Sonic Boom Criterium:
After returning back from Santa Cruz, CA my training went back into a more consistent progression. My friend Sean who races for Sonic Boom was the main coordinator for their team’s Criterium. He had asked me to Marshal during the earlier races since my race was not until 6:50 P.M. It was a hot and sunny day in downtown Louisville, CO. The town itself is small yet quaint and presents itself in an old school fashion with a contemporary spin. I arrived around noon or so and he took me out to a spot where I would be marshaling. The main purpose of marshaling during a race is to make sure spectators don’t interfere with the race and direct traffic away from the closed course. This was one tough job! I experienced a woman screaming on the top of her lungs because she couldn’t cross the street. I also had two guys on motorcycles with a bunch of tattoos giving me their choice of swear words because they couldn’t drive through. It was an interesting early afternoon to say the least. I hung out at the marshaling spot with Steve an athlete I’m coaching who also happens to be on the same team I’m racing for. (BRC Cycling) I was in a great spot on the course because I could see riders coming from all directions. I studied how they took the turns, when breakaways were created, and other important information. The course itself was a blast. Lots and lots of turns with a short sprinting burst straightaway to the Start/Finish area. I love courses like this. Many riders become flustered with hard cornering and large groups. Taking your line is almost more important than your actual fitness ability in the race. If you can handle your bicycle in a sharp winding Criterium you will tend to be more at ease with yourself, other riders, and the race as a whole. The only downside to this course was the nasty bumpy pavement. There were cracks, potholes, and pavement splits all over the place. Ironically enough the course variance gave it more character or being a tough man’s Crit course. Everything about this course was tough, from the turns, heat, competition, and one’s mental capacity for fast repetitive circular racing.
I warmed up with a few teammates out on the surrounding roads. The trainer can provide a great warm up before a Criterium and I would highly suggest riders use them. Sometimes though it’s great to warm up with fellow riders and teammates so you can create a plan of attack for the race or chat about any specific race information or concerns. At this point before the race you can also see who is looking to do well and in top form. After getting a substantial warm up in, the Women’s field was on it’s last lap. I could see there were more spectators watching the Women’s race which only meant a lot of people had either stuck around for the pro race or had recently shown up. The nice thing about racing in category 1/2 Criteriums are the crowds. A lot of people want to see the local pro’s who have shown up on the day. Usually they are there to scrape up some money before they go and travel around the country for larger races.
There I am off to the right in the black with a hint of orange.
I jumped on the course and did a nice warm up lap before making my way to the Start / Finish. There were already a bunch of riders at the line and I was standing in the second row. I had a good start and made my way into the top 15 riders. This was a great place to be. I was far enough back from the lead rider but close enough to see what was going on. The first half of the race flew by. The course was fast with lots of turns so concentration was of the upmost importance. My focus was in complete tunnel vision. This is not the best mentality to have for a Crit of this nature. With lots of sharp turns a few riders can get away and out of sight in no time. This is exactly what had happened. Somewhere in the middle of the race two riders were away. I had not noticed the lap counter until 5 laps to go. My legs were responding to every attack of the day and my body and mind were working as one unit instead of two different entities. I was ready for the sprint. With two laps to go another lone rider bridged the gap and caught the two breakaway riders. So, in all essence were were sprinting for 4th place. I was sitting about 7th wheel into the last lap. On the back stretch, the field went from a furious sprint to a standstill and the entire group bunched up. With no room and too many riders, guys starting crashing into each other. I was bumped off my line hard but maintained control and didn’t crash. Once in control of my machine, I rode as hard as I could to the finish line. In the end I was 11th. No a bad finish when all circumstances are considered. Still, I felt cheated based on how my legs were feeling all day. As time goes on, I am starting to believe more in my Criterium ability. Although I am continuing to learn about my own limitations on the bike, my legs and mind tend not to wander as much during a Criterium compared to a long road race. The Sonic Boom Criterium was a blast and I’ll definitely be making my presence there next year.
Superior Morgul Omnium:
Most Pro 1/2 races are either early in the morning or later in the afternoon. Most race promoters leave the 1/2 Criteriums as the last event to top off the day. The crowds are larger, pace is faster, and prize money better. For this Criterium the 1/2 race was held in the middle of the day. It was hot, mid 70’s range and I spent as little time in the sun as possible. After getting my number I warmed up on the trainer next to my friend Rhys who is a junior rider for the Garmin team. I felt good on the trainer and after 45 minutes or so I took to the road for the remainder of the warmup. This specific Criterium was more in my mind like a circuit race. There was only one technical section in the race, the other part of the course you spent climbing up the hill or going down. I felt good during the first half of the race. Then as guys started to get tired, gaps began opening up. I found myself having to close a couple of gaps and was going into the red zone more than I had liked. Personally when I start to get tired in a race you can find me in various places. On the front, middle, and somewhere near the back. It’s an issue I’m trying to resolve. My mind is in another place and starts to worry about maintaining. So, the end result is a labyrinth series of attempts not to get dropped. Finally after almost at my limit the field pace dropped just slightly; Enough for me to recover.
“Right when you body and mind are at it’s complete limit, the pace will even out.”
One of the most accurate aspects of Criterium racing is to hold your line and keep your composure. The pace will go from a snails movement to suicidal resulting in guys popping off the back. As long as you perpetuate a steady position and are able to hold your pain limit for a given time period you will do well in Criteriums. I tell this to all my athlete’s who race.
