Post-Death Ride last week Saturday, everything kind of went on hiatus: the biking and the blog about biking. I wasn’t really feeling myself that week and a few other things came up here and there, so I decided to take a week off the bike, rest up and prepare to tackle the last part of the season in force. Interestingly, when I first planned out my workout calendar in January, last week was marked as completely off the bike – call me psychic. While I was enjoying my rest, I knew I had two races coming up this weekend, Colavita Grand Prix on Saturday, followed by Berkley Bike Club Crit on Sunday. Here’s how it all went down.
Colavita Grand Prix
This is my team’s race, so it felt very good to be out there sporting team colors, even though I didn’t know how my body would behave after a week off the bike. The race is held in a business park, so the roads are pristine and sharp corners almost nonexistent. The loop runs 1.1 miles long with a slight incline on the backside, followed by a left-hand turn into a slightly downhill finish. I looked at the roster of registered riders in my field, and Dolce Vita was the team with the most numbers. I had a feeling they would be banking on that to make something happen. Not having any teammates in the race, my plan was to stay out of the wind, move up near the front toward the second half of the race, watch any moves by Dolces (because I figured if any stuck it would be those) and try to get on their train in the few final laps.
The whistle blew and we were off. The pace did not start out too fast and sort of oscillated throughout the race because there was a lack of people who wanted to drive the pace high, despite the fact that there were a few teams fairly well represented. The few times that someone did turn it up, the peloton would stretch out, especially coming over the backside bump and into the final corner.
As the race was progressing, I felt great and was executing my plan perfectly. With about 15 minutes left in the race, I was near the front, watching moves and making sure I didn’t get swallowed up in the field. With about four to go, I noticed that Dolces were getting organized, which meant I needed to be as close to the nose as possible without being in the wind, so I could board the Dolce express when it materialized.
With three laps to go, they lined up all the men they had in the race (five I think) and began a massive leadout. There was one other guy between me and the train, so I was sitting in seventh place, getting a tow to the line, knowing that in theory four of the five Dolces would fall off and it would be just their sprinter and the guy ahead of me.
As we made it around one more time, I realized that things were not going to be that easy – only three Dolces left on the front, which meant they went too early. Indeed, by the time we reached the backside on bell lap, they were all done, the pace was dying and I was about to get swallowed up as no one was putting in any serious digs. A couple of guys went flying up the road and I realized that if I didn’t make a move then, there is no way I’d have a clear shot at the finish line. I attacked to catch some of the guys up the road from me, but ran out of room before I had to turn. I took the hottest corner I’ve taken in a crit all year and made a mad dash for the line. Another fifty meters, and I would have had a few more places, but had to settle for 10th.
I think the biggest mistake I made was hesitating after the Dolce train came to a “halt.” In hindsight, I should have taken a flyer half way through the final lap and drilled it to the finish line. The legs felt very good and fresh that day, so while I doubt the field would have let me escape, the pace may have been high enough to prevent too many people from sprinting around me. Race and learn!
Berkley Bike Club Criterium
Before I even begin to talk about how this race went, I have some very important advice for my fellow cyclists: Partying until almost two in the morning, and consuming things such as borsch (it was a Russian food party), stuffed cabbage leaves, veal dumplings, potato salad, a whole lot of pickled stuff and three or four types of dessert (the last of which I consumed around 1a.m.) and quite a few glasses of Chimay to wash it all down does absolutely nothing for your crit racing the next morning.
I barely woke up at six, got myself together and dragged myself to the race. Fortunately, everything was still in the car from the day before. I figured that I already registered and since there was a good chance I’d do absolutely nothing that day, going out to suffer for an hour would get rid of some of the guilt. Luckily, the race was only 30 minutes away and I started at 9. During warmup, my legs felt good, but my stomach was letting me know it was really pissed at me.
About 65 of us came to the line. The course was very short (.6 miles), the shortest crit course I raced all year, and it wasn’t very technical, with only four corners, all of them right-handers. After turning corner two there is a very short ramp that flattens out and turns into a downhill after turn three. The plan for the race was much simpler than the day before – survive!
The whistle blew and I started in the back of the field. The first lap felt like someone just floored a gas pedal in a Porche and I was trapped in whatever little trunk that car has. After about three or four laps I felt like was going to puke, so I just hung out in the back of the pack and moved up a bit as people were doing attacks in reverse on the uphill portion of the course.
After about 20 minutes of this, my stomach began to feel better - I no longer had the taste of last night’s dinner in my mouth - and I decided it was time to move myself up in the field a bit. With very short straights, relatively narrow roads and a full pack, this was much harder to do than I anticipated, though I did manage to drag myself to about the front third of the pack.
The pace remained relatively high for most of the race, which made it even more difficult to move up, as that required hard efforts and my body didn’t really agree with burst efforts that morning.
With five to go, I was still sitting about a third back and figured I’d just ride it out. I had no business being anywhere near the front of that field, but I was happy that I came out, rode hard (I’d say “raced,” but I don’t really think I was very competitive in that one), didn’t get dropped like about a fourth of the field, and somehow ended up in the top 50 percent of finishers. I certainly hope that most of those who finished behind me had an even wilder Saturday than I did.
It wasn’t much of a race for me, but it’s still fun to write about.