Saturday, July 17, 2010

Crit Century

You know what's awesome on a Saturday? Doing a whole pile of crits. Not one or two, three. Make sure it's hot too. That was the plan this Saturday in lovely (no lie) Novato for the NorCal Crits.

There was some crit action in Watsonville as well - with a really deep field, a tough course, and a 1.5 hour drive from my house. All of those things were not on my menu. What I'm looking for is races where I can be active so I can learn some racing-at-the-front tricks while I get stronger, but I'll be the first to admit it - my fitness isn't quite there enough to trade punches with the full Yahoo and CalGiant squads. I can ride with them, but I can't make them hurt. So off to Novato I go.

Nifty thing about this race, it has a 2/3 field. You know what it's like racing P12 fields all the time? Wake up in the morning, make some coffee but don't drink it. Then have someone you like kick you in the nuts for 60 minutes. It's fun though I swear. Just not as fun as racing 2s and 3s without the P1 folks ;-).

I have a silly quest to upgrade to Category 1 (as you can see in the sidebar), though I have no reason to or use for it, and a 2/3 race is a good place to pick up some points, so I was looking to do well in this race. The course reads like a sprinter's fantasy with a downhill headwind (which kills breaks) and no technical corners (which help breaks). So I sat in like the lousy wheel-suck I am. After a bunch of last-couple-of-laps efforts I won't bore you with, I rolled into the last corner 3rd wheel behind Rainier Schaeffer (I think) while Rainier's Godspeed courier teammate was absolutely drilling it with a fantastic leadout. I jumped after the corner thinking the downhill would make the 200m-to-the-line run doable but - no - I hit 40mph then the headwind sapped the speed and 4 dudes came around, 2 by inches. 5th place. Woe is me, but I have to tell you - it was fantastic to be in the sprint for real. It's been a while and it felt great.

Bonus - they pick the 2s separately, and I'm sure there were more than 11 of us, possibly more than 21, so I got at least 1 elite category 1 upgrade point, and maybe 2.

That was the biggest excitement of the day - the last two races were duds for me but I'm planning on doing The Everest Challenge (29,000' of climbing in two days - awesome) so I need some long, hard workouts and I'm doing the next two races to get them.

The M35-123 was a big fast roll-around with nothing much happening, which is great for me because it allows me to do a nearly Oscar-winning wheelsuck performance involving soft-pedaling, refusing to pull, stealthily taking positions when people aren't paying attention and just generally going fast for free whenever possible. I was lining up on lap 3 to hit the sprint again but fixing my 2/3 race error, when I get that squishy feeling in the rear. Shit! Yep. my rear wheel is going flat. Not all at once - a slow leak, but it's definitely low. No free laps inside 5 laps to go, so my race is done - the tire isn't totally flat but sprinting on 40psi isn't safe. I'm a 110psi dude, 40psi is low enough you can roll a tire if you're not careful, I won't do it. I rolled around and got placed so I didn't get a DNF, but I was disappointed. That's racing.

Next up was the P123. 90 minutes of hot fun. 2 Yahoo riders. A bunch of "other" (myself included there). This race was really active - always someone off the front but I wanted to sprint, not ride a breakaway. I worked to stitch it together a couple times but finally a move of 7 got away, the pack gave up, and now the pack's sprinting for 8th. That's still okay by me, I'm looking for the workout. This sprint I lined up half-assed though and wasn't far enough up in the pack in the last half of the first lap. Maybe 10 deep when I should have been 5th, and the inevitable happened there - two people nearly collided, one locked up his brakes, and I had to touch my brakes to avoid them. If you've never been in a sprint at the end of a bike race, know this: to touch your brakes during the sprint is to lose. It's like putting a parachute out - everyone else shoots ahead of you and you're done. This sounds scary but no fear, we're rank amateurs on bikes wearing nearly no protective equipment and going 32 miles per hour - everything's under control. So I just rolled this in at the end - also a little disappointing but I was in it for the workout, so it's okay.

Riiight at the end of the race, I started to get the starts of cramp twinges. Not full twinges, and definitely not cramps yet - I was still able to throw down huge power but the legs are screaming. That's the workout what I'm looking for.

Final stats - just a touch over 100 miles of crit, averaging around 26mph. Nice.

That's it. 1 for 3 on luck, but that first one was a lot of fun, and I got an upgrade point, maybe two. Plus I got to see that even though I'm not quite P1 caliber yet, I'm still pretty quick on a bike - I'm very strong in a 2/3 field. I'll keep training and learning, and see what I can do about the P1 status.


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