Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bike mercenary

The Idaho state championship crit course is a far cry from the Twilight Criterium. Whereas Twilight is a four corner course in downtown Boise with spectators lining the streets, the state champ course is an eight corner affair that winds through a neighborhood reminiscent of Pleasantville on happy pills, with the only spectators being residents sitting on their front lawns and porches, and in some cases, grilling hamburgers.

The last three of the eight corners are in close succession and form a chicane ending about 75 meters from the finish line. The chicane is too tight and the finishing straight too short to pass, so first guy through the first corner is almost assured of the win.

Alex placed fourth in the Cat. 4 race despite having a guy go into his rear derailleur and being stuck in his 15 cog the last several laps. I have a feeling the bunch sprint would have turned out differently had he been able to shift. Tyler M. from Simply Mac won the race in an impressive breakaway, soloing for 30 of 45 minutes. That means Tyler will probably upgrade to 3 before Tour of Park City. Not sure how I feel about that.

I signed up for Masters 3/4/5 as well as Cat. 3. The races were back-to-back, which had me a little nervous. But in the past when I’ve raced two crits in one day, I’ve done well in the second, though I’ve always had at least an hour between races to recover.

In the Masters race one of the guys from George’s* went off the front on a prime lap. He had a gap so decided to try and make it stick. One of his teammates got on the front to ride tempo but then did the most asinine thing I’ve ever seen, slowing and cutting hard right across the rest of the field. We were fortunate he didn’t wreck the whole bunch. For all I know, he was trying to.

*George’s is one of those huge teams with a bunch of really cool guys and some excellent racers, but a handful whose actions at times make the rest of the team look bad.

A bunch of us yelled at him. Someone (I think from his team) even said “sorry about that—he always rides like a dick.” Then I pulled up next to him, and he started half wheeling me. We went back and forth like that through the chicane, all the while wondering if he would do something else stupid and take me out. I was pissed, so I opened it up on the finishing straight and bridged to his teammate.

Nobody came with me, so the teammate said “let’s work together.” I sat in for a bit to recover before trading pulls for a couple laps. Then I rotated up and raised the tempo to try and increase our gap on the chase. I ended up riding away from him. I was by myself with a decent gap and seven laps to go. I knew there was a chance since I’m from out of state and ineligible for the state championship that they may not chase, so I just rode as hard as I could and hoped for the best.

First lap, still away. Six left. Came around again, and lap counter was still on six. They made us do six to go twice! Five then four then three then two, and I was still away. Bell lap, and I got around turn one with a gap. I got to turn two as the chase was coming around turn one. I thought if I just went hard and was first to the chicane, I could win this. I gave it everything I had.

With about 50 meters to the chicane, I looked back and the field was almost on top of me. I tried to go harder but realized the acceleration just wasn’t there. I got caught 20 meters from the corner. I just sat up and let them come around because I had nothing left.

Somehow I ended up placing sixth even though there were a lot more than five guys that passed me. They were not pulling lapped riders, and quite a few people had fallen off. If lapped traffic was helping chase me down, that’s pretty lame. I can understand not pulling people if you’re trying to encourage participation, but perhaps it should have been made more clear that rejoining the lead group was a no-no. I don’t know—maybe none of them helped, but I don’t think they should have even been in the bunch. At least I won a prime, but finishing sixth sucks when payout is five deep. (Unless they don’t find a sponsor for the category and don’t have a payout at all, which is what happened to Tyler.)

I wasn’t sure I’d even have it in me to line up for the Cat. 3 race, but Alex had a full bottle and a gel ready for me at the start area, so I figured I’d ride until I got popped. The first few laps weren’t too bad, and I was able to recover somewhat. I decided I’d contest the first prime and try to make back my entry fee then call it a day. Steve’s comment about this approach was “Bike mercenary. I like it.”

I got through the chicane first on the prime lap, but Matt H. from Reel Theatre, the guys I used to ride with in Boise, decided to go for it as well. Matt has a good kick (he won the bunch sprint at Twilight the night before), but I had enough of a lead that I held him off by half a wheel. The two of us had a gap, and Matt was saying “let’s go.” But I was thinking about just pulling off the course and laying down in the grass.

The pace the next couple laps was mellow enough that I could sit in, so I kept telling myself I’d just ride until I fell off. I never did. Cam C. from Ski Utah got in a break with Eric D. from Reel and a couple other guys. Cam and I had agreed beforehand that we’d watch out for each other, but Matt covered most of the attacks to help Eric, so all I did was sit in or ride tempo.

By the last lap it was clear the break would stay clear. One guy had tried to bridge and was in no-man’s land. I felt good enough by the end to try for placing and was second of the bunch through the corner and held it for 7th overall.

Even better, though, was seeing the smile on Cam’s face from having taken the win. Way to go, Cam. Too bad you’re not eligible to be state champ.

I have replayed that Masters race over and over in my mind since, wondering if there was something more I could have done. Yes it’s heartbreaking to work that hard for that long alone and get caught that close to the end, but I also know that if I’d had anything at all left, I would have used it. The tank was empty. And yet, for someone who’s not a breakaway rider, who’s not adept at time trialing, to ride someone off my wheel and hold it for eight laps in some ways feels like one of my best results of the season.

Aside from the few people who took too many risks that put themselves and others in danger, it was a great weekend of racing. The spectacle of Twilight is pretty amazing. It’s one of the biggest races in the country, so to have a chance to participate as an amateur is pretty cool. Kurt H., the USA Cycling rep for Idaho, did an excellent job organizing the state champ race on Sunday. He also paid me my primes in cash and thanked me for coming to Idaho to race. And of course it was great to go back to Boise and see and race with old friends.


  1. Glad we could hook up and chat for a bit. Oh man I really thought your move on Sun was going to stick... boy it was close! Maybe if you hadn't have ridden #6 two times :) Great racing though! Fun weekend minus the crashes.

  2. Way cool you stayed away so long, very impressive.

  3. Awesome recap! Still impressive from my POV. P.S. Where can I get info on the different Cats?

  4. 360: You're in Ontario, right? Canada does things a bit differently than we do. Cycling is governed on a provincial basis, so in your case Ontario Cycling Association is the governing body. Four categories instead of five, so you'd start as a Cat. 4. Looks like you need 10 points to upgrade, and points are given 5,4,3,2,1 to the top five finishers. Good luck--if you can handle speedskating, riding in a pack should be piece of cake. At least on bikes you have brakes.

  5. Thanks. It is hard to find info up here unless you are already racing with a team. I will check out the association for sure. Need to train harder however. And brakes? Who needs them.... I can skate almost as fast as I can bike so maybe I will just show up to a crit on my speedskates.