Seward Park, Cat 4/5, Clockwise

A day after racing a wet Carnation, I awoke at 6:30 AM to clear skies and dry pavement. Dragged myself out of bed, put on the knee warmers, base layer, kit, arm warmers, and vest, and hopped on the bike at 8:00 AM to head to Seward Park for the 9:00 AM 4/5 start time.

We had about 50 people in the race, so not too big. I was a bit surprised, given Carnation’s 76 person field and the proximity to Seattle. But hey, I’ll take it. Rather than start at the hairpin, the start / finish was down about 150 feet, so the finish was a long, downhill sprint after the corner. Still, first five through the corner really decide the placings.

I had a GREAT start to the crit. Lined up in the 3rd row, inched forward to the 2nd, on the far left side. We went off, and the left side was the one that went forward. Took a bit to clip in, but was able to maintain position with teammates and start taking the sweeper relatively fast. My momentum carried me through, and on 3-4 of the first bunch of laps I was moving towards the front on pure momentum – no work! We settled, and I ended up getting more winded on the hill than I’d like, which meant I found myself in the rear. I recovered, and would take the sweeper fast and just slot into a gap when the pack when up the hill. On the 3rd to last lap, for some reason the left side of the pack stopped up the hill. Not a crash, just a few people blowing up or something. I was on the right, so gained some good position. Still didn’t have enough energy to burst out of the corner with speed – lots of people would pass me there.

Anyway, second to last lap, in the middle, last lap, I have no energy, so finish towards the end. I let the main pack go, so they had a few seconds on me for the sprint. Here, no sense sprinting for 40th – plus I was tired!

All in all, a good race… need to do more Sewards next year if I can though!

Seward Park, Counter-Clockwise, 6:00

After a tough finish to Pacific Raceways, and with both Carnation and the actual Seward Crit coming up on the weekend, I decided to test my legs at Seward for a 45 minute race (as the 4/5 Seward race Saturday was 40 minutes). I was just aiming for pack finish. Due to 3 cars being parked along the road, we ended up doing the course counter-clockwise… not good for me. There were a few other Wines, Greg in particular. We started well and led for the first few laps. I even pulled up the hill on the 2nd or 3rd lap. However, I felt I was eating too much wind, so on a hill I drifted right and let about 8-9 people pass. Fatal mistake… I didn’t have the legs to climb, so I slowly drifted further back for the next 3 laps, until 15 minutes into it I found myself off the back. Did a few more laps until I got lapped and tried to hop back in – nope. Couldn’t catch up at all. Stopped off at the top for a rest, talked with Heather Lang (who also got dropped). She then tried to hop back, so I followed… neither of us had legs. So, we stopped near the finish to see how our teammates would do. Greg did well – kept towards the front, finished 6th in the sprint.

Didn’t feel too bad about bailing early – two races on the weekend, legs feeling tired… no sense killing myself for a pack finish now.

Seward Park, Counter-Clockwise, 5:30

On a rainy Thursday night, I decided to bike over to Seward for the twilight crit. How bad can it be?

Bad.

Not Pacific Raceways Crash-a-palooza bad, but still pretty rough.

We went counter-clockwise, which meant a fast downhill then a slow uphill. Because it was raining, they spiced up the race with a Win-and-Out format. After 9 laps, the sprint would decide who got first place. First place got to stop. Second and the rest… go on another lap. Six places deep, so 16 laps instead of the normal 15 for those of us not sprinting for the win.

Oof.

After about 8 laps? Perhaps 9? I found myself off the back with a group of 4 others. We generally stuck together and worked together, and didn’t get lapped by the other ~10 or so. But of course we didn’t see them slowly peel off. Ugh.

Lap 16, I took off after the downhill on a prideful breakaway. Not racing for anything but to be faster than those 4 I was with. Got away, stayed away… my own moral victory for zero points. But, felt good in the rain.

Then I rode home.

Seward Park, Clockwise, 5:30

After my first outing at Seward Park, I figured I’d try it again. Same course, a few weeks later. This time I started towards the front and stayed there for the first couple of laps, which worked OK. I then started to drift back, and found myself dangling.

Horrors!

