Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Changing It Up - Pavement Racing

Last weekend was the Auburn Omnium which consisted of a circuit race on Saturday and a criterium on Sunday.  Don't ask me what the difference is between the two, I couldn't tell ya.  But since we were out there timing the events with TimeYourRace I figured I'd give racing the skinny tires a try.

The last (and only!) road race I entered was five or six years ago.  Since USAC won't transfer any of my MTB rankings over to road categories, I'm still just a Cat 5.  I just never got into it because if I didn't have a MTB race to attend, going for a long training ride on the dirt always seemed better than paying for a short road race.  Anyways... we had help in Jen's parent's and our friend Kris Morin to fill in for me watching Logan and helping run the event, so I suited up in fluorescent yellow and got to the line.

The course was about a mile and a half with two good climbs.  I jumped right to the front from the start and pulled the group around for a couple laps.  Then dropped the hammer for a few minutes to break away.
Since this was a "rest week" for me with about half the volume and no intensity, it was nice to test out the legs a little.  
But going hard enough to stay away from the group for the rest of the race was going to be too much too soon, I eased up to get caught and would wait for the last lap.  Funny thing is... I never once saw the lap cards where they were positioned, and nobody rang the bell for us to signify the final lap, I didn't get my opportunity to give that final push.  We were supposed to race for 30 minutes and I was watching the clock on my Garmin, so as we went up the final climb at just over 27 minutes, I was sitting up and happy to get pulled up to the leader about 30 yards ahead but a guy who seemed to be working really hard and I couldn't figure out why.  Until we rolled across the line and the USAC officials said we're done.  So I finished 3rd. I asked if they rang a bell for us and nobody seemed to know what I was talking about.  Hmmm... Oh well, it's a two day event, and I learned a couple things.  Back to work...

Day two was the Auburn Downtown Crit.  The course was awesome with a long start/finish straightaway and up a short climb to the top of the hill.  A u-turn under the railroad tracks and then a gradual climb on the back stretch to an old pot-holed bridge over those same railroad tracks.  Then a fun descent where you pick up speed quickly three 90 degree corners... left, then right, then another right before back to the finish stretch in downtown.  

When the gun went off I was at the front again but realized I probably should have had more than just a bucket of coffee and a banana for breakfast!  Oh well.

I pulled the group on the back stretch at about 23mph before one of the host shop (Victory Velo) riders went to the front for the first downhill.  He took the corners well and then I was back at the front on the start climb for another lap.  We did this dance for a few laps before someone else decided to lead on the back stretch at 19mph.  I sat in and attacked before the bridge, and hammered the downhill.  I wasn't too comfortable with the oil stains on the pavement on entry to each corner, but the bike always felt solid.  A little gap formed when I did that but I figured that mixing it up was kind of fun instead of trying to ride by myself which I do all the time.  I just wish there was a bigger group since there was only three of us at the front.  

I made sure to ignore my Garmin clock and pay attention to the lap cards for this race and when the final lap came I went to the front.  We slowly made the turn to the back stretch and I was wondering if someone might jump early.  Nope.  Half way there I picked up the pace and listened for any shifting behind me.  I hammered over the bridge and down the hill, carrying good speed through the first left.  I could see a lapped rider ahead just entering the next turn and I hoped he wouldn't be in the way.  By the last corner I was starting to stretch a small gap but I had to let up for that lapped rider, catching him right before the apex of the turn.  I waited to see his exit route and decided that since there was enough room, I could carry the most speed on the outside to go around.  That also gave me the opportunity to look back and see where the other guys were.  They went to the inside and were already sprinting so I set my sights on the finish line as well and made it there first.  Cool!

I definitely had a fun time trying something different, playing strategy games and mixing it up with guys.  Maybe I'll do a few more... but now back to the dirt...

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