When I lived in Boise, unless we were out of town, there were two events every summer that we made it a point to attend as spectators: the Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium and the Eagle Criterium. Both are four-corner downtown crits, with lots of excitement. And by excitement, I mean crashes.
The crashes in the Eagle criterium were so frequent that it was the exception rather than the rule for any field to finish without at least one crash. Often there was more than one crash. Some of the crashes were really bad, and featured Zipp 404s getting folded in half and racers getting hauled off in ambulances. It was enough to make me swear off of crit racing.
Then I moved to Utah and decided to race crits just to get starts for my 5 to 4 upgrade. Then I discovered that they’re fun and that I’m reasonably good at them. And crashes happen, but not even every race. Just last Friday, UTRider mentioned what good luck I’ve had with road racing, having had crashes happen around me on several occasions but in more than 50 races never actually going down. (You see where this is going, right? I’m being super subtle with the foreshadowing.)
Saturday, teammate Alex K. and I went to Boise to race in the Twilight Criterium. Alex raced in the Cat. 4-5 race, where there were only two crashes, which he avoided, and finished 9th out of 50+. Then I watched as my friend Rob got taken down in the Masters B race. Then I lined up--at this point perhaps a tad nervous--with the combined Cat. 3/Masters A/Pro Women field.
There were a couple crashes, but I managed to avoid them. What I couldn’t avoid was the heat (it was over 100F/38C*). It didn’t help that my bottle of Carbo Rocket bounced out of my cage on the third lap when I hit a manhole cover, so all I had left was the less-than-half full bottle of hot water that was in my other cage.
*I know, I know, I’m supposed to be all metric all the time around here, but I have absolutely no frame of reference for temperatures in Celsius. That whole subtract 32, multiply by 5, divide by 9 thing is just too complicated to do in my head, so I can never get a sense for how a certain nominal temperature feels. On the other hand, I’m going to switch my bike computer to metric, just because I have a much better feel for distance to a finish line and what I can hold in meters than I do in miles. I just need to find the stupid instruction manual so I can learn how to do it…
Heat, crashes, and lack of water notwithstanding, I felt reasonably good, even when I was being elbowed off of a wheel or pushed into a curb just so someone else could move up one position. (Seriously, a lot of those guys seemed to have no fear of crashing and to be quite willing to risk wrecking someone else to get on a wheel I would have let them have without the contact.) TJ from FFKR had gotten into an early break with a guy named Bubba who’s a Cat. 2 masters racer from Nevada and two-time national crit champ. The pace stayed high as we tried to chase them down, but I had no trouble staying in the bunch and towards the front.
On the bell lap, I decided to take the outside line, as I could carry more speed and thought I’d have a cleaner path to the finish. I was probably about 10 or so back, so not ideal placing, but we were three wide, so I thought I could make up ground if I started my kick early. My plan was to go from the last corner and try and hold it to the end.
I never made it to the last corner. One of the Bobs Bicycles guys tried to pedal through turn three, clipped his pedal hard enough to tripod and put his rear wheel into the pro woman next to me. She went down and into Carl from RMCC, who was right in front of me. Carl went down, and I was boxed in with wrecks and had no place to go but into the curb and up on the sidewalk.
I managed to get my front wheel onto the curb, but my rear wheel skidded. I got a foot out, but it slipped, so I went down hard on my gloved hand. Somehow skin never touched pavement. I got back on and rode across the finish to sympathy cheers from a crowd that undoubtedly thought I had been popped off the back. I was 41 of 41 finishers, with the two people who crashed around me among the five DNFs. Bubba got the win. TJ got swallowed up in the bunch sprint.
My hand was a bit sore, but other than that I wasn’t injured. My shifters got dinged up and my downtube got scraped where it hit the curb, but my bike also made it through OK. I was unlucky to be caught in the crash, but lucky to come out of it as well as I did.
I drove for five hours to do this race, so not exactly the result I had in mind. Fortunately, the Idaho State Championship criterium was scheduled for Sunday, so we stuck around to race that as well. Come back tomorrow for a report on the rest of the weekend.