Thursday, May 21, 2009

Third wheel

Last night at the DMV crit I got there early enough that I ended up doing some warm up laps with the A flight. This was a completely new experience for me, but I made the most of it and even led a lap or two.

I had no idea I could make it up the West Valley Wall that fast. In the end I finished with the pack but was out of contention for the sprint. No big surprise there given that I weigh significantly more than the real contenders who were just flying up that final climb. Still, I was pretty amazed at what I could do in that environment, though I doubt I’ll be in the A flight again anytime soon.

When the C flight rolled out—back where I really belong—I still felt good, but luck was not with me. After the very first lap, I was flat yet again.

After a quick tube change, I jumped back in as the group came around, but I was unsure whether my result would count since the official had said when I pulled out that there was no free lap.

Best bet at this point was to help Steve get a good result. He was riding strong, and the course suits him. He corners so well. I know I have it in me to corner like that, but the confidence just isn’t there when it counts and inevitably the brakes get touched, even just a little bit.

With three laps to go, four riders remained in the C flight. We traded positions as we went, and on the second last lap, I pulled into the front. I led up the hill, around the parking lot at the top, and back down. Then on the second corner, Steve flew past me. I did my best to block to allow a gap to open up. One other racer managed to get by, so I sped up again and raced for the finish.

Steve had enough of a gap that nobody could catch him and got the win. I ended up in third.

And that’s pretty much how the evening went down—from the perspective of my rear wheel, at least. In reality, there’s no way they’d let me jump in the A flight, especially not as a warmup. But partway through, the Samurai had a flat, so I gave him my wheel so he could finish. I noticed that not only is Jared about 15% lighter than I am, his wheels weigh about 40% less than mine do. I’m getting a case of upgradeitis that’s making me want to spend what I did on my entire bike just on a new set of wheels.

All in all, I’m mostly happy with the night. When we checked in with the official to report results, I told him I got third but had taken a lap with a flat. He said “that doesn’t matter” and still gave me credit for third. Had I known that would be the case, I’d maybe have been a bit more selfish on that final lap and certainly chased hard for second. Either way, it was nice to see Steve take the win. He rode strong throughout and certainly deserved it. In his first attempt at the DMV course, no less.


  1. Congrats, Steve! And good tactics, Mark!

    Maybe this will put a damper on your wheel-lust: At the RMR crit on the oval last year there was a long tire-eater crack that a few unlucky riders fell into. Amazingly no one crashed as a result, but one poor guy had his brand new carbon wheels all chewed up from it. Worse, he'd borrowed those wheels from a friend.

  2. Thanks, Kris. Yes, I know the reasons not to lust for new wheels. Your example is a good one. The Zipp 808 I saw folded in half at a crit last year is another. Nevertheless, I can't get them out of my head.

  3. Steve is on a roll. He wins the crit, and then came through when it really mattered: the spring to the top of the the alpine loop this morning.

  4. Kris is right, Mark's tactics worked out perfectly, especially considering that it was all done on the fly.

    Aaron, the real highlight was the Alpine Loop due to the talent level present.

    Mark, I too haven't been able to stop thinking about the amazing lightness of that rear wheel. It is so hard to be logical when it comes to cycling equipment.

  5. Wait, so did your rear tire flat while you were racing? . . . If so, um, sorry.