By Ed Price
I raced the Northern California/Nevada District Criterium Championships held on September 1st, 2013 at an industrial park in Pleasanton in the 55-59 age group. I was the last "official" finisher in 18th place, out of around 30 who started the race.
On Saturday, I decided to race the District Criterium Championships the following day. Pleasanton is a short drive and my race (55-59) started late morning (11:00 am). Because I missed the Dunningan Hills and San Ardo road races in mid-August with a nasty flu, it was my last shot at racing this year.
This was the same course used two years ago for the district criterium championships, although back then the race was held in early May instead of early September. What a difference 16 weeks makes on attendance. When the race was held in early May, my field hit the 100-man limit, but this time there were only around 30 riders. The course was a .very fast 0.9 mile, clockwise, three corner affair with wide roads, and excellent pavement.
My training was going reasonably well in June and July, I was pointing for the Dunningan Hills RR and the San Ardo RR in mid August when a nasty flu hit me hard a few days before Dunningan Hills. I haven't missed Dunningan Hills in seven years or San Ardo in 18 years, but I missed both of them this year.
This left only a few weeks to regain some strength and even though I wasn't even close to being at my best, I went anyway.
My race was a 50 minute timed effort. Lapped riders would be pulled. I was hoping to make it to the 15 or 20 minute mark before being pulled. Then I saw Larry Nolan at the starting line and my confidence fell like a lead balloon, heck I might last only ten minutes.
The race started fast but quickly settled down to a manageable 24 to 25 miles per hour average. Larry Nolan was at the back of the race reminiscing with me about the good old days of cycling. We chatted and laughed and commiserated until someone in the peleton told us to "put a sock in it" because they were losing their concentration.
Maybe Larry Nolan was not in shape, or over-trained, or under-trained, or, as it turned out, simply waiting for one decisive, all-out attack to the finish. I was feeling OK at 10 minutes, at 15 minutes, at 20 minutes and even at 25 minutes. I thought I might make it the whole way.
However, right around the 30 minute mark, Larry Nolan attacked from the very back of the group. I was right there, in perfect position to take his wheel, which I did, for about two seconds! Then he was gone, up the road and gaining distance with every pedal stroke. First, the pack strung out in a long single file as everyone tried to grab Larry's wheel, to no avail, then gaps started to open up. I found myself on a wheel that was gaped, went around but couldn't get back to the main group.
I had 20 minutes to avoid being lapped or I would be pulled from the race. I rode as hard as I could with two other riders until they dropped off, and then rode on alone. I was still averaging around 24 to 25 miles per hour when Larry Nolan lapped me so fast I couldn't believe it, he was riding 30 miles per hour and didn't look like he was slowing in the least.
The main field caught me at minute 42 and I was pulled from the race with eight minutes to go. Larry Nolan eventually caught the field, rode right by them, and no one could grab his wheel. He averaged 29.7 miles per hour for the last 20 minutes of the race. The guy is in a different class that the rest of us and I am thankful he didn't decide to attack from the start or my race would have been a very short affair.