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.
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..
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)
Monday, May 31, 2010
Saturday - Woodinville 4/5 Crit
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Starting this weekend is a 6-race Criterium series centered on Seattle. What else can I say but, YES!!
In years past most of these races already existed but were run separately and in different times of the year. The Brad Lewis Memorial Crit was in April last year (I think) and it rained a ton, turnout was low. But holding them in late May/early June should yield much better turnout.. (though nobody would be surprised if it does rain on at least one or two of these races - indeed it's wet here on the morning of the Woodinville crit)
These races are also being run as an Omnium, so you can accrue points be doing each race and placing well. I'm hoping for some omnium points and upgrade points during this series - so many points for the taking! Even some cash in a few of our Cat 4 races. But more than cash, I'd like to add to my 10 points (out of 20) on the we to the Cat 3 upgrade.
Anyway here are some notes about each race in the series:
Race #1: Woodinville Twilight Crit, Saturday May 29th 2010
Wide, fast and flat .8 mile, 3 corner course with approximately 15 ft of elevation per lap. Surface is good to excellent blacktop with some traffic marking turtles. Race will run clockwise on the course.From looking at the course map & description I feel like this isn't a nasty tight crit that I excel in - sounds like a open & flat course, wide sweeping turn in lieu of turn 4 and a looong sprint from the last corner - not my kinda course . But I can't wait to do kick off this series in a few hours!
Race #2: Fremont Twilight Criterium, Sunday May 30th
Fremont Criterium is a 3 corner fast criterium. Direction will be counter clockwise. See map for more details.This one seems more up my alley - what I imagine/hope are broken up roads, and there are two tight turns, ahh yes, this is where those of us without huge power/speed, but better handling skills, can succeed. I hope.
Race #3: Seward Park Classic, Thursday June 3rd
Located inside the Seward Park this .8 mile of a loop features smooth wide roads with one 140 degree turn and a hill approx. 200 meters long. Course direction will depend on weather day of event.A classic indeed - in my 1+ year of racing I've done this course almost 40 times! I just hope we go clock-wise, when I seem to do better. We'll see.
Emerald Sprints, Friday June 6th
400 meters of roller racing: flat, fast and one gear!!
If (Cascadia Crit) racers can beat someone in a roller race, the next three races are free! Or if you can beat out a racer, you get $$$! I'll probably just rest though.
Race #4: Ballard Twilight Crit, Saturday June 5th
1 Kilometer - 4 corner Criterium course on city streets. On a slight side hill.To be honest this is one of my "A" (e.g. priority) races, something that's been in my mind since racing it last year. Broken and/or uneven pavement, four 90-degree turns, this is one I want to do well at. Should be able to do better than last year's 13th placing.. then again a lot of luck goes into finishing a race like that (89 starters, 29 finishers last year!)
Race #5: Brad Lewis Memorial/Boat Street Crit, Sunday June 6th
A 3 corner technical criterium located near the University of Washington. The course distance is approximately 1K and goes in a clockwise direction. Racers will be starting on N.E. Boat St turning right onto N.E. Pacific St then turning right onto Brooklyn Ave N.E. before making their way back to thr start/finish line.This is one I've wanted to do since about 2004, even before I started racing. I've gone and watched it a few times, including in 2008, and it's always a blast to watch. The laps are pretty quick and you get to see lots of action.
The 2010 BLMC is also the race my team (Recycled Cycles) is putting on, so I get to volunteer in my first race! Actually kind of excited to get a chance to "give back" to the racing community, as well as looking forward to doing the 4/5's race without much of a warm-up.
Race #6: Tacoma Twilight Crit, Saturday June 12th
This is an exciting 8 corner course going in a counter clockwise direction. See course map for details!A little further outside of town, but the end of the series and eight corners?! I'll try to be there, sounds like a blast.
So yeah, crit season is here and now's your chance to get in on the action! In the words of former president Bush: "Bring it on."
See you on the road!
Saturday, May 22, 2010
The Wenatchee Omnium had been on my calendar for a few months, and since it was a relatively big regional event I made it an "A" race, e.g. one that I targeted specifically. Besides planning to crush souls there I also trained for it by building up in the weeks leading to it and then tapering off a bit in the last few days before it.