However, I was getting more comfortable with the sweeper – and as it turns out for the 5:30 race, the hill is where everyone just collects again. So, I’d be off the back, go through the sweeper without breaking, carry my ~210 pounds of momentum through the back stretch, and slot in with the pack as they were moving up the hill. Worked great.

Pack finish, and I was pretty happy with that. Max O’Neal, the junior on our team, managed 8th – good for him!

Joe Matava Crit

My neighbor Brian Cole convinced me to do Masters C/D in the annual Joe Matava crit in Burien. His wife was kind enough to watch my daughter along with his while we raced. We got down there to see the finish of the 4/5s, and Craig, one of my teammates, was already off – commenting how fast it was. Bad news. 😉 The course is along a minor hill, but it wears on you quickly. The start is a downhill, then a sweeping turn and then back up a hill, and then back around to the downhill. No real technical corners, just fast and a hill.

I lasted about 20 minutes or so into it… I followed Brian on the start, but he had problems clipping in, thus I was already on the back. I took the first corner (which is done at speed) a little cautiously at first, which of course meant I was off the back yo-yo-ing. Ugh… power sprint up the hill to catch up, and repeat a few times. The C/Ds also kept up the pace. After a few laps, I and a number of others were getting gapped. I managed to keep finding someone to give me a bit of recovery, but then I was staring at the back of the main pack moving downhill… ugh. Went as fast as I could, and started taking corner 1 pretty quickly, but I couldn’t catch up. Two laps later, pulled.

Good news for Brian though… he stuck with the main bunch, and managed to sprint for second! Good work.

I remembered reading Dessa’s blog from last year… stay in the front, conserve momentum. Yup, pretty much… burned far too much on the corner. Next time!

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.

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

As long as you look good


Sunday, August 31st, brought the 2008 cycling season to a close with the Blackberry Criterium held during the Blackberry Festival in scenic Bremerton, WA. The 4/5 race started at 11:45, which as it turned out is horribly from a Seattle – Bremerton ferry perspective, as you either take the 8:45 and arrive two hours ahead of time, or the 10:15 ferry and arrive with about 30 minutes to go. I opted to ride down to the docks and hop on the 8:45, along with about 15 other riders doing the same thing. The weather was cloudy but holding, and so I was looking forward to a good 30 minute dry crit in Bremerton.

I arrived with Matt, another racer from our team. We checked out the course. It’s a nice rectangular ~1 mile course featuring a down-and-up along each long stretch. This meant that each corner would be nicer than most – people would be going slower due to the uphill, so less of a yo-yo effect when the pack straightens out to take the corner. Plus with a downhill on the beginning of each straightaway, it’d be easy to catch back onto the pack.

He and I kicked back at the Cornerstone Coffee, which was right there at corner 2. Around 10:45, we started getting ready to warm-up, only to see the skies open up. Well, here was the day’s squall – a short-lived hour long rainstorm right during our warmup. We all huddled, and about 11:30 went out for some quick warmup. The rain had brought all the oil to the top of the road, so the course was going to be sketchy. The warmup laps confirmed that, especially at turn 1 where there were a few manhole covers that would be super slick.

We started the race… the field was I believe 22 all together – a small showing. Some had held off registering when they got their due to the weather. Oh well. So, the race kicked off and we were off.

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For the most part, the pack stayed together. A few folks got dropped throughout, but not many. The down-and-ups kept people together, and everyone behaved themselves going through the corners. I was fishtailing through turn 1 and 4, so I was content to dangle and hang to the outside.

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At one point, Amara Boursaw caught me taking a drink… you can see me at the back on the right out of the way of people. Given how small the field was and with the down-and-up, it was easy to hop out of the pack to drink (as I didn’t want to have to brake or react quickly with one hand in slick conditions) and hop back in.

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Anyway, at 4 laps to go, I made a minor tactical error. I was following a straggler and taking a drink, and then Matt and another guy took off from the front. The pack sprinted ahead, and I was gapped and promptly dropped – just couldn’t catch back on. Well, I wasn’t thinking I was going to be in it for the sprint finish, and I was close enough to finish without getting pulled, so I rolled it on in for a high teens finish.

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Even though it wasn’t pack sprint, I will say that this is the first crit I’ve finished. Yeah, an easier one compared to Des Moines or Twisp, but I felt better about cornering and better about staying with the pack. So, perhaps I am getting the hang of these!

