Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My First Road Racing Podium

Photo credit: Jeremy Cook

The Bellevue and Papillion twilight criteriums were this weekend. Criteriums don't generally play to my strengths if you ask me. They require lots of short, high intensity efforts and good high speed cornering skills. It's not that I'm particularly bad at these things. I just feel like I'm better at longer, less intense events like gravel races and marathon mountain bike races. The cornering thing tends to be a weakness in all of my riding, though I'd say I've seen some considerable improvement in the last couple years.

Last year, at the Bellevue crit, I got dropped pretty early on and ended up being pulled after something like 20 minutes of racing. It's a races with both category 3 and 4 rider racing together so I wasn't too disappointed seeing as how it was my first year as a cat 4. Still, this year my main goal was to not get pulled from the race. I was feeling pretty strong, so I wasn't too worried about getting pulled and it turned out I was able to overcome some early mistakes in the race to make my way back up through the field back to my teammates Jakob and Randleman so we could work together through the rest of the race.

As the leaders of the race lapped us in the final lap, there was some confusion and Stuart Newman had a tire either let go or roll or something a few bike lengths in front of me. There was sharp popping noise like an M80 has been fired off and suddenly Stuart was in the air just about going over his bars and landing on the ground in front of me. I had to brake and drastically change my line to get around him safely with half a lap left. I'm not one to just soft pedal to the end of a race, so I got back up to speed as fast as I could and charged hard past a few more people to roll in for tenth place. There were 27 people racing our race so I was stoked at that result. Jakob and Randleman got 7th and 8th, respectively. I am curious to see where I could have placed had it not been for the crash. But crashing is part of racing so it is what it is.

The next day at Papillion was solely a cat 4 race and there were just under 20 racers pre-registered. I hoped it would be a slightly easier race than Bellevue since it was longer by 10 minutes and made up of only cat 4s. I wasn't going to count on it though. I made sure to warm up really well and line up close to the front. When the whistle sounded I made sure to carefully clip in to my pedal so as not to have to waste a bunch of energy chasing to field if I missed the pedal, and then I took off and slotted into 4th wheel.

The pace wasn't too hard for the first few laps. I considered attacking but though the better of it since there was still a lot of racing left. In lap 5, John Borstelmann made a hard attack and a few of us chased right away. I ended up on his wheel and Jakob yelled that John was my man and let a gap open up between us. I sat of John's wheel for a couple laps, I think, and then decided to start contributing as well to see if we could form a good breakaway. John's pace was high enough that I was having a hard time helping at all and the main bunch ended up catching us. Not too long after that John attacked again, and I tried to go with him again, but I couldn't latch on and ended up in no-man's land. I quickly deduced that I wasn't gaining on John and got back into the group. We chased for a little while. By we, I mean Jakob, Rafal, and I. John had several teammates in the group who were more than content to let us chase. I sat in more than I chased, if I'm honest. I felt that if I did too much work, I would get dropped and I still had aspirations of doing something towards the end of the race.

Hold that wheel! Photo credit: Jeremy Cook

After some time the pace backed off. The three of us weren't bringing John back and so we settled in to an ever so slightly easier pace and listened to the announcement of John's gap getting bigger and bigger. With two laps to go Jakob put in a big effort on the front and I did all I could to hold on to Rafal's wheel. I kept getting gapped off a bit by the high point of the course (I had a 207 bpm heart rate at that point in the last lap!), but the group was using the downhill to recover a bit and I was able to close the small gap back down each time. During the race I was able to figure out the last corner, which has always been a bit of a mystery for me. I was able to use my new-found knowledge and come around that corner in 4th position or so and open up my sprint with some decent momentum. I was surprised to find myself passing everyone and winning the sprint for best of the rest.

Photo credit: Jeremy Cook
What a great weekend of racing bikes! I don't often get a chance to race two days in a row since I don't race on Sundays, so weekends like this one are a real treat. I guess what I said at the beginning of this post isn't quite accurate. I do kinda alright at the short, high intensity racing if I've trained well for it. In the weeks leading up I've been working on some sprinting intervals with minimal recovery, which seems to have paid off really well. I'm going to try and keep doing what I've been doing and see if I can get some good results in cross this year. I just have to figure out that cornering thing. That and remounting my bike without that damned stutter step! I'm stepping into the tubular tire realm this year and Rafal makes it sound like I'll become the next Sven Nys with them, so I've got that going for me, I guess. :)

Next race is the Calvin Crest Crankfest, the final race in the Psycowpath series for the year. Let's see how the cross bike does out there. Rachel and I are going to head out there this Friday so I can pre-ride and try and figure out the trail since it's been over a year since I've made it out that way.