Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Menlo Park Grand Prix, 35+ 1/2/3, 7/22/2012

By Dennis Pedersen 

Executive summary: I raced in the 35+ 1/2/3 race. It was too fast for me.

This was their 7th annual race, and I have been to five of them. But the race was always early in the season and prone to nasty crashes because people are testing out their winter training or something, plus the course is often 6 or 8 turns. So I have skipped the last couple of years. I recently hired a coach, though, and he recommended I race more, so racing I went.

I watched Vlada in the 45+ 1/2/3 race earlier, and that race had a successful break with several chase groups. The moderate wind and 6-turn course can encourage guys to break away, and I thought that might happen in my race too so I was determined to follow any breaks. I also watched Michele Heaton win the women's District Championship for her age group, so don't be surprised to see her in a California jersey soon!

Speaking of women racers: Alison Tetrick, who you may have seen in those TV ads with Bob Roll, was in our race, along with over 50 dudes. The race started quite fast after a lap or two. When I heard a bell announcing our the first prime sprint, I considered trying for it. A SJBC rider went off the front, then a few others chased. I drafted them for a while, then sat up when I considered how hard I'd have to work to grab the win. It was hard enough already!

I did a good job of staying near the front for almost the entire race, and a couple of times I did a short bridge up to small breaks. I thought one with about six of us would stay away, but it didn't for long. I was told our race averaged 30 MPH, which I doubt; still it was quite fast.

Near the end I was still forward, but the pace was so high I was nervous I'd blow up completely. I felt really good, but even when drafting was at my limit on the last lap or two. Then the SJBC guys who were pulling at the front slowed down and we all got swarmed. So I ended up getting squeezed back. But going around seemed impossible, so I stayed tucked into the pack.

I did get to practice my sprint anyway as the pack disintegrated on the last lap, giving me lots of room to take 27th. Oh well, at least nobody crashed. The winner was Dean Laberge, wearing his National Championship jersey. He is also the California Champion... it must be rough having to decide which Championship jersey to wear.

What did I learn? While my fitness is good, I have noticed that I have a tendency to drop back a hair when I have guys on both sides of me, almost knocking bars together. Especially when we have a turn coming up. I really need to learn to hold my place in the pack; it's actually more dangerous to drop back than to maintain my place, bars-to-bars with the other riders. Let's see if I can apply what I learned next time!

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