Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Derby Days Cat 3 Crit 2010

The 70th annual Derby Days criterium out in Redmond is the longest running bike race in America! Yes this was the race last year that featured a mountain bike in the 4/5's crit. I heard this year a cruiser of some sort showed up for the Cat 5 race this year... yet another reason I'm glad to be in the 3's. I think it's great that people want to start racing, I just don't want to race with them in their first few races!

In the Cat 3's you actually have to try pretty hard to maintain position, nothing comes for free. In the 4's I felt stronger than a lot of the pack, and could just about choose my position and hold it pretty easily. But in 3's crits you lose positions that much faster, and the sprints are that much harder. It's like everybody is at least as strong as me or stronger. At least it feels that way.

My race wasn't until 5:15, but I left the house at about 2 PM to ride out early and see the end of the Men's Cat 4 race, in which at least one Recycled Cycles team mate was riding in. I stupidly decided to take the bus from Montlake, barely missed the 545, and had to wait 25 minutes for another bus to come.. it was late. Lucky for me the race was running late too.

Got there late, but in time to see the last two laps of the 4's race. I heard the announcer say "Second Ascent has been on the front of this race a lot, let's see what happens now." Was hoping my friend Rob on Second Ascent might place well, but when they came around the final time I didn't see any blue/white plaid up front, just yellow (bikesale.com) and orange/white (Byrne/Invent). The guy who won has got to be a 3 soon.. I've seen him win three or four races this year!

With $300 up for 1st place in our 3's race, and payouts for top 5, I had heard people might "do dumb shit" for the win.. but what else is new. People will take risks for a bag of tubes if you put them on a bike in front of a crowd.. bring it on!

The Race

Even though I'd gotten to the race so early, I ended up at the staging area in the center of the venue later than most, so was at the back of 50 guys jockeying for position for the lineup. But it was wide enough that everyone spread out, and I got in the second row. Looking back I should have just gone out to the side to get a front spot, but gambled on the guy in front of me being able to clip in.

When I started racing last year I used to be so shaky, almost dreading the starting whistle or gun shot as much as I was looking forward to getting the race on. But now I feel much calmer, and am excited to get rolling, a much better feeling.

Phil shot the start gun and we were off, though the guy in front of me couldn't get clipped in (of course). 50 minutes to catch up though, after starting in 40th place it felt like.. I don't remember if there were many attacks at first but Randy from Arrivee was riding aggressively as usual, and went on an attack or a prime or something. Later on a guy from UW won a few primes by a good deal, and Blake from Cucina was off the front for a while too. Impressive for what felt like a pretty fast race - Cat 3 crits are definitely more animated than 4/5 crits too, which makes it fun.

I just worked on positioning in the pack and eventually moved up on the outside out of turn three, one of the few places on this course that it was pretty easy to do so. Pulled the pack for 3/4 of a lap; was hoping to have my team name called out by the announcer (success) and maybe getting my name mentioned too (fail). After all, my mom was in the crowd so I wanted to put on a decent show!

With 10 minutes to go, I still felt good and was mid-pack at worst, even moving up on the back stretch in the gutter once. Another time I found myself in the gutter when trying to pass Mark from Starbucks on the inside of corner three. When I did that I heard a young spectator standing there say "Whoa!" as I probably came closer to them than expected. I love the gutter.

With 3 laps to go I was sitting in great position, 3rd wheel. I should have just stayed there....

But they'd just announced a $50 prime and I was surprised nobody had jumped yet coming out of turn one, given all the earlier attacks. I guess the smart thing to do here would be to ignore the prime, as it would be hard to recover in time for the finish..

Coming out of corner two, I was thinking well if nobody else is gonna take this money, then I will. So I gave it a kick and left the pack, and entered turn three first. But after taking a few more hard strokes I started to feel gassed already (not good), and could see someone on my wheel (uh oh). All of a sudden I saw why it was a bad idea to go for this prime. I let up and succumbed to the IJM guys behind me, one of them taking the prime.

Two laps to go, but recovery time. Damn. I found myself in 10th place or worse, and by the time we came around the penultimate corner we'd been swamped by riders on the outside, and now I'm 25th or so. I can see the spots slipping away..

The final corner comes, but I'm watching a bunch of guys sprint up the road, and from the sound of the screaming announcer and crowd, I really wished I was up front to see the close sprint. Instead I'm putting in a dig to at least pass a few guys in the back, ended up 19th out of 52. Could be better, could be worse.

Randy won it, nice job man!


In the end it was a fun experience, and having my mom finally watch me do this crazy hobby was great too. No crashes in the 3's race, though there were a few close calls from sketchy guys, but nothing too scary.

Much thanks to the organizers and everyone for keeping this race going! I'll definitely be back next year for this one.


The Bellingham Stage Race is next weekend, but I'm thinking of skipping it and taking a week or two off from racing. This amateur racing is tough stuff!

Thinking of doing a little ride with my old randonneur friends on the 24th, though I really wish that ride started within riding distance.. I haven't done a ride over 80 miles this year, unlike last year when I was doing 200-600k's, and riding to Ramrod.. all that stuff was fun but it took so much time!

Still, the nature of a long ride against the clock, without the need to keep a specific pace, is alluring. Sounds relaxing even..

Speaking of long rides, good luck to all those doing the STP this weekend!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Notes from Seward Park: June/July 2010

Last three weeks at Seward have been great - no rain, nice temps, and decent fields. Good clean racing in the city.

6/10/2010 - 3/4's 6 PM race

For some reason* I was hurting like it was my first race all over again in this one. After 20 or 30 minutes I wanted to pull out, but pride and the thought of posting about being dropped kept me in there, but barely.

During the race a team mate Chris asked me how I was feeling, and I said shitty, real shitty. He thought I was joking but I was in the red zone like it was a year ago and I'd just started racing.

*my theory on the poor performance was that I'd been slacking/resting that week, and the charts in WKO even reflected this, with my TSB reacing a high of +20 on that day (meaning fitness was low).

6/17/2010 - 3/4's race

This was an animated race for me, as fitness was back up and I was feeling good. Went for one of the first primes, was first up the little hill, but then Jeff (strong unattached cat 5) and Mark (strong cat 3) were on my wheel. Actually Jeff had come around me, and I was now sitting on his wheel. I got to take a two-second rest in his draft, and as the line was approaching I went around him, with flashbacks to the velodrome and calculated sprints.

The only thing was that Mark was on my wheel, and waited to jump around me when I went. Duh. We went head to head for the preme, and he just barely beat me out - which in itself is progress for me from last year. Close...

We had a gap on the pack at this point but were obviously hurting, so we coasted and sipped our water, waiting for the pack.

On the next preme lap, I went from the bottom of the hill (or before) and this time nobody was on my wheel, and I was able to take it! First preme won at Seward, won a water bottle, some Nuun tablets, and $10. Raced for free!

6/24/2010 - 3/4's race

Started off hard in this one, hammered on the front for the first two laps, and was already hurting by then. Just got my Cat 3 upgrade sticker, it was official! That probably made me push a little harder, just for fun.

A preme came a lap or two later, and I went for it at the bottom of the hill (going clockwise this time), but nobody even tried to go with me. What's up with that? I kept on hammering, not worried too much that nobody chased.

10 seconds later I saw why nobody was going with me - there was a rider way up the road! He had snuck off the front at some point, and was about to beat me out for this preme. This made me push that much harder, and while he was blowing up I was accelerating, I could tell it was gonna be close but I just kept pushing harder and harder.

I passed him maybe 10 feet from the line, much to his dismay, and to the delight of spectators and myself. Another preme!! Just goes to show you should never give up.

Now I was really hurting, even though it was only 11 minutes or so into the race.. the pack caught back up and I filtered through it, still huffing and puffing, still recovering. Then I found myself on the back, then I found myself off the back.

It all happened so fast, and before I knew it it was silence all around me, and the 10-meter gap from me to the pack seemed insurmountable. Legs on fire, lungs gasping. Dammit! And this was at the bottom of the hill too..

I let the peloton go on the uphill, and settled into a nice 6 mph pace up the hill. At the top Randy asked if I crashed out but I said no it was the preme, it did me in! For the first time in racing for a year at Seward, I had to pull out and take a lap or two off. Never thought it would happen, but I guess I dropped myself!

Got back in and just sat in the pack, not going for any premes since I'd pulled out of the race already. (but you're allowed to jump back in at Seward) When the final sprint came an automatic response happened and I found myself sprinting and in the top 10. Love sprinting up that hill going clockwise!

Raced for free!

7/1/2010 - 3/4's race

An aggressive race for me, trying to get in almost all the breaks, but when I'd get there usually I was too cooked to do anything useful besides sit on the back. And then we'd get caught anyway...

Team mate JC is back in action after a month or so off, good to see him back in it! He was active in this race as well. Other team mate, Mike, was giving me advice about tactics in the race: if you're on the front, then you need to chase down breaks or bridge attempts. True, but it's tough on a course like this, which isn't quite a criterium but not quite a circuit race or road race either. It's just a loop with one turn. and a climb each lap.

Being a 3 now team tactics are coming up more, and we always theoretically want someone in the break if there is one, if not initiating the break. The problem is that so many of them fail, so it's tough to which ones are worth covering and which ones aren't. Part of what will eventually make that easier is knowing who's who in the peloton.

This race was interesting because they always have four prime laps, usually about 10 laps in and then interspersed throughout the race. People are expecting this format, so they switched it up a bit this time. 25 laps in total, and with 15 to go people are already getting antsy for a prime. At 10 to go people are already yelling at the race organizer to ring the bell! Nothing but silence.

5 to go, and finally the bell goes off. Four preme laps in a row, then the finish lap?! If you're not super strong you've got to pick one of those to go for. I picked the finish, but it was tough just hanging on with all the prime surges, much less the setup for the final lap.

Came in the top 15 in this one, nothing special. But it was fun.

7/8/2010 - 1/2/3's race

Was at work too long so didn't make it back to the hill in time for the 6 PM Cat 3/4's race. So I opted to finally try my hand in the 1/2/3's race at 7 PM, the "A" race on the weekly schedule.

Got there with a few minutes to spare, and chatted with team mate Ian who had just done the 5:30 4/5's race, then the 6 pm 3/4's race too! He'll be a Cat 3 before too long, I'm sure. Another team mate, Eric, who's a 3 as well, was there for the 1/2/3's race. Cool, a team mate in the race!

I recognized some of the guys lining up as Cat 1's, ex-pros, even WSBA #1 was there, David Richter. I'm probably every Cat 1's nightmare: just upgraded to the 3's and already looking to mix it up with the big kids.

For the most part the peloton just looked older, more tan, and nicer equipment than the other races. And they go faster too, with breaks forming usually on the first lap. 1 hour race instead of the 45 minutes of the 6 PM race.

Goals: hang on, hang on, hang on.

From the start there was indeed a break of some kind being attempted, and the pack was strung out all the way down the hill. In the 3/4's race the peloton will usually bunch up at the very bottom of the hill, but in this race you had to work to catch back on, the pack not bunching up until almost 100m later.

The first 15 minutes of this race were the most painful, and I found myself drifting from the middle to the back, and struggling to hold a wheel on the downhill. Guess people were chasing a break, so the pack was strung out for a while.

On the steep-but-short uphill I felt strong enough, and could keep up pretty easily. Cool. But it was that downhill that was the most challenging in this race.

At about 30 minutes in the peloton slowed down a bit, and I got a chance to rest. We slowed so much a guy in the pack yells, "Everyone's getting tiiiired!" in a teasing way and jumps out for an attack. Nice.

We sped back up, and this time I found myself back in the middle, closer to the race itself and not struggling to hang on. Eventually moved up so much that I found myself trying to bridge to the break, trying to hang on Richter's wheel! He was being marked by a K-R guy, who already had someone in the break. On the uphill all of a sudden I didn't feel so strong, but fought to hold a wheel. Was overheating. Ouch.

Held on for a lap I think, but the pack caught us eventually. The break never came back.

The rest of the race was a blur, it was just a lot of hammering after the turn, and getting a nice aero tuck on the downhill. Some aero wheels would probably help... but Open Pros will do for now.

With 5 laps to go, I was excited thinking to myself that I did it! I hung on, finished my first 1/2/3's race.

Was not in a great position on the final lap, but still gave it my all on the uphill before the slightly uphill sprint to the line. Yeah, I was sprinting for 20th, sue me. One guy yelled "It's over!!" as I flew by, and he was right: the break had stuck, all 6 guys collecting the only spots that matter at the finish, and everything after that was pointless.

He's probably done this race 300 times, but this being my first 1/2/3 race I at least wanted to beat out some other 3's I recognized. Came in on the back of the first finish group after the break, I think about 20th-25th. Success!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Joe Matava Cat 3's Crit 2010

Last year this was my 2nd "real" crit (besides Seward Park), got 11th, and was of course super happy with that result.

A fun 4-corner course with the start on a downhill, two left turns leading to an uphill backstretch, two more lefts and then the downhill to the finish. Classic crit format. In Burien.

The Ride Down to Burien

Unlike last year, when I was racing the 4/5's and had to get up super early to ride down in time to register, this year the 3's were racing until 12 PM or so, giving me plenty of time to rest, and take my time on the way down. I averaged about 13 mph down there.

I still left around 9:30-ish, hoping to catch some of the racing and was afraid the 3's field would sell out, as it supposedly did last year. Overcast and a little windy, but not too bad. Took Delridge to Ambaum to get down there, much to the delight of a few drivers.

Watched some good racing from the juniors, the women's 1/2 field, and rode around with Mark from Starbucks, Karl from Keller-Rohrbach, and Mike(?) from Garage, all nice guys but we'd be racing against each other soon. We rode in circles in a closed off block, an OK warm-up but I need to start bringing a trainer to races..

The Race

Upon signing up for the 3's race, a woman at the registration table said "Cat 3 means you're good! I learned that this morning." I laughed and said well I'm getting there, but enjoyed the idea that I'm something special. Works for me!

Took a few practice laps and lined up in the back, but there were only 35 or so other racers, and only a few rows of people. The Capitol Crit a few weeks ago was fun, but with so few riders and a tougher course it didn't have the feel of a straight-forward criterium, something I've gotten pretty good at. So this was my first bigger 3's crit.

The pack:

We started and a strong team mate Josh, who just upgraded to the 3's a couple of months ago, set off some early fireworks and launched an attack from the whistle, in our 45 minute race. Sweet.

I sat back and watched as he hammered in the distance, actually building quite the lead for a few laps:

He came back into the pack after a while, but it was a good effort. I'm still a little timid about attacking in a 3's race, but I'm getting there. And crits are so fast that I don't feel like I can last very long anyway..

I ignored all the premes, even though some were $10, $20, or $50, saving energy for the final sprint. Not ready to try for premes and the win or top 5 placing, not yet anyway.

Even so, at one point there was a break of 3 or so up the road, and I attacked the peloton from 3rd wheel coming down the straigh-away finish. A little camera time, if you will.

Later in the race Jordan took off on an attack for a preme and held off for a few laps, and Josh was out there again, if I remember correctly. Damn those kids are strong! Jordan he won $60 in the race too! Nice man..

There were more attacks here and there, but we were all together for the final few laps at least. And that's when people really started competing for the corners, and I had to back off a bit coming into the first corner on the last lap, there just wasn't any room, and people were getting way frisky (e.g. swerving a lot).

I remember at the time thinking, "Well there goes placing in the top 10.." as I watched 10 more people swarm around me. Sometimes you just know when you've given up spots that will cost you in the end.

In the 2nd corner a UW guy slid out, Jordan said he ran over the guy's bike! (and kept going)

Then in the 3rd corner, I'm sitting 10 wheels back or so, and a guy up ahead all of a sudden bucks his back wheel up a foot off the ground, and I'm thinking, "Yup, he's screwed!" But not a second later, my own pedal lightly touched the ground... maybe a little too early to gloat.

Coming out of the last corner I was about 15th, and looked up to see the riders fanned across the road. Well, maybe I can gain a few spots here? There are cash payouts for top 10 after all..

The Field Sprint

Hard to tell who's going to take it from about 150m out:

I put in a good dig but coming from 15th I was gunning for 10th at best. Actually passed a few guys that sat up near the line, or just couldn't hold their sprint long enough. Ended up 11th. (Just like last year no less!)

Patrick from Second Ascent took the win in the end, he was actually in the big crash in the Boston Harbor Circuit Race a few weeks ago. Helluva recovery! Good for him:

Photos from Wheelsinfocus.com.

The Ride Back

Ride back was slow, and traffic was heavier at 3 PM. But it felt great to have done decent in the crit, and kept it upright, ready to race again.

Next up: Derby Days in Redmond! $300 up for grabs for 1st place..