Des Moines Crit, take 2

Last year, my first crit was the Washington State Masters’ Championship Crit, in Des Moines. This is a short course on great pavement with minimal cornering. Only catch is that it’s a ~30ft climb every lap. Last year, I got popped pretty quickly in a shallow field. I noticed Masters C, which I could have raced instead of Cat4, was huge. This year, I decided to race Masters C. Yeah… my mistake.

I had problems clipping in, but I was able to catch on to the back. However, when I thought I’d be able to rest on the downhill, turns out I was wrong – people were busy accelerating on the downhill too! No rest! Gah! And each uphill was 600W – 800W according to my powertap. I lasted 4 laps before getting popped, and another 3 before getting pulled. A whopping 7 minutes out of the 35, although it felt like forever. Worse than last year, which I thought was pretty bad! Gah!

Oh well. Better luck next year, perhaps… or I’ll just marshall. My quick exit did allow me to get some nice pictures though:

Greg Luniewski abandoning after getting popped… his expression says it all:

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And the finish:

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Crit: Des Moines Masters State Championship Criterium

2007 Des Moines Crit - MapThis morning, I rode in my first crit. The Des Moines Masters State Championship Criterium, hosted by my team, Union Bay Cycling / Wines of Washington. Crits are short (< 1 mile) courses, typically in a city around a few blocks. I had been nervous about this for quite some time… from what I’ve read, crits are hard, fast, and intense. Plus, the main factor in a crit is corners – no sweeping, gentle corners like you see in typical road races. Corners are city street intersections.

Well, the day of the event came, and I headed down. The first thing I realized about crits – later start times! The typical road race is 2 hours away and starts about 9 AM, meaning people in Seattle are leaving about 6 AM. Des Moines is 30 minutes away, and the first race for us (Cat 4/5) was 10:50 AM… amazing what a few extra hours of sleep will do.

The second thing I realized is that crits really are a spectator sport. At road races, there are some spectators near the start / finish, but for the most part the peleton is busy riding through tranquil, rural scenery. At a crit, there are spectators all over, as the peleton makes a loop every minute or two. At this crit, there were a number of spectators at the start / finsh, as well as a homemade grandstand at turn 3 (SW corner) where a bunch of residents were throwing a party while watching the race. It was quite the event.

Back to the crit itself. In road races, the pack starts with a neutral roll-out, which means a few miles of riding for a quick warm-up and to make sure everyone’s comfortable in their bikes. At a crit, you race when the official says go, and you’re going at 25 MPH as quickly as you can. Clipping in and sprinting fast is key so you don’t get towards the back. This is what happened to me. The back is dangerous in a crit, as the corners yo-yo — the first people through go a bit slower through the corners and then pick up the pace, which means the rear ends up going much slower and has to sprint to catch up. Much more energy is expended.

The Des Moines crit isn’t flat – the two short stretches are, but the straightaways are at an incline. Now, the incline is about 30 feet total according to the altimeter in my HRM, for about 1,300 feet – a 2% incline. This would be considered a false flat if anything in a Road Race, but going up this at 25 MPH 15-20 times, it certainly saps one’s energy — fast. Talking to some of the other guys, apparently this is one of the tougher crits because of the hill.

I was in the back third pretty quickly, and tried to hang on. After maybe 4 laps, I was dangling. a big gap would open on the hill, and while I could catch back up on the downhill straightaway a few times, after a while I was unable to make it back to the pack before they rounded turns 3 and 4. I ended up with a small chase group with a Hagens-Berman racer and an Oberto junior. We tried to get the junior back, but after lap 11, the official pulled us as we were about to get lapped. Just as well, as we were sagging badly.

Looking at my HRM data, it’s clear I was well above my normal intensity levels… a road race typically has my heart rate between 150 and 170, with spurts to 180. We started out the crit about 170… far too high for me to keep going for 35 minutes. And that was while I was in the pack, so it wasn’t sucking wind. Clearly, need to work more on speed and hill climbing for next year!

All in all, a fun experience. I spent the rest of the day as a corner marshall (well, intersection marshall) guiding traffic through the course and watching the races. I took a few videos with my cellphone, so we’ll see how they turn out. And now to see when the next (flat) crit is!

2007 Des Moines Crit - Erik HRM