Monday, August 30, 2010

NCNCA District Championship Criterium 1/2/3

What a change from last year. The Vacaville Grand Prix is a technical asymmetrical figure-8 of a course with little chance of respite: one of the loops is a rapid succession of left-right-right-right-left, the other has a short climb that proves to be the doom of many a racer. Last year, as a Cat 3, I felt extremely capable on this course, using the hill to gain position, and placing a solid 5th (which would have been 4th had I sprinted for the finish line instead of the crosswalk immediately before it--oops). This year, I raced the championships 1/2/3 field (read: you get a fancy jersey if you win), and it was something else entirely. Notes follow:

First: 120 starters. I've never ridden a crit with more than 75 starters. Holding and gaining position in a larger race with more experienced racers, with lots at stake would be a special kind of challenge for me...sort of like trying to move a brick wall by running into it at high speeds. (Or a golf cart, but more on that later.) Second: An incredibly strong fielding by a team sponsored by a certain inferior search engine whose name shall remain anonymous. Third: End of season legs. I've been in a fitness slough since mid-August, and those long autumn rides with apple pie stops are looking mighty fun right about now.

I get to the line a bit late and end up towards the back, but that's OK. In a moment of absolute pro-ness, a bunch of people tried to start early. To the dismay of those of us who knew better, they weren't relegated to the back nor were they asked to replace their helmets with dunce caps. Alas. Soon, the whistle blows, and we're off.

With the exception of a few moments of easing up, the race went from hard to harder to "%@#! my legs are not happy today" levels of unpleasantness. I remember thinking about my great plans to use the climb to gain position, and realizing with almost a sense of amusement the ludicrousness of this strategy in the 1/2/3 field. It was challenging to just stay attached--with each lap, a few more riders met the end of their race on this somewhat innocent looking 30-second effort.

With 13 laps to go out of 33, I became one of them. I went into desperation TT mode and attempted to catch back on, but realized my efforts were in vain. I pedaled through another lap and then heard the "you're pulled" whistle of sweet, sweet release. I ended up placed at 66th, and was even surprised to see a number next to my name instead of a "DN[PF]".

A few random notes:
* Golf carts in the exiting line of a corner turn bike racers into veritable ninjas.
* Lessons learned: Perhaps I spent too much effort initially trying to move up. I should have waited for attrition to shrink the field before working on positioning.
* Thanks to the anonymous rider who gave me a half-bottle of that delicious Clif sports drink. I'll pay that one forward.


Dennis the Mennis said...

Sounds like a cool course... with the right group! Great to see you having "fun" out there!

Jim Langley said...

Great report, Nils! Loved it.