Monday, April 15, 2013

Santa Cruz Classic Criterium XLV, 45+ 1/2/3, 4/14/2013

By Dennis Pedersen

I never feel too optimistic about this technical race in my home town, but I do enjoy it anyway! Now in its 45th year, and my 9th try, I know the 9-turn course on Santa Cruz's historic Beach Hill like no other; it is not a sprinter's course at all with its hairpin, many turns, hills and wind.

I always try to get my wife, family and friends to come out to spectate and this year I succeeded again. It is truly cool to have people yell your name from the side of the course as you suffer through yet another attack from those crazies up ahead!

I just knew I had to stay near the front and never, ever get stuck behind somebody who would allow a gap to open ahead of him. On the very first lap I executed to that plan and moved all the way to the front of the pack. Then as they ramped up the speed I ducked in behind the leaders to start my survival game.

It sure felt fast, as always; our average speed was over 26 MPH (assuming 20 laps, each 9/10ths of a mile, in 40 minutes). Several times I was close to giving up but then I'd get a few short breaths to recover and feel like I could eke out another lap. A few laps I had to let the leaders pull away so I could recover, but every time I managed to find the strength, and openings in the pack, to move back to the front.

Unbeknownst to me Larry Nolan and a guy from PrimeTime somehow managed to pull away from everybody for several laps.  Mind-boggling. Anyway, their teammates blocked for a while (one of them aggressively, I'm told) but Larry dropped him later on and was holding a nice lead over us, barely.

Well, I was getting a bit weak, and on the last lap I tried unsuccessfully to move ahead... it's hard to steer safely when you're cross-eyed from effort. Max Mack nearly came to an unpleasant end in the gutter just before the hairpin, but I don't think anybody ever crashed in our race. One side of me kept trying to advance while the other side of me kept advising to keep 1% in reserve for the sprint. It never seems to work here and I was still a ways back, maybe 20th as we rounded the final turn.

But I did see Larry win up ahead, just ahead of Patrick Briggs and Steve Heaton, just as I finished, feeling surprisingly strong, in 16th place, so for me it was a personal success! Even better was cheering on Nils and others in the Pro/1/2 race, and getting together with friends afterward and celebrating another gorgeous day of racing.

A journalist wrote a nice race article in the Sentinel too (I'm in photo #2). And Margaret took a bunch of photos that I have saved to a Snapfish album.

I guess I'll be back next year!


George Janour said...

nice work dennis!

Dennis the Mennis said...

You too, George... awesome to see you attack with gusto!