Saturday afternoon was the Sunset Criterium out at Bethany Village, west of Portland. This is much more of a traditional criterium than the PIR event that I’ve been doing – it’s a 0.5 mile course with a small incline on the backside and some tight corners. Very fun to ride and you had to keep it together while in serious oxygen deprivation.
I rode slowly out to the event for a warm up (about 45 minutes from my house) and enjoyed the sunny day. The warm-up was about right. Got there, signed in, and the women were already going, so I rode circles in an empty inner parking lot to keep the legs moving. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any time to ride the course before our race started, so I really had no warning for the trickiest parts of the course. That would have definitely helped…
Anyway, back to the start line. It was a somewhat poorly attended event, and we only had 11 of us in the Cat 5 race – which is nice considering how tight the course was. The referee runs through the event, explains the primes and the mechanical lap rules, blows his whistle, and we’re off…I step on my pedal and quickly realize I’m in my small chainring and large cog – the easiest gear – and the field is quickly accelerating away. I kick myself because I actually thought about the gear to start in during my ride in, but just forgot to actually get in the right gear before the start…
Anyway, start dropping through the gears and am on the back of the pack. The guy at the front is really pushing the pace – moreso than I expected – and pack is strung out single file immediately just trying to hang on. A gap opens in front of the guy ahead of me and I can’t close it, and boom, just like that 3 of us are split off the back. We start working together and don’t lose too much ground, but aren’t making any up either and the main group gets a 1/4 of a lap or so on us. It doesn’t help that one of the guys in the group can’t corner worth crap so any time he’s on the front every corner is a huge slow-down, speed-up process making everyone work that much more. It was during this part, where we were just busting to try to catch the main group, when we were going up the back side that I threw up, just a little, in my mouth. At that point, I knew I was riding hard enough and had to back off just a tad to recover, then put the pressure back on the pedals.
We ended up dropping the bad-cornering guy, catching a guy that had dropped from the pack, and were 3 again for the last 5 laps of the race or so. We did get caught & passed by the race leader – but only that one guy – and really kept hammering through the entire 30 minute race. I ended up 8th.
So my analysis goes something like this: being in the wrong gear at the start hurt, then the pace accelerated enough I couldn’t catch up. If I started in the right gear (at least the big chainring!) I would have been up in the middle of the pack and would have had a chance to hold on and stick with the main group. Who knows after that…they were away for a long time, yet never got close to lapping us, so I think I could have hung with them if I had contact and at least been in the mix at the end. Oh well…
A few notes:
- Pre-ride the course at or near race speed. There were a lot of corners and I was taking many of them without braking at all by the end of the race, but not at the beginning. Understanding that line earlier on would have helped a ton!
- Be ready for the sprint off the starting line. I wasn’t expecting this – but in my race and in almost every race that followed us, there was a surge right near the beginning of the race to try to split the field. It’s going to happen, and you’ve got to be near the front to be a part of it.
- In a short race like a crit, be ready for a very high sustained effort. I expected intense, but ‘recovery’ was getting a lap in the draft. Would have been a little better in the field, but I haven’t had a that much of a sustained effort for that long in a long, long time!
Well, that’s enough for now. Back to a little bit of work and off to the Monday night race at PIR!