Seward Park, Clockwise

Northwest Velo (aka First Rate Mortgage) hosts the main Seattle Thursday night twilight crit series at Seward Park. Finally in my third season of racing I had a free Thursday night and went over for the 5:30 (4/5) race – 15 laps of fun along a 0.8 mile loop at Seward. I biked over from Amazon, paid my $10, and set off.

The course starts from the hairpin turn. Clockwise, there’s a false flat, then a nice descent, into a big sweeping left turn. This then rises and falls a bit, so there’s plenty of momentum, until a short, fast uphill. This brings you back to the hairpin turn, where things yo-yo.

My first time through, I was naturally cautious on the sweeper and turn… and managed to last maybe 15 minutes before getting dropped. I tried to at least stay away without getting lapped, but on Lap 14 (of 15), I was lapped going up the hill. Drat! Ah well, still a good workout, and good experience.

Boston Harbor Circuit Race

After my craptastic performance on Saturday in the Capitol Crit, I was thinking of doing the 9 AM 4/5 Boston Harbor Circuit Race on Father’s Day. However, my daughter really wanted to come see me race, which meant the Masters C (no D this time!) at 1:10 PM. Oof… OK, time to get the legs ripped off again. We packed up the wagon, and I headed down with the fam.

It was a distinctly different crowd at Boston Harbor than at the Crit. Only Craig returned, and he raced Ds along with 3 other Wines. In the Cs, we had 4 initially, and all of us are Cat 4 Cs, in comparison to yesterday – Harry, Eric, and Michael are 3s. From eyeballing the WSBA numbers, most were in the 600 – 800 range, which meant most of the people there were also 4s. Let’s see how this goes. After some good luck from the family, I was off with the field.

One of the more senior guys on our team, Byron, told me the night before that Boston Harbor was like a short, fast Mason. I was hoping this meant it was rolly hills. Kinda. Turns out it’s also very narrow with only one small section where the shoulder can be used to ride – which would be this fast down-and-up on the south end of the course right after the hairpin turn. The up is kinda steep, but then leads into the last 1000m of the course, the first ~700m of it being a false flat. The result is that it was pretty impossible to move around in the race, as the 43 of us rode 4 abreast in the main pack. There was some moving around at the corners and on the occasional attack, but for the most part things stayed fairly static.

On the final lap, as predicted everyone was jockeying for position on that final corner, thinking that whomever could get their first would have prime position on the descent and quick ascent, and then whomever the first 10 people who made it to the false flat would be in contention. The rest of us would be boxed out. This is pretty much what happened, and while there was some jockeying, it wasn’t terribly effective from what I can see as everyone was trying to hone in on the position that the guys in the top 10 were in – unsuccessfully. A few people blew up on the uphill (which was full sprint) and the false flat. I was towards the rear, so I conceded the sprint (although did sprint it out with a Fresca guy who was near me when I came over the line… not sure who got that one!).

All in all, a good race, fairly mellow actually. Few sections of ~15MPH, when some folks at the front clearly didn’t want to work anymore but nobody right behind them did either. Few minor attacks, but nothing stuck. Good headwind on the southbound east side, so that helped reign things in nicely.

Capitol Crit

Today I headed down to Olympia for the Capitol Crit – a fairly technical criterium at the base of the Washington State Capitol Building. I was feeling sluggish, so I slept in and went to the Masters C/D race instead of the early morning 4/5 race. Same time, but my experience at Volunteer Park told me that it’d be more manageable – 100 people filled the 4/5s, but Masters C/D was 69.

Well, number of people was about the same – 44 in 4/5, 42 in C/D. OK. However, as it turns out, C/Ds went with the “thin the pack” strategy. The course runs clockwise. The right side straightaway is uphill. The left side is technical and narrow, so even though it’s downhill, the pack yo-yos nastily. About 10 or so people in front were keeping the pace fast (Harry, who finished, saw that he averaged over 24 MPH the entire 40 minutes!), which meant that each lap through the narrow technical section, whomever was in the back was just getting pushed back and then having to go anaerobic to catch up on the uphill. Nasty.

