Sunday, July 5, 2009

2009 SLO Race Weekend (Elite 3)

Camp SLO Road Race

The road race on Saturday was a hard, technical, but very fun course: 60 miles with ~5,400 feet of climbing with the wind at your back and a vicious headwind on the flats and the questionably-paved descent. Really fun once you got used to the cattle guards and patches of gravel, actually.

The 3s were a large field, and I'd gotten wind to stay towards the front through the narrow corners to keep the speed up. (Soon enough, that wouldn't be an issue.) The course started with a tailwind, and with a series of fast corners. Then the climb, which climb starts gently—almost as a false flat—but soon turns into a short steep power climb. After you crest the climb, it's a fast but frequently pedaling descent into the flats.

The field stayed together on the first of 9 laps, but I had a feeling that attrition + tempo on the climb + keeping tempo on the descent would thin the group out. And thin the group it did, even better than I'd expected. I was feeling good, and with four laps to go, I was in a group of about 12 riders chasing down an early break.

With two laps to go, we'd shed all but 6 riders. We were not gaining ground on the three powerhouses off the front—in fact with one lap to go, they'd put another minute into us. On the last lap, two riders tried to escape on the descent. They looked serious; I knew I'd have to reel them in at whatever cost, or I'd be racing for 6th instead of 4th.

The six of us are back together, wondering who'd take the bunch sprint. I knew I had a pretty good chance. The finish was about 600m (?) after a right turn...the tension was heating up, the front guy jumps, I hold his wheel, one guy from REMAX goes hard on the left a bit early. I react but it's too late. I close the gap down to half a bike-length, but he takes 4th and me 5th! Nicely done.

A huge thank-you goes to Thad, who kept me hydrated in the feed zone after his race. You're awesome!

Downtown Crit / SCNCA Championships / Advanced Skills Clinic

What do you get when you combine a championship race, a slightly technical course which narrows in spots, and a dash of Southern California aggression?

a) A peloton trying to go through corners six deep
b) Absolute pandemonium
c) A mine field of bicycle parts
d) Excessive profanity at a fun-for-the-whole-family event
e) All of the above

For the record, this was a rhetorical question.

To sum it up, I flatted on the last lap. Very fun when you start going into a corner and realize your rear tire has no air whatsoever. I put my hand up, called it, and rolled safely off the course (good thing I was on the outside). In most situations, I'd be pretty frustrated; in this context, I was relieved. I'd spent the first 20 minutes attacking, keeping the pace high, and desperately trying to shake off some of the group to no avail. Everyone else who shared my intentions seemingly also let up around then... and that's when the fun began.

Here's a summary of the excitement, not necessarily in chronological order:
  • People were trying to move up in a super narrow spot where the course passed through Mission San Luis Obispo. Hard to notice the scenery when you're rubbing elbows.
  • After the narrow chicane, the course widens out... except for a nasty little wheelchair ramp that juts out on the left. It's really fun when the riders in front of you try to move up on the left, subsequently run out of space due to aforementioned ramp. It's even more fun when they move right INTO THE RIDER next to them. I saw it happening with enough time, adjusted my line accordingly, and made it through with a rider rolling within inches of my wheels. Fun times.
  • This is the really good one: 90° right turn coming out of an uphill (i.e. EASY). The field bunches up especially bad this time around. I'm maybe one or two wheels from the outside, but the guy inside me decides to swing into me. We rub elbows and he pushes me into the guy on my outside. That guy starts hollering at me (he didn't know I'd been pushed)... we're locked against each other through the turn. Somehow I push him off me, but he goes into the barriers. Holy crap. I heard he wasn't hurt too badly, but I was really shaken up and had lost most of my desire to race.
Anyhow... fun weekend overall, but I don't think I'll be doing any crits in the near future.

1 comment:

Dennis the Mennis said...

Yikes, it can get scary out there. Glad you stayed rubber-side-down!