I’m loving my yellow shoes from Mavic!
Once I was able to recover I knew I’d be OK for the final laps of the race. Six men had gotten away earlier and I had missed the break. 7th place would be given to the rider who won the field sprint. With two laps to go my teammate Nick gave me the nod as he would try and help me for the lead out. Right at that point another teammate of mine Taylor started our small train to get me to the front. He did an amazing job of working as hard as he could to get me into position. On the long descent before the final turn and sprint finish we lost our position a bit and confusion set in. At that point I jumped to the left while the whole field was on the right and headed for the line. I picked off a couple of riders before the line but it was not enough and I finished 16th. A great day overall but I had wished I was able to hold my position better.
I had been a bit tired from yesterday’s effort but my legs felt good when I woke up in the morning. When arriving in town for the race the weather was cool and overcast. Perfect! I love racing in cooler or even cold weather. Although having small body fat percentage I use cold weather racing as an advantage over other athletes. I train 90% of the time outside in the winter and don’t mind riding on the coldest and rainiest of days. Mentally this can be a huge blow to a lot of guys. On the other hand, the heat is my kryptonite. I tend to falter of the hottest of days because I still need to learn how to properly hydrate and feed my engine.
By the time we lined up the sun had come out and the temperature had jumped to the mid 70’s. It was only 11 in the morning so I knew a hot day of racing lay ahead. The road race was held on a 13 mile loop. Our group had the longest trek of 6 laps and a 7th to the finish up the “Wall” as it’s known.
That’s me on the front pushing the pace and trying to establish a breakaway.
Notice the group already breaking apart.
All morning before the race I said to myself I want to get in a breakaway. I knew the climb up the wall would shell guys off the back so I made sure I had a good position when going up. On the first lap I was like a rocket waiting to go off. I led the whole way up the first climb. I even heard my name coming from the announcers deck from the effort. My hard push up the wall initiated a small break of about 10 or so riders. I looked back once we crested and saw pain on a lot of guys faces. The road flattened out for a bit before climbing back up. This was our chance as a group to gain more time. Unfortunately the riders in the break did not work well together and we were caught within a few miles. For laps 2-4 I was in a great position. I was in the lead group and my legs were feeling great.
The sunny weather had pushed the temps into the 80’s. I made the mistake of not drinking enough and started to get a few chills when on the bike. Three riders were away and after being neutralized by the officials because of another passing group the break had 4+ minutes on the field. By this time we were somewhere on lap 4-5. A few times I got out of the saddle and my quads started to cramp. They were only small cramps but enough to send a worrisome chill down my spine. I was still in the lead group as more and more riders dropped out. Each time up the wall I pushed hard so I would not fall off the back. As the only rider left from my team I felt isolated. Guys who had more than one rider on a team were allowing gaps to open up. This forced guys like myself and others to use unnecessary energy to keep the group together. I was getting very frustrated and tired. With about 5k left on the 5th lap I got out of the saddle and my hamstring completely sized up. I couldn’t turn the pedals. My worst nightmare had become reality. There was nothing I could do except get off my bike and stretch. I looked down the road and the lead group was now a fuzzy distant memory. A support car pulled up next to me and asked if I was OK. I responded “Do you have a new set of legs in the car?”. They smiled and drove off. I remounted the bike and my legs began working again. I climbed the wall alone and noticed a very silent feeling coming from all the spectators. Without hesitation I put my hands in the air and yelled “Common! Give me some noise!”. The crowd erupted with cheers as I made my way to the top of the wall for my final solo lap. Somehow I was able to ride at a relatively hard pace without cramping up again. I didn’t catch anyone and no one caught me. I’m happy I finished the race even though I was 26th. At the finish I chatted with a bunch of teammates and friends and made my way back down to the parking lot.
Four Corners Xterra Triathlon:
Don’t worry it was not me racing! Maija had been traveling all last week. From Michigan to see family, to Chicago for business. All week it was me and the pups. The pups and I missed her, so what better way to spend time as a family than to take a road trip! Maija got back home last Thursday night. We packed up the car and left the next morning for Farmington, New Mexico. The navigation took us on Interstate 25 South and then across the state to route 160. It was not the best drive. There were a lot of small towns to drive through which slowed our overall ride time down considerably. Aside from the slow drive there were high winds and fires blowing all the way from Arizona. The sky was hazy, the temperature was hot, and we were both a bit tired. Still, we had some fun singing in the car and making up stories about what our dogs were thinking. If you have a dog (or cat) and you are on a long trip with nothing to do, start thinking about short animal narratives in your head. It definitely helps pass the time! Dogs will always give us the most interesting non-verbal facial expressions. It’s up to our own imagination to figure out what they are thinking.
We got Farmington in the middle of the afternoon and it was in the low 90’s. Hot! Hot! Hot! New Mexico, especially farmington is a barren area with no shade and plenty of sun to go around. We headed straight to packet pickup so Maija could get her number. Then, before going to the hotel we drove down the road to the reservoir. It was a short circular drive on a dirt road until we arrived to where the race was being held. This small park was actually beautiful! It seemed like an oasis compared to the rest of the city. There were trees, running and mountain biking paths, and even a reservoir for the pups to play in!
The race itself was a blast to watch. Maija had a great race and finished second in her age group and the sixth woman overall. On the way back we took Route 285 through the mountains and snapped some great shots from the San Juan and Rio Grande Forests.
Enjoy the pictures!