I got yanked I think after 15 minutes; I need to look at my stats. Turns out only 15 people finished… brutal race. For the 4/5s, 26 finished. Still rough, but not nearly as bad. I was talking with Scott Jensen, from L’Ecole, who raced both 4/5s and C/Ds. He finished 12th in 4/5s, and early in C/Ds. That should help explain the difference in speed. 😉

Capitol Crit CDs

PR: Flats Point Per Lap

Another week, another point per lap race. In addition, the course was slightly modified with a new earlier turn, due to a sand pit being added at the end of the dragstrip on the far west end. Anyway, we had one neutral lap, where I noticed the cornering was actually nicer than the previous route… banked well, new pavement. Cool. So, on the first real lap, I was in the lead, so I pushed it a bit to see what others thought of the new corner… and found myself way out ahead of the pack in front. I pushed a bit, challenging the pack… and they let me go! So, I settled in to an aggressive tempo… if they chased, they’d easily get me. And around the end of the drag strip they did, but I was by myself for quite a while.

5th or 6th lap I did the same thing with another guy, and this time we got away! The two of us had a huge gap on the pack. The other guy seemed to be content to do most of the work… in that he wasn’t pulling off. I passed him once, then he passed me back on the final curve… and then I just attacked off him for the win. He didn’t really contest, so I rolled over the line for my first PPL win! 2 points! And man, was I exhausted! Luckily, the Masters were there for me… I was struggling in the pack, but as we rounded the first corner into the drag strip we were neutralized for the Masters to pass us. Yay! We basically mailed it in on that lap and then back to game on. Woof! Thanks for the recovery!

I sorta contested another lap or two, but otherwise, took my 2 points and was done. Good enough for a tie for 5th place. Still no season points though. But we’re getting closer!

PR: CCW with Escape Route

June began with another counter-clockwise escape route course. Scot Weeks, another 4 on our team, was racing with me. At the preme lap, I hollered at him to get on my wheel and as we rounded the corner for the downhill, I sprinted out. I told him to stay on my wheel until the bottom, where I’d have gotten a reasonable gap on the pack and he could hopefully power it up for the preme. Well, he decided to go BEFORE the descent… and was promptly swallowed up. He’s not as big as I. 😉

Anyway, we raced around until the end, and I was just in for the pack finish. However, on the final lap, pushed, and saw him pushing as well. Moved up to the top third, but on the hill was too tired to do much. But did hear, and then after the cool-down pace heard from Scot that he managed the win! He had good position on the downhill, followed a reasonable line up, and the guy in front of him was just gassed, so he was able to pull it off. Nice work!

PR: Flats Point Per Lap

This week brought another points per lap race. Craig and Michael were there… Michael wanted to try and shred the field, so we were going to let whomever contested get lap 1, and then attack right after that sprint, and try to keep up the counter-attacking every other lap or so. Well, as we rounded the corner for lap 1 (well, first point lap), nobody was attacking… so I did! Full on sprint, and someone came with and then pulled ahead by a few inches to beat me again like the week previous. Blast!

I spent the rest of the race recovering, actually. Michael contested a number and I think placed in the race, but overall not much happened. There was a stiff headwind coming from the west, so every sprint was right into it, and every counter attack was right into it… which really put the brakes on that kind of thing.

Pack finish, but got another PPL point (ok, no season points yet… still working up to that!)

PR CCW Escape Route

Today’s race was sparsely attended after last week’s Crashapalooza. It was raining, and the forecast was LOTS of rain. But, I took a chance after my friend Laura called me out. Got down there, and cold, wet, but not raining. And the sun came out!

There were only 14 Masters, and no Wines guys in the 4/5s, so I raced Masters. Laura was also racing Masters, along with Eric and Greg. Laura told me that she felt Masters was more intense, but same overall speed as the 4/5s. Plus, they did the hill slower. Slower hill? I’m in!
Woof… why do I always forget that Masters rip your legs off? 😉

The 4/5 Escape Route race is basically a “thin the pack sprint finish” race. The pack powers up the hill, then recovers on the flat until the downhill and up again. If you can hang on after the pack gets to the top and the false flat curve, you’re good until the next lap. Preme laps can be tough, as often the pack will sprint up that hill and you need to sprint with them. But ultimately, it’s a semi-sprint finish for people to power up the climb on the last lap.

