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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Tour of Methow

A bit delayed, but here nevertheless.

Father’s Day Weekend, I participated in the 3rd annual Tour of Methow, a 2-day omnium bike race. An omnium is a multi-race event where the winner of each event gets a certain number of points. The overall winner is the person with the most points. Typically, in Washington State, an omnium is a time trial and crit on Day 1, and a road race on Day 2. This was the format for Methow. I had arrived with the family the week before, staying at The Cottonwood Cottage in Winthrop. I spent the week checking out the courses… the time trial is an out-and-back on a hilly course near Mazama. The road race is a loop starting from Winthrop and heading north, with some decent rollers and a nasty section when the loop dips down onto Highway 20. The crit is a loop on sketchy pavement in Twisp.

So… the results. Well, I got off to a late start for the time trial, and arrived quite literally 5 minutes before I was supposed to go off. I scrambled and didn’t even pump up my wheels… turns out, by being second to register for the tour, I was second in the time trial. Great. Oh, and the first guy didn’t show up. Even better. So I get there, and I’m ready to go with about 15 seconds to spare. And then, I’m off! I have no idea what I’m doing, as it’s my first real TT, so I just go as hard as I know how, given I had done the course a few times before. There are two decent hills, and on the descent of the first I was passed – I figured by the guy :30 behind me. Turns out later it was the guy who started 1:00 behind me. I was passed a bit later by my :30 man. On the turnaround, I was able to overtake him on one of the hills, but I blew up and he passed me after a bit. I ended up some :47 behind him, and in 34th place when all was said and done. However, turns out this was enough to beat the three other Cat 4/5s from Wines that showed up! Which says something about our time trialling, really…

Here’s a quick shot of me pulling in, ahead of my :30 man Jeremy. There’s my time below, at 14th place… not gonna last for long!

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Then, the crit. Man, do I suck at these. Probably because this was my second. Anyway, I had problems clipping in, was not confident on the pavement, and got popped pretty quickly. Oh well. Turns out half the field did too, so I don’t feel that bad. After all, the difference in points between the second guy to get dropped (me) and the last guy to get dropped – nothing! We all got zilch. I’m blaming it on my awesome time

trial performance.

Next day, road race. I started off strong, and actually pulled during the first lap on the flat / downhill section from about a quarter of the way through the first lap through the halfway point (a turnaround). At this point, there were some hills and some attacks, so I slid back a bit trying to keep up. Then, the loop-around point… a downhill S curve onto Highway 20, then slight rise to a quick climb, then a flat and another longer but just as tall climb. Took a lot to hang on, but I did. Kept in the middle towards the end for the second lap, and was dying on the down-and-up in the 2nd lap turnaround. At this point, I was thinking I needed to move up towards the front to stay with the attacks and the next (and final) down and up, as the race ended right before the downhill. However, as I was surveying the pack to figure out the best way to move up, WHAM! Crash ahead! Brake, brake… nope. I go over too. I turn around and see another bike coming at me, and I sit up and catch his front wheel, ensuring that at least he doesn’t go down. Someone is moaning, but the callous nature of bike racing is to get back on your bike and go. So I survey the bike, looks fine, and go. But I can barely move! Some groups pass me… and at the end of the slight hill I was on, I hop off and look again — yup, brake is rubbing. So I adjust that and have a much nicer ride, but I’m feeling burnt. Right knee is bleeding, and I know that even if I finish this lap and the 4th, it’s not worth it. Plus, we have to drive back that afternoon. So, I finish the lap at the finish line and wait for everyone else to come through. Turns out that the guy moaning was taken away by an ambulance, and the 4/5 men and the two women’s peletons were neutral going through that… scary!

Anyway, a rough way to end Father’s Day. But Methow was beautiful, and the race was fun. Next time, I’ll need to focus on staying up in the front more and being more aggressive on the downhill. Oh, and the crash? Apparently some rookie strayed across the yellow, then panicked and swooped back in, clipping someone’s wheel and causing a chain reaction quickly. Best to get me in better shape to upgrade!