (slick) crosswalks in a few of the turns - and indeed they were there but weren't really a factor. The third/final turn kind of pinched from three lanes to two, so that made things interesting. And a gazillion white "turtles" in the middle of the lanes to boot.

Lined up in the front row for the first time, which I actually didn't like; our bars were so close it seemed like we were doomed to crash in the first few feet. Luckily I got off the line faster than most of those around me, or close enough, so it wasn't too chaotic.

Avoided all the turtles & man-hole covers in the corners, and generally just tried to stay in the top 20 from the get go. There were some prime laps, but the only ones I cared about were the (omnium) points primes - 5, 3, and 1 points for the top three on that lap.

We stayed together until the prime attacks came, and a Counterbalance guy eventually got off the front, and stayed out there solo! A few guys including me tried to bridge at one point, but couldn't hack it... he was generally unknown to the peloton, and we all thought he'd just come back. Never did.

Went for a omnium points prime and squeezed out one point from it. I think on that one I attacked before the third turn and got a little gap going into the third turn. Held off all but one Bikesale guy who came around me for 2nd place for points.

That gave me a good feel for just how long the final sprint was, and how fast I could go. Time to set up for the finish! And ignore any other primes that came along, no matter how tempting they might be.

The course was nice and wide, so when you wanted to move up you pretty much could, except for the final straight that was only two lanes wide and not so much space. But still enough to move around. I would essentially drift backwards over a few laps, then move up after the 1st turn on the inside before the next turn. Slight uphill there and people went pretty slow on that section.

It was at least 300m and slightly downhill from the 3rd corner to the finish, so I felt like I had no chance with a field sprint out of the corner... and also didn't want to fight for the apex of the turn with about 20 other people - I wanted to enter that final turn solo. The Counterbalance guy was somehow still off the front solo! He had at least a half-lap on us and was eventually out of sight.

On the last lap I lit up my sprint in an all-out 1k-attack of sorts, in between the 1st & 2nd turns. Didn't look back, just concentrated on going as hard as I could.. on the next leg of the course, which was felt slightly downhill, I already felt like I wanted to give up but didn't hear anyone behind me so I coasted for two seconds and kept on grinding.

And sure enough I went through that turn alone, though I figured guys were closing in from behind. I felt like I wanted to go into it much faster but since it was wet I just did the best I could.

So at this point I'm already turning myself inside-out, and the 300m+ sprint was about to start.. two guys came around me about 100m from the line, and I was just waiting for the rest of the field to come around.

But as you can see in the photo below we had a decent gap! Came in for 4th place.

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An image of the power output for that last minute or so - as you can see there was an initial jump (at 1000+ watts), another little one after the next corner, and then another sprint after the final corner.
(yellow = power, red = heart rate, orange/brown = elevation, blue = speed)

4th place, lots of omnium points, 3 upgrade points, and my first real winnings in a race: $35 gift certificate to a bike shop!! I might just frame it.

Huge thanks to Rob for giving me a ride home after the race! Even though I brought another kit for the way back my shoes were soaked and I really didn't feel like doing the BG Trail again. Gotta save energy for tomorrow's race..

Sunday - Fremont Crit Cat 4/5's

Another 3-corner affair, but flatter and on "city streets" in Fremont (read: cracked pavement, some nice gaps, reflectors, man-hole covers, etc). When I got up early in the morning it was sunny and I thought this was going to be a more comfortable affair.

But by the time I rolled out towards the race there was a light drizzle. So be it.

Got there with enough time to sign in and do a few warm-up laps. The race was right next to the outdoor movie theater & close to the Fremont Market, a great setting for a crit.

The first turn was indeed interesting, kind of like the 130-degree turn at Seward Park. The back stretch was long-ish, and featured some nice old/wet leaves or something in the right lane that looked nice and slippery.

Turn two had a manhole cover and led to a hugely-cracked short stretch that led to the final turn and a short sprint to the finish line. Cool.

More familiar faces & got to chat with the Counterbalance guy that won our crit the day before. Congratulated him on holding us all off, and he said he was surprised by it! Also said it put the hurt on his legs and when I asked him if he was going again he laughed and said probably not. I told him I'd be on his wheel if he went this time..