I figured an overall win was out of my reach since the TT isn't my strongest race, and I'm not so hot racing up a 5-mile climb either. But I figured I could squeeze some points out of the criterium by getting a top 6 in it.
Saturday AM: 9 mile Time Trial
Josh & I had ridden the out-and-back TT course the day before, which was great so we could see just what we had in store, given it wasn't completely flat, but instead featured some rolling hills. And wind. He pointed out the tailwind on the way out and how it's apparently always like that around here.. while this makes for a fun out-leg, the return trip is a bit slower..
A shot of the road out to the TT:
It was about 10 miles outside of town, and since Josh's Cat 3 race wasn't until way later in the day, I just rode out to the start for a good warm-up. It was a perfect day, not too hot, and sure enough the same wind out of the west was there.
Got to the start with plenty of time, and went to the parking lot to find Todd & JC, along with other team mates. After some chit chat I went back out on to Malaga-Alcoa Hwy and got in an OK warm-up, but I've really not been giving them enough attention, especially when it comes to TT's.
Noting that it was close to start time for me (9:18) I somehow got there with about a minute to spare, jumping in front of the line of riders waiting to go off. Just in time, that'll get the heart pumping!
After an OK start I was off, not having any power data since the batteries were out and I'd yet to replace them, just going off of heart rate. I felt pretty good on the way out, and kept the HR around 171 or so, though looking back I should have paced harder on the way out given the downhill-ishness of the course and the tailwind.
I had my 30-second man in sight, and was gaining on him as I went. As we came to the turn-around cone at 4.5 miles I was perhaps only a few bike-lengths behind him! But as we turned around the headwind and uphill slopes hit and I no longer felt like I was putting in good time. In fact, I wasn't! Whether or not pacing was good on the way out, I just couldn't push hard enough to gain on my guy without red-lining. Probably due to bad aero (only using clip-ons) and not enough (functional) threshold.
In the end I lost contact with the 30 second guy and was never passed, passed a few others, which pretty much says it was an average TT. It was. 23:51 or something for 25th place... lots of room for improvement there! (the winner in Cat 4 was 21-minutes and some change)
Saturday PM: 25-minute Criterium
For me this was the real chance for points and maybe even a win. Our hotel was a few blocks from the downtown crit course so I got a chance to check out the Cat 5 race, and get a feel for the course which I hadn't seen before.
The marshal at corner 2 said he'd specifically requested that corner since it's "where all the action is" - and by action he meant crashes! I could see why, it was all cracked with two sewage-covers with nice big tire-size holes in them. One guy at the corner, who was apparently also one of the race organizers, was giving me tips on how to come through tight in the corner - which was not what we were watching the 5's do. They were taking a slower, perhaps safer, outside line that sent you over the same cracks anyway. Something to think about when I raced later at 4:25 or so.
Here's a few shots of corner 2 so you can get a feel:
And a shot of the broken-up pavement & manhole covers...
Actually the races were running behind, which made me think I had more time than I did to warm up, which put me at the back of the pack. Lined up next to a team mate JC, and we joked about how bad our TT times were, and I told him that's OK, this is the race for us! He's also pretty good at crits and I was happy to have him in the race.
The whistle was blown and we were off - well, some of us were. A few rows up at least one guy couldn't clip in, and was stuck looking down at their feet, fumbling to clip in. The opposite of a good start in a crit, but I've gotten pretty good at going around them at the start of crits.
Settled into the middle of the pack or so, and got a feel for the course. The 5% downhill leading into corner 2 gave you plenty of speed to just jam over all the cracks and stuff, but boy did our bikes make some interesting noises there! It took confidence in your equipment and cornering ability to make it over that corner without slowing each lap.
In fact that nasty corner was where I made up the most ground each time, taking the inside line just as the organizer had earlier suggested. Then on the (also rough) back stretch we would jam at a good 27-30 mph, hitting the 3rd turn into a 5% uphill that had its share of cracks in it.
Coming up the hill on the backside into corner 4 my rear wheel was skipping around almost every time, looking bad I should have just stayed seated there. And I liked taking the outside line there, instead of jamming up the inside and coming into the turn slower.
After the uphill and fourth corner, it was on to the home stretch, a slight 1% uphill grade. I just hung on for the first few laps, since my warm-up wasn't quite good enough and the start of this race hurt more than it should have.
