I was not planning on racing this one initially. Based on the weather we have had this Spring I was pretty sure it would rain every weekend until after the 4th of July and I was not going to touch that course if it even looked like it might rain. I still don't consider myself a "Crit Guy" although I've been getting better results recently and am actually starting to like them. Shhhh!, don't tell anyone. Still, the thought of racing this one on the bricks, in the rain was not somthing I wanted to do. I figured I would just race the State TT Championship on Sunday and call it good. As the week approached the weather started looking OK for Saturday. As the days moved forward I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that the forcast was calling for clear skys and temps pushing 80 degrees by Saturday afternoon!! Change of plans. Ballard Crit in, State TT Championships out.
For those that haven't competed in this race or watched the action from the sidelines here is a brief discription of the course.
4 courner, 1K, all left turn course right in the heart of the Old Ballard. There are bricks (or cobbles if you want to sound Euro) lining the start/finish section along with both turns one and four. Turn one has one BIG hole in it I that you want to avoid. After a 1 block downhill section you hit turn 2, which looks sketchy with different road surfaces separated by large grooves but it actually isn't too bad. It flows into the fastest section on the course(mainly because of the tailwind helping to push us forward). Turn 3 had one big raised manhole cover that you could handle but might as well pick a different line if possible. It then runs slightly uphill for a block and into turn four which is the the easiest corner on the course. After that it is a straight shot into the wind to the start/finish.
It was easy to jump out of bed Saturday morning. It was clear, warm and the birds were making happy sounds. I wasn't racing until late afternoon/early evening so I had a long time before I had to head out the door. It was super hard to keep myself from wanting to do some much needed yard work or anything else outside for that matter. I knew any activity in this strange, warm weather could completely sap my engergy so I had to force myself to lay low. We did leave the house plenty early so we could grab a good spot to park and watch some of the early races. Denise and I managed to get there in time to watch Tina take 4th in the Womens' 4 race and the crash fest that was the Men's 4/5 race! Luckily my teammates in that field managaged to avoid all the mishaps and finish strong with the rubber side down.
I've heard someone say that this crit has more bars/taverns dotting the course than any other crit. If it's not, then it has to be in the top 5. That, along with the hot weather and good racing brought out race fans and locals in mass and the bars and sidewalks were packed. It makes you feel PRO!
I was signed up for the Masters 35+ field. I thought it going to be for upper catagories only but when I checked the site for start times Saturday morning I noticed that it was listed as 35+ OPEN! I never noticed that. I'm guessing it was set that way because the 4/5 field filled up early on and those that missed and were of age could move over and fill our field. It almost caused me to change my mind and race in the Pro/1/2 field but......
I decided that I would sacrifice some warm up time to get to the start/finish early so I could get a spot in the front row. I didn't want to come into turn one around any sketchy riders. Aparently everyone else thought the same thing and we were literally touching bars all the way across the road...Could be an interesting start. The horn blew and as we wound up and hit the first turn all was good. The attacks started right away. A few guys got a slight gap as we hit the back stretch for the first time. After a lap or so they were brought back and another attack was launched right away. I think Martin(Farestart) who may have been in the first one, took off and I saw Matt(Garage)and Erik(Cucina) jump on so I decided to go with them. That lasted for a lap or so as well. I heard that guys started popping off the back two laps in! This is going to be a fast one!! After we were brought back I was feeling really good so I just slotted back in and stayed near the front. This was my first time racing Ballard and it took me a few laps to get my lines figured out. I hit the raised manhole cover a couple of times in turn three and I think Alex(Garage) was behind me and told me to start my turn a little wider. Prolem solved.
We were now into the blood and guts of the race, that middle 25 to 30 minutes when you find out what you have. Garage and KR had good numbers in the field and seemed motivated and kept pushing the pace. I never know what's going on behind me but I guess we were dropping guys like flies. We were pretty strung out the whole time except everytime we hit turn one. If there were going to be problems I figured that was where it could happen. We hit the backstretch and I decided I was going to move up to and position myself near the top 5 or so. As I accelerated up I felt a sharp pain in my right side. WTF!! I'd never had a side cramp in a race before! I grabbed my bottle and took a several big swigs. Hopefully it would go away in a couple of laps. I started focusing on it and didn't notice that I was slowly moving in the wrong direction. Before I knew it I had moved from about 5th wheel all the way down to about 40th. SHIT!! When we came by the start/finish the clock was turned off and the lap board showed eight laps.(I think) I had to move up now! My right side was really killing me! I got out of the saddle and sprinted as hard as I could and managed to move up a bit before turn one. I found myself on my teammate's(Scott)wheel. I know he likes to slowly pick off riders and gradually move up in the 2nd half of a crit so I was hoping to just sit in his slipstream and move up with him. It was harder then I thought. Six laps to go! My side was hurting so bad I wanted to quit. I willed myself to hang on with the pack for another lap. Five laps to go! I was focusing on the pain so much that I didn't even know that a few guys had moved off the front. As we entered the final laps of the race the pace really picked up. We reached the final three laps and, just like that, the pain was gone. I was feeling good again but with only a few laps to go the effort to move up was going to be super hard. I kept inching my way past riders but I was running out of time. OK, it is now or never!! I decided to go all out on the backstretch and then push my all the way through to turn one. I'm not sure exactly when it was but I think it was when we were coming into turn 3 just before the final lap. I had moved up and was feeling ready to put in the extra effort I needed to move up when all of a sudden a pedal hits the ground right in front of me, Shit!! No one went down but I had to alter my line through the turn and lost my momentum. I had to get out of the saddle and really punch it. Unfortunately, so did everyone else and all I really did was move up a couple of spots. The last lap was super fast and now it was all I could do to hold my current position(which was about 45th wheel now) I came out of turn 4 and still had good legs so I gassed it hard to salvage what I could, which turned out to be 34th. I was a little bummed but that is how racing goes. I had about a six minute stint where I felt like shit and that was all it took. No one crashed and apparently 1/3 of our field DNF'd so I guess I should be happy that I finished with the pack. It was my first time racing this course and I learned a lot. It was a fast, fun and hard race.
Congrats to Andrew Martin from Bikesale who was able to just stay off the front to grab the win. Now it was time to grab a beer....or two and enjoy the evening races.
Here is a great video by "Ride it Like You Stole It" of our race.