|This picture has absolutely nothing to do with the race this weekend. I'm lame and forgot my camera. Sorry. I just like the photo. This is Luke giving me my pep talk before the Umpqua Crit last year.|
I almost always start getting ready for a race the day before. Usually with cleaning my bike. Inspecting my race wheels. Getting my race bag organized for the following day. And really this race was no different than any other. I did all those things. In fact I was feeling pretty happy about getting everything done and laid out the day before. This is always nice when I have a morning race so that I can sleep in as much as humanly possible (Cuz I'm lazy and such.)
So when I woke up the next morning I was feeling good. I had a sensible breakfast and grabbed a double shot of espresso on the way to the freeway. And as I was headed south I was listening to old Two Johns Podcast episodes (They are by far the most entertaining and enduring cycling related podcast out there. Highly recommended.) All was right with the world. Until...
UN- FREAKING- BELIEVABLE.
Another flat tire on my car!
This time it was the front passenger side that flatted (Just FYI. This is a completely different set of tires than what was on the last time this happened. Those tires were my studded snow tires). And when a tire goes flat at 75 (I mean, 65. Yeah, 65 mph...) mph bad things happen. It actually tread started to delaminate from the sidewall. Luckily I was in the slow lane and the shoulder was nice and wide just north of the Junction City exit. So I pulled over quickly, accessed the damage and got to work.
I think I maybe able to start a new career as a pit crew member for a car race team if this whole bicycle racing thing doesn't work out. Because the whole change only took me about 5 minutes (With the pathetic tools they give you with the car.). The biggest issue was weather I could make it to the crit in time to have at least a little warm up only going 50 mph (The maximum speed rating for a "donut" spare.) And let me tell you. Going 55 (I mean 50...) on the freeway feels like you're standing still. I swear I think I got passed by an old granny in a walker. I was going half the speed of smell. It was ridiculous. But I eventually made it to the race with about 35 minutes to spare.
I rolled up to the start tent, paid my money to race around in a circle and got to warming up. To my pleasant surprise I had several teammates there. Mike, Win, and Kenny. This was Win and Kenny's first crit race so it was great to see them out there. I personally think that the course that's used (All the crit races in Eugene are held on the same industrial park loop area at the end of the Belt line.) is one of the safest to learn on. Good pavement, three lanes wide, a D-shaped course. You really couldn't ask for a better place to hone your skills. I was glad to see them choose this one to do as their first. Anyway, as we were rolling around the course we talked a little about how each other were feeling, tactics and where to be and where not to be during the course of the race. With about 5 minutes to the start I rolled up to the line.
We had a pretty decent sized field (30+) for the 4/5 race considering how the weather had been and how early it was. I tell you what, I think the early start times are just about enough motivation to want to "Cat Up" all by itself. Looking at the schedule of races in the afternoon looked mighty good to me at that point anyway.
We were given the speech about flats with wheels in, wheels out of the pit area, the prime prizes (I forget what they were.) and what to do if you get dropped out the back of the group. We had the usual suspects from other teams from the area. Hutch's, Blue Sky and Life Cycle had a few guys there. Just by warming up I could see a couple guys that I was going to mark if they tried to make a break later in the race. I figured especially if some of the local teams got represented in the break they rest might actually let it go (At least that's what I was hoping).
Once the race started it became very obvious very quickly that no one was going to get away without a fight. It was kind of funny. Within two laps everybody was looking around at someone else to do the work at the front. And whenever anyone tried to make a move it was shut down fast. So I just tried to float in the front half of the pack to stay out of trouble and keep an eye out for any moves that I thought were going to be interesting.
We continued the usual ebb and flow of most 4/5 crit races (I.E. Accelerate then slow way down. Rinse and repeat.) until the prime lap came around with about 13 laps to go. It was obvious that no one was going to let the guys going for the prime have to much leach but I was hoping that maybe myself and Mike might be able to get away in the confusion and team time trial it to the end.
As soon as the guy's going for the prime started to drift back into the pack I used them plus a corner to make my attack. I got a good gap right away and continued to work through the back side of the course. Around the next corner I took a peek to see if anyone (I was hoping Mike would come join me.) was bridging the gap. But no one was really budging. So I continued to go around the next corner and peeked again. The mob was starting to close in on me and unless someone was there to share the workload I didn't feel strong enough to go it alone until the end. And with one more look back it was apparent that my fate was going to be sealed the same as anyone else who tried to make something happen. A sprint finish it will be...
With 3 or 4 laps to go I was convinced that the race would follow standard protocol. With a couple of the non-sprinter's trying to make a break for it and time trial it in. And that did happen, sort of. A group of 4 guy's (Mike included.) took off the front. It looked like they were trying to work together so I thought they might have a good shot at it. But all it takes is one guy not rotating through to disrupt the flow and they go caught as well with about 2 laps left.
I was still feeling pretty good. So I was doing my best to stay in the front third of the group and on the inside of the turns. Cat 4/5 races are practically guaranteed to have a crash in the last lap or two. All these guys get all twitchy and excited. And inevitably someone either bumps each other and freaks out. Or they clip a pedal in a corner and wash out. If your behind or to the outside of them your race is done. Well I didn't end up in either of those scenarios.
I'm still not real clear on what happened but I think someone grabbed a fist full of brake going into the first corner of the last lap. And three guys in front of me all starting criss crossing (Everybody jump! Jump!) trying to find a place to go. In doing so I went from about 10th wheel to about 25th wheel in a heart beat. Shit! So I was working really hard coming up the inside of the group. In hopes to be in a decent spot before the sprint out of the last corner. Which I sort of succeeded in. I was still making progress in the final sprint but all I could muster was 13th place. Meh. I'm not unhappy. But I know I could have done better. But luck and timing are all part of it too. And I didn't seem to have either one of them on this outing.
Mike came in right in front of me. He did a great job of sticking in the front end of the main field for most of the race.
Win did great as well. I saw him many times accelerating out of the corners like a champ. I'm sure we will be seeing him really mixing it up in the final sprints come later on this summer.
Kenny didn't finish. But I talked to him afterward and he seemed really pumped to get out there and do it again real soon. Which I was glad to here. He's plenty strong enough to be in there. I think with just a bit more experience he'll be whooping up on everyone out there too.
After the race finished it almost instantly started to rain. I headed off to a tire shop in Eugene to get to new tires put on. And become $350.00 poorer in the process. What are you gonna do? I've got to have tires. Feeling crappy about the whole thing I went and drowned my sorrows in some Greek food for lunch (A well known Greek remedy for feeling crappy.)
Next race for me is the Eugene Roubaix. It will be my first time at this race and I'm pretty excited to give it a swing.
Thanks for reading.
Rubber side down,