Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cascadia Criterium Series

It has been an interesting first half of the racing season. We started off having incredible weather from late February through the middle of May with just a few races that had some light form of precipitation. Just when Enumclaw showed up on the schedule the weather went back to what you'd expect in late March. It was perfect timing (not) for the beginning of the newly formed Cascadia Crit Series. It ran for two weeks and grouped some crits that have been around for a while with some new ones, six in all. I have never been a big fan of crits, for that matter you might even say that I hated them. It might be due to the fact that I haven't put too much time into racing them. Two years ago I did zero. Last year I did one but so far this year I've done six. They are a big part of the local racing scene and I figured the least I could do was hone my skills so they wouldn't be a bad point during stage races and I could some of my teammates that thrive on them. Here we go!!

Woodinville Crit:
When I got up Saturday morning it was pouring rain and it seemed to intensify as the day went on. I was constantly checking the the weather forecast for the day and it kept showing that it would stop raining at 2:00pm but start up again by 6:00pm . I don't know why I look so much, the weather is only accurate when you look up from where you are currently standing. Mark, Jordan, Wes and I were planning on doing the Cat 3 race at 5:50. Scott, who has been out all year recovering from a serious injury was ready to make his debut and decided he wanted to do the Masters race. Mark and I decided we would support him and race in the Masters field. When Mark and I rolled into the lot it was still raining. We watched a couple of the early races while we were warming up and saw several crashes, nothing new for crits but they seemed to be more related to the wet conditions. Scott, smartly, decided there was too much risk involved for his first race back and pulled out. Mark and I did a lap on the course before the start. It was a fast, three corner course with one very slight uphill straight away that led into a fairly technical turn. The other two turns didn’t seem bad but they had a lot of turtles and strategically placed manhole covers in them which could be bad if guys lost their composure. I was feeling a little hesitant but liked the course so it was time to buck up head for the line. It was Cucina’s race and as we rolled to the start we noticed that they, along with the Garage were well represented. As we rolled out the rain was starting to let up but it was still extremely wet. I thought guys would take it easy on the first few laps to get a feel for the course but we ended up setting a fast pace right from the start. Mark and I were able to settle in right near the front. Everyone seemed pretty comfortable and was holding their lines nicely through the turns. There were a couple of guys that would get a little squirrely in turn one when they hit the white turtles on the outside of the course but for the most part we had a really fast, safe race. After a few laps I started to feel comfortable and started to move up. I tried a couple of attacks but they didn't go anywhere. I was really working hard up front and decided to drop back for a few laps. Two guys got off the front and and Garage did a great job bringing back anyone that tried to bridge. We were told that they would start counting down laps with about 10 minutes to go. I saw them turn of the timer but did not see the board that showed us how many laps. I finally asked someone next to me and the thought we had five to go. Next time through they yelled out that we had two laps left, WTF!! I was so concerned with the wet roads and my position for the sprint that I didn't noticed that another group had gone off the front. The rest of us were all together for the sprint. In the end I ended up 15th. Mark won the field sprint and took 8th. I felt strong throughout the race and was happy to finish near the front of the main field.

Fremont Crit:
I woke up Sunday and as usual, kept checking the weather forecast online. Once again it was supposed to start raining late in the day. For this one I planned on doing the Cat 3 race with Wes, Mark and Jordan. When I got to Fremont the crowd was already growing and it looked like it the rain might hold off. This course was a three turn course with a nice little beyond 90 degree corner for turn one. I took a lap on the course and wasn't too worried about it. We were doing 50 minutes and we rolled out at 2:35. After a couple of laps I noticed it was getting darker and the threat of rain grew. About 15 minutes in, the sky started to spit on us. I had to fly out for work the next day and I think I let that get to me a little. I dropped back to mid pack. The rain started falling a little harder but the road was still dry. I held my position at mid pack for a few more laps and then noticed the road was now getting a nice layer of Seattle sunshine on it. As we were coming into turn three an IJM guy lost his wheel for no reason I could see and another guy plowed right into him. I was in good position and knew I was in the clear but I started thinking about fly to the East Coast with nasty road rash on my ass. It started raining harder and some guys were starting to brake too much in turn one. I almost got pushed into the outside railing twice. When the roads finally were full on wet and I had a couple of close calls I pulled over to the side right where my wife was standing between turn one and two and called it quits. Unfortunately I got to watch Jordan, who was off the front crash out of turn one and several others by the time the race was over. I was a little mad at myself but I would make my long flight with no uncomfortable road rash. Lame???, maybe, but there is plenty more racing to go this season and it was only my second DNF.

Tacoma Twilight Crit:
After missing a couple of the crits due to work travel I was back on the bike for Tacoma. The weather was awesome and I was really looking forward to it. Once again, Scott was ready and signed up for the Masters field. Mark and I decided to join him so he would have some comrades for battle. The course was originally setup to be an eight turn course but during the week the promoters decided to change it to a standard 1mile long, 4-corner. There was a slight uphill on the backside and the finish was slightly downhill. We lined up in the sunny, 75 degree weather 70 strong and set out for 40 minutes on a wide open, fast course. There were a lot of 1/2's using our race as a warm up for their Pro/1/2 race later that evening so I knew it was going to be fast. The first several laps were extremely fast but I was feeling good and had no problem working my way up to the front. I had no aspirations of taking primes or winning the race. I just wanted to work on improving my crit skills and hang with the main pack. After about 10 minutes I realized I was feeling really good and found myself at the front of the pack. Two guys took off right before turn two and I decided to go with him. I think my teammates and wife were completely surprised by this move, especially after stating my plans for this race. We managed to stay off the front for about three laps before we were finally brought back. I didn't feel as if I'd burnt any matches so I just stayed near the front. Mark was doing a lot of work up front and was looking good. Scott out been out of commission for a while but was starting to look really comfortable and was riding strong in the upper third of the field. With about 10 minutes to go the pack started to get strung out and we were flying through the turns. Everyone was taking nice lines but for some reason there were a few guys that would come into the turn wide and then dart to the inside, cutting wheels. It forced us to brake when there was no real reason for it. One guy cut into me hard and I almost lost it into the curb but managed to squeak by. He kept doing this and I tried staying out of his way but he always seemed to be near me. The officials started counting down laps and with two to go I made a move on the backstretch and got right on Mark's wheel. Scott was just off my right and we were all looking good for the sprint. I was hoping I could get around Mark and give him a good lead out. As we flew through turn one and two on the final lap I was still sitting pretty. Then, we hit turn three and the same guy made another dangerous move and cut my wheel hard. I had to brake to avoid hitting the curb and it really slowed me down. I lost about 25 spots in a matter of seconds. I got my momentum back and out of turn four I was able to pass about 15 guys and finished strong. All three of us finished in strong with the lead pack and Mark managed to grab 8th place. This was by far my favorite crit of the year and I came out of it with a lot more confidence. Now, lets get back to some big, long, hilly road races.

No comments:

Post a Comment