Menlo Park Grand Prix Criterium 45+/55+
The Invisible Man Strikes Again!
By Jim Langley
After surviving three training crits and almost nabbing a podium pie at a fast and slippery (rainy) Cherry Pie Criterium a few weeks back, I thought I was ready for anything, but the Menlo Park Criterium turned into one nerve-wracking e-ticket ride - and not just the racing. My best guess as to why the day got so dangerous is that the nearly 1/2-mile finishing straightaway into a headwind caused a lot of guys in the 80-strong pack to ride safe most of the race waiting to use all their saved energy on the last couple of laps to move up and maybe place or even win.
Of course, this tactic didn't sit very well with the guys who had been at the front all race doing the heavy lifting. This included myself and Russ, with Vladan and Dennis close by and Larry riding strong just back from his broken hip (way to go, Larry!).
Roller Derby, Anyone?
With six turns to negotiate, all on the backside of the course, as the laps clicked by and the boys biding their time in back started getting restless, the Menlo Park Grand Prix became the Menlo Park Demolition Derby. We were bumping bars, throwing elbows, snaking across the road, making dumb-ass moves and even swearing at each other like we were back in high school gym class.
In one of the corners I twice went through leaned over so far, and working so hard to hold the wheel in front that I clipped my pedal. I don't think I've hit a pedal in a corner since I first got into racing and was too young and stupid to know better. But, a lot of the guys were hitting them. And the one crash, which came in that same corner was because the guy hit his pedal, lifting his rear wheel and dumping him on his side, almost taking out Dennis.
Hitting my pedal surprised me, but I ride Look Keo Carbons, not metal pedals, so it was a feeling more than a sound. And, in a strange way it almost felt good because it built my confidence that I could be as crazy as anyone out there and stay vertical and not give up my position no matter how they tried to scare me with their antics.
Also, I had max'd my heart, legs and lungs to stay toward the front all race and I was determined to stick up there all the way to the finish. Every time there was a chance to move up, I took it, sometimes catching free rides behind passing racers, other times going out into the wind to pass when the guys slowed. At one point, I even found myself 4th wheel across the line on a prime lap.
I was hoping this ABMU riding (Always Be Moving Up) would keep me ahead of the other 55s when we came out of the last corner. That way I thought I could use my solid power to motor and, even if they had a better sprint (by "they," I mean Brian Fessenden and the Bobka guy that beat me at Cherry Pie), they wouldn't catch me.
On the last lap things got especially scary in the final corner, everyone trying to thread the needle through impossible gaps to set up their sprint. There were a bunch of fast 45+ guys that shot past and really quickly I went from about tenth to probably thirty fifth place. I knew that nobody could sprint that entire 1/2 mile to the line, so I focused on powering the pedals hard, while holding back just a bit, and trying to find the right wheel to follow at just the right time to setup my sprint. I also desperately looked for the numbers of the 55+ guys I was trying to mark, yet the only person I recognized was Russ, who was ahead and to the left.
But, just then, Vladan came by. 'Perfect,' I thought, and I hollered that I was on his wheel. He towed me up to higher speed and we started gaining ground big time and passing guys who were running out of gas. Vladan then found a gap and accelerated hard to the left. I moved to follow but realized just in time that there was a rider right there, so I punched it as hard as I could straight ahead, narrowly avoided a couple of exhausted guys who sprinted too early and then sat up and almost stopped me, and I had a good, solid lunge to the line.
Mac Carey Gets Me Again
As I crossed the line, I looked over and saw Team Taleo's neon green and recognized Mac Carey, another 55+er, and the only guy who beat me at San Bruno. I couldn't actually tell if he had taken me or vice-versa, but it seemed to me it had to have been very close. And, either way, finishing near Mac was a good sign of a solid finish.
I found Dennis, who was pretty sure he had won a prime, and we went over to my car since we'd driven up together. We changed clothes, ate something and headed for the podium to check the results. Our timing was perfect, as they were calling the guys up. We knew we didn't put anyone on the 45+ podium but we were pretty sure I made the top 5, and I had my Bike Trip jacket on and was ready to get up there.
I Become The Invisible Man - Again
Our happy anticipation was soon dashed as we watched them call five guys up, including the winner Mac Carey! I couldn't believe it. How could I finish right next to the guy and not make the podium?! Dennis and I checked the results sheet, and immediately found the problem. Once again (this happened at Cherry Pie, too), they had me as a DNF (Did Not Finish). They DID have a no-name rider in 26th place, and that rider finished with Mac Carey, but once again they hadn't gotten my number and so didn't have me in the results.
Frustrated and feeling cheated, I jogged down to the finish line to talk to the chief ref and found out that they had already figured out that I was second in the race. And, they had already fixed the results too. But, when they had done the podium awards they did them with the earlier and incorrect results. [Important note to self: next race you will hang around at the finish line and make sure your name is on the results before you do anything else!]
So, the bad news is that I didn't get any goodies for all my hard work to ride at the front, and for surviving all the sketchy riding. And, though I came close to winning and did better than at Cherry Pie, I still didn't win. Plus, the results snafu also means I didn't get the Bicycle Trip onto the podium.
Ultimately, though, the results will show that a Bike Tripper took second in the 55+ - and the guys who thought they got 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th will unfortunately realize that the Invisible Man has struck again.
PS: Big thanks to Vladan and Russ for helping me finish so strong, and a pat on the back to Dennis for his prime win and to Larry for his super-strong comeback effort!