After recovering a little, I decided it was time to move up - only 25 minutes of racing to be done here, so there wasn't a ton of time to set up for the end. So about halfway through the race I used the wide-open home stretch to jump and move up to the top 10 of the pack. Looking back this little effort was enough to set up for the later podium, and without it I would have had to work harder later or come in 10th place.
Now in the top 10 I even found my way to the pointy end of the race a few times, leading our pack through the finish straight. When that happened I would make sure not to do too much work, since there was a headwind there and there was no point in doing a bunch of work to make us all faster for that little stretch. Sometimes it felt ridiculously slow at the front, but I reminded myself it was about me resting and being in a good spot, not looking strong.
The last five or so laps came, and I just maintained my spot in the top 5-10. One guy tried to get a break-away going, or something, but nobody wanted (or could) go with him.
One lap to go, and we're all still together. Turn three comes, and I'm in the top five! In pain and at or above 185 bpm, but I remind myself there's less than a minute left, how bad could it be? Turn four comes, the final turn, and it's time for the straight-away. The home stretch!
The announcer was yelling of course but I didn't hear anything, it was all I could do to keep the pedals turning and just shoot for the line. Passed one or two guys (I think) on the way to the line, and saw the guy in front of me let up a bit, but it was too late.
But I came in 3rd in the end! Yay for me, all this training and racing finally paid off, though it wasn't a win.. that's next on the radar, and well within reach I think.
Was sitting 5th overall GC after the TT/Crit, but knew the RR the next day was gonna be tough.
Sunday AM: 44-mile Road Race
Oh boy, what to say here? There was a five-mile climb (5.5% avg. grade) and I got dropped going up it the first time (we were only doing two laps). Great views, but dammit it hurt going up! Pretty fun going down, but could only get up to 45 mph or so, no real super speeds on the way down. Rode with some stragglers and chatted a bit, finished the ride to not get a DNF (don't have any so far).
Came in 34th (out of 55?) overall somehow, minutes behind the finishers.. not my day, that's for sure!
But was happy with the crit placing the day before, so not too big a let down, or even a surprise.
Came in 10th overall GC.
Photos & Videos
(sorry for getting this post out a week late, I've been lazy!)
Thursday, May 13, 2010
This weekend is another multi-day race, the Wenatchee Omnium. I like the multi-day races since I hope I have a little advantage in the recovery from day-to-day riding given my randonneur background. (And future - I promise I'll see some of you SiR's at some point this summer!)
Stage Race vs Omnium?
Glad you asked. A stage race is ranked off of accumulated time (like le Tour or Giro), whereas an omnium is done from points. And you have to finish all stages within 20% of the winner's time in a stage race, whereas you don't even have to do all of the events in an omnium.
And to make things even more confusing, this race is labeled the "Wenatchee Valley Velo Omnium Stage Race 2010" - anyway this is an omnium we're doing. You get points for each start, and points also go 10-deep for each race.
Here's what the schedule looks like:
9 mile morning TT - I hate TT's, though I know I need to get better at 'em if I have any plans to compete in the 3's. And if I get better at TTing, perhaps that would make me better at break-aways too?
25 min afternoon criterium - I guess you could say if any of the basic formats of road bike racing (TT, crit, road race) this is the one I excel at. Shooting for at least a top 5 like at Walla Walla.
44 mi RR - normally I go into a road race thinking there's no good reason I shouldn't be in the top 10, if not better, at the end of it. But when the road turns upwards for an extended period of time, the outlook changes a bit. (I can climb, but not that great at it)
I mean take a look at the road race route/profile! (click the "Show Elevation" checkbox in the upper-right of the map) That's about five miles of sustained climbing, 5-7% grades. Ugh.
Oh and a 15% grade kicker for 100 meters! This is gonna be.... a challenge.
Hopefully in the end I'll have a good story to tell though, stay tuned.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
We were only doing five 9-mile laps in this "Joe Bar/Native Plant Road Race", and the plan was to attack on the beginning of the last lap. (And then win of course)
Started in the back, and stayed there for the first two laps, watched a group of 5-6 go up the road briefly but they came back. The course wasn't as hilly as billed I thought, but a big pothole (4x2') on the right side of the road on the backside of the course surprised a few riders each lap, causing a few flats and more than a few surprises.