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Kyle & Ian were there and we lined up together in the third row or so. I joked about how not many in the field will clip in well and how we'd have to dodge lots of them, and sure enough it seemed like most guys were still fiddling with their cleat while I was ready to get it on. (I'm using Speedplays, very easy to get into, no need to look)

Eventually we got up to speed and hit the first turn. I was probably in the back half of the pack at this point (out of 60 or so starters), and just hung on for a while to see how the course was and figure out where to move up.

After a few laps I made a little jump up the right side on the backstretch (ironically where all the dirt/leaves/slippery stuff was), and slotted into the top 10 or so.

Pulled for a lap or two, and when on the front I made sure not to push too hard, since people will always come around when you start going too slow. I used to hammer once on the front, which is OK to do sometimes, but can be a big waste of energy sometimes too.

A points prime lap came and I found myself going for it, and getting 3rd in it for one point. Not surprisingly it was the Counterbalance guy and Dave Z that beat me out for 1st. Seemed like not long after that the announcer said it was time for another prime and I wasn't quite recovered yet from the last one, so I shook my head in mock disgust. The announcer saw this and said "Even if you shake your head!" or something, kinda funny.

I let people go for that one and just hung on, losing spots but knowing it would cool down a bit after the prime was over. Sure enough we came back together and I found my spot back in the top 5 or so.

At one point I attacked coming through the final straight, and held it for a bit, and the Counterbalance guy bridged up. But I could barely hold his wheel, and knew I just didn't have the legs to stay off the front at that speed. Had to drop back to the pack.

Soon after Ian, another strong guy on my team, went off the front in one of his favorite moves: attacking.


Later on in the race the Couterbalance guy was off the front with Kyle, a strong youngin' on my team. They stayed out there for a while, but they eventually came back. It seemed like the Coutnerbalance guy was stronger than all of us, and was in every break attempt.

Towards the end of the race it seems like I heard about three crashes behind us in corner one, that's where most of the action was.

In the final few laps I was in decent position (top 5 or so), and when the final lap came I was setting up for something good. (weren't we all?)

But coming into turn two, a hothead came up on the inside (yelling "INSIDE!!!" as if that really makes a difference..) and jammed our three or four-person paceline to the outside, causing commotion and yelling/cursing. Coming up on the inside out of nowhere in a turn is a common tactic that commonly causes crashes.

Coming out of that turn the guy in front of me started get really bad speed-wobble, so bad he even unclipped and I figured the race was over and we're going down. Dammit. Somehow he save it(!!!) and I came around him, but had to slow down if not brake a bit, ruining any chances of a top three in this one.

Coming out of the last turn the race winners were far up ahead, but I wanted to at least get some upgrade points out of all this. So I put in my best effort, and just barely passed Adam from Arrivee before the line. It felt like a good effort but I was but I was sprinting for 5th instead of 1st. Got 5th, not bad but not what it should have been...

Kyle from my team won it! He just barely beat out the Counterbalance guy at the line: (click for sequence)


So now I sit 2nd overall in the Omnium points standings! Won some socks, my second-ever item won from bike racing. I'll call that progress... next step, cash!

Oh and 5th earned me two more upgrade points, so that's five for the weekend and 15 overall - if my calculations are correct. Cat 3 used to seem like next-to-pro, but it's starting to seem less intimidating. I always thought it would take me years to get there, but it looks like I should be able to get there by the season's end or early next year. The upgrade will probably send me to the back of the pack, but I'm thinking racing with faster/better racers can only make me faster/better.

Before I do upgrade I'd like to get a win though! Let's see if I can do that at Seward on Thursday, Ballard on Saturday, or Boat Street on Sunday.

(photos by wheelsinfocus)

2 comments:

R McDaniel said...

Sorry buddy, the win @ Ballard is spoken for. You can have 2nd.

dave said...

Nice write-ups Matt. Looks like my tricks of staying near the front and out of the breeze are wearing out. Nice job on the 4th an 5th, maybe your win is tonight. -DZ