The Masters… don’t do that. They go slowly up that hill, conserving energy. Then, on the flats… ATTACK! Yes, an attack at PR. Today, even though there were only 15 racers, someone was always attacking – esp. Greg. After the preme lap, I and some others got dropped – or at least formed a smaller group of 4 from the group of 15. We chased for a bit, then the 4/5s caught us, so we drafted them. Then, they towed us to the Masters. Thanks guys!

We did a few more laps, then the end. Greg, Eric, and I were in the lead on the descent, and Eric was giving Greg an OK lead, but Greg had gone too early up the hill and blew up about halfway up the final climb. Tough race, legs were gassed… good stuff.

I drove home in the downpour… yow. Then, came home to my wife pointing out some leaks from the rain. Attic spelunking after a race…. suck-tastic. Oh well, still didn’t crash. Just now need to find a roofer!

Flats, point per lap, crashtastic, then Hills, point per lap

Today… um… sucked. But I didn’t go down.

The course was flats point-per-lap – 2 points for first across each lap (except the first), 1 point for second. Highest points at the end wins. Cool.

It was lightly raining. Not cool.

We sped around the first lap, fast… some people were pushing, rest of us were chatting, “Um, first lap neutral, no points guys…” But whatever. Second lap, GO! I was around the top 10ish, positioning myself for a sprint. Third lap, we round the bend, I’m in a good position on the right, and GO! There’s someone leading the main pack in the middle, they start to drop back. There’s another guy on my left. Turns out the pack conceded to us… sprint! sprint! sprint! And he gets me by a hair. That’s OK, first point in PPL.

We sit up and let the pack catch up. As we round the bend for the drag strip, we see that the Masters have crashed. Oof! Neutral through the crash. Sprint again, and then I’m back in the top 10ish ready for another go. I’m nervous on the drag strip, so I’m leading out the third line (left-most). We get to the almost-end of it, and CRASH! I hear bikes falling behind me. I don’t even look… I’m all about maintaining my line and maintaining my bike upright on the slick rubber. We cruise around, some people sprint, but more are looking at the carnage. There’s about 10 of us. Rory or Deanna, who run it, yell “ESCAPE ROUTE!” So the course shifts to PPL Escape Route (HILL!).

Well, with crashes and hills, we’re done. Mike, one of my teammates who made it through the crash, has legs. He pretty much goes off the front up the hill, stays away for 2 of the final 4 laps. Nobody is really pushing things though… two crashes and sprinting after a hill has just taken the wind out of everyone.

Oof… made it, got a point, drove home. Weird, rough day.

PR Flats

PR CCW with Escape Route

A week later I found myself doing the Escape Route again. Stuck with the pack (again). This time, I had told Max, the junior on our team, to get behind me on the final lap, and I’ll blast him down the descent so he can climb to victory.

That was just how it happened.. well the blast down. I sprinted to the front of the pack on the last lap, Max behind me, bombed down the descent, and then was done costing up the hill. Somebody was on my wheel, Max followed… and then the pack got us. I rolled it in on a pack finish, my job done. But, finished with the pack again… guess those legs have improved!

Pacific Raceways Escape Route

PR: CCW down the escape route

My first PR hills route… fun. Felt good. Started the race towards the front, and made it a goal to lead the pack on the descent. We did 7-ish laps (need to look at my stats), and I was on the dfront on the downhill for at least three of them. I’d extend a gap, make it up about 1/3 of the hill, and then be caught. Stuck with the pack on the first preme, which is usually when I lose them. Second to last lap was the second preme (bastard). So 2 spirited laps… but I held. Didn’t try and contest the finish, just stuck with people and rolled over the line with the pack (think I was dead last in the pack, but hey, pack finish is a pack finish!). Think this is my first finish on the hill… least first that I can remember!

Pacific Raceways Escape Route