Yesterday, I went to my first Pacific Raceways Road Race. Every Tuesday from yesterday, April 3rd, until August 28th, at 7:00 PM (and sometimes 6:30 PM for women & juniors) is a race along the Pacific Raceways course down in Kent. This is about a mile-long loop on a good surface, blocked from most wind. The races are timed, meaning the approximate race time will be stated (last night it was 30 minutes), and a few minutes before the time is up they put up a sign for 2 laps remaining, and on the next lap it’s the last lap — meaning first person across wins the prize! Last night it was $5. Racing for gas money.
There are three groups – Cat 1-3 Men, Master’s Men, and Cat 4-5 Men. I was in the Cat 4-5 Men, naturally, which was maybe 50-odd people. On nights with no women’s / juniors courses (every other week) the women and juniors race with Cat 4-5. For the most part, this race gives people great practice in racing — the pace is fast (25-30 MPH), and attacks and breakaways are shortlived. Teammates will chase each other down, happily. Again, these are fun practice races, not officially sanctioned USCF races.
There are a couple of different courses they’re able to run. There’s the flat course, which is just around the oval. There’s counter-clockwise with the escape route, which adds a big, steep downhill followed by a gradual uphill. There’s clockwise with the escape route, meaning there’s a gradual downhill followed by a big, steep climb. And finally there’s clockwise and counter-clockwise with the S turn, although I’m not sure what that entails.
I’m going to try and head down on some (most?) Tuesdays and get in some good practicing. It’s fun, it’s low stress, and it’s great for learning how to handle the bike in fast conditions. Plus, you can do some really crazy stuff and get away with it. For example, last night I sprinted about half a mile from the end, as I had an opening and momentum and wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Turns out about a quarter of a mile, which sucked for me but gave the guy behind me the win. Maybe someday he’ll give me a ride with all that cash he won.
Here’s a quick map of the Pacific Raceway courses (blue = flat, red = escape route, and green = S curve). Best when viewed with the Aerial option vs Road. Here’s the schedule.