Stuck around Rochester for the holiday weekend. Laura needed me to attend a co-workers wedding and I didn't really feel like traveling much anyways. Plus, here were two road races in the area that I could easily attend.
Dan Ulwelling Memorial race-
The Dan Ulwelling 25 mile bike race was on Saturday as a part of Austin's "Freedom Fest". My Domestique (his word, not mine... he would beat me on this day!), Al, and I left Rochester around 10 am. Our plan was to create a similar performance to the Death Ride despite facing more difficult competition.
I scouted the finish during my warmup and started second guessing my normal "plan" of being OK with a sprint finish on the road. This was downhill and downwind with a very long straight leading to the line. My ability to accelerate would likely be trumped by guys with more of a diesel type power unless I played my cards right.
The race pace was reasonable with a few half-hearted attacks and solo breakaways (including one real lame one and one real good one of my own). However, on none of those instances did anybody link up with the break and try to do any work. The teams at the front seemed very content to let it go to a sprint and there really wasn't anything we could do about it, despite my best efforts.
Al worked very hard for me all day and was right there leading into the last few miles. For some reason I wound up at the front of the pack and put in a little bit too much work over the last mile or so. This was partly due to being unsure where we were on the course. The map I had seen had made it look like our return loop would work a little different than it actually did... and it's not like dead flat roads in Austin are easy to distinguish from one another.
Anyways, by the time we got into really ramping it up I just didn't feel right. Usually when the finish or a big hill is in front of me I feel the adrenaline and lose track of any pain or thoughts other than the line. This just didn't happen to me in this race. The group started to attack and I caught a wheel in 3rd or 4th (which was probably about perfect with how early the sprint started), but then the surge happened out to the left of the guys I was behind and I was trapped in no man's land. I could have gone around to the right into the wind by myself, and feel that on most days I would have, but it just didn't happen today. Al was still on my wheel at that point but was able to catch a wheel and move left into a decent (5th?) finish. I watched the group kick it in and crossed at the back of the lead pack of 8, 12?
Milltown Cycles' Northfield Criterium
Figured this would be as good as any opportunity to try my first criterium. Did some online research, watched some videos and talked to some friends about how to approach this race. Advice boiled down to this- Stay at the front, expect it to be very very fast paced, be happy to finish the first one- you'll learn.
I definitely wanted to do well too- I was disappointed in myself for how Saturday had gone. Focused on getting some quality rest on Sunday and prepped my bike etc.. Warm up went well, it was awesome to see a few of my friends volunteering on the course and a few other racing or spectating. The scene was set for something... I at least knew that I would have to give it my all, no matter what, with all those people I know out there.
Made two quick laps of the course right before the start, but still managed to get a 1st row spot. Felt no nerves and felt appropriately warmed up etc.. The race started and I couldn't get my pedal clipped in. I flailed at it a few times and then CLANK! my chain popped off.
At that point time basically stopped in my mind as the entire race disappeared around the next corner while I fumbled with my bike. I got back on and I immediately got that feeling I had been missing on Saturday. I rode very hard for about 5 laps, worked my way up quite a bit with each one and eventually settled in riding between 2nd and 8th wheel for 8 or 10 laps. Then when a single rider got a couple hundred yard gap on the field I was able to move up to him. We rode 5 laps well ahead of the field, but then with 4 laps or so to go he (we?) both started to play games. I didn't want to pull up the hill every lap and he probably didn't know what to think about me (apparently most of these guys know each other and being an "outsider" makes their strategy with me different). Anyways we both sat up and let the group catch us. It's too bad another 1 or 2 rides hadn't bridged up with me- we'd have had a much better chance of staying ahead. Regardless, it was pretty damn fun to be out ahead of the field for a while! I rested in 3rd or 4th wheel until one lap to go and both he and I were again able to get some distance from the field up the hill.
I chased him through the final corners, but did not catch his wheel due to swinging too wide. Meanwhile a train of riders cut down to my inside and 4 or 5 of them got ahead of me. I pushed hard and was able to edge my way back in front of most of them by the line. I definitely learned a lesson about how to approach a sprint in this situation... I needed to be on the wheel of the guys who were moving and not just out there by myself if I wanted to win. That said- the easiest way for me to have won would probably have been to attach with about 1.5-2 laps to go, which I think I could have done successfully if not for the "extra" work I'd put in earlier... lesson learned?
I earned myself an envelope with cash in it! Which is actually fairly important to me. I told Laura 18 months ago that it was a goal to "finish in the money" for her and I've actually only done so a couple times before. She wanted to know what I was going to buy her... a burrito!
I think my CX experience really paid off in making my first crit an enjoyable ride. This thing was incredibly fun too! I'll be looking to fit a few more into my schedule.
During the race I messed up my rear Zipp 404. Thankfully I caught it early enough that I will be able to repair it myself. I will also be strengthening the head tube on my Look where a small hairline crack has begun to form. I'll have plenty of extra material (and I do have some expertise in doing this stuff). Let me know if you need any carbon stuff repaired...
Results - Thanks to all who came out to make the 2017 Dirt Bag another good day for the gravel community. The previous days rain made the course a little soft