It was hard to move up, with 68 starters and some sections with no shoulder, just one country lane. Last lap comes and just as I'm about to attack we get neutralized (p/1/2 break passing), damn.. then on the other side of the course we got neutralized, again, as the p/1/2 pack passed us.
On The Edge
In the last few miles of the race I was trying to move up (as most of us were) and got stuck on the left side, just (barely) to the right of the yellow line - which is actually two yellow lines, with reflectors on each side, dividing the lanes of the road. The "yellow line rule" was in effect, meaning you can't cross the line or else you will be DQ'd. Only exception to that is if you have to go around a wreck, or if it's the last 200m of the race.
So I was kind of riding on the reflectors more or less, but not on the line or to the left of the reflectors. I knew it was close to being a violation of the rule, and every once in a while I'd be pushed out over the line - but there was nowhere to go, it wasn't exactly easy to hold this position, and there was nowhere to go. So I stuck it out, bouncing over reflectors and just waiting for the final sprint.
A crash happened just in front of me and to the right - someone later said the guy just kind of leaned into the rider next to him, and that they both went down. And then some people next to them went down, and I came really close to getting taken out myself. It seems so random, like you can be taken out at any time.. but then again there are usually some "sketchy" riders that I just try to stay in front of.
Anyway after that I had to chase a little bit, only for a 10 seconds or so, but the last thing I wanted to do right before the uphill-ish last 1k to the finish was to chase. After coming out of the last (hard) corner, there was a bigger gap than I was expecting, as who ever was in front probably jammed it right out of the turn while I didn't even get through it until a second or two later. That can be a long two seconds!
Caught up to the group at the base of the finish climb and looked forward to see more people up there than I'd expected, maybe about 30. So much for the plans, now just charge on and see if I can squeeze out a top 10 from this, or more who knows. Maintained contact on the climb, which was a stair-step of sorts, and thought more about attacking. I can't sprint all that well, so that might have to be the way to go for me to get a win.
After the first step of the climb the group seemed to take a collective breath and slowed up a bit, and I did too. Resting before the final sprint. I thought about initiating the jump there, but I was already at 187 bpm or so (95% Max HR), and the thought of going hard from that point for a minute plus was not appealing. So I rested as well, and hit the 200m sign in the pack. Here we go again... a field sprint, though there were only 20 or so of us at this point, we'd thinned out a good deal since the beginning.
Lit up a sprint with the pack, though the legs were cooked from previous efforts, and I probably only got off a few revolutions before I had to sit down and grind it out from there. It was kind of crowded (I should have jumped in the other lane, duh) and I had to ease off in the last 100m and pretty much give up, it wasn't worth pushing on for what I thought was 10th place, but I ended up coming in 18th overall. Not bad considering 68 starters, but not a win or even a top 10, I'll just have to chalk it up to decent training and another race without a DNF.
Lesson learned: next time, attack before you think you need to attack! Or if you get neutralized, attack shortly after that. And get further up before the sprint, no point in trying to pick your way through a crowd of riders.
Joe Bar/Market Street RR Cat 4:
Work: 1267 kJ
TSS: 132.5 (intensity factor 0.817)
Norm Power: 237
Distance: 47.014 mi
Elevation Gain: 3600 ft
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 989 177 watts
Heart Rate: 119 192 158 bpm
Cadence: 17 128 75 rpm
Speed: 0.9 65.2 23.6 mph
Crank Torque: 0 1744 196 lb-in
Final 1.1 miles (341 watts/187bpm) - "why didn't I just go faster?"
Work: 60 kJ
TSS: 8 (intensity factor 1.282)
Distance: 1.135 mi
Elevation Gain: 170 ft
Grade: 2.4 % (143 ft)
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 740 341 watts
Heart Rate: 170 193 187 bpm
Cadence: 38 114 79 rpm
Speed: 2.8 32 23.4 mph
Crank Torque: 0 791 375 lb-in
Found some photos from the early morning races and some of the afternoon races as well, though not many of our pack: on SmugMug. I was hiding in the pack pretty much all day so not expecting any great shots from this one..
Note: thanks to the vast resources of Recycled Cycles Racing, I was able to acquire a Raleigh Supercourse frame for a nice price. Rolling again! Might repair the other Raleigh later, we'll see.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
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 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.
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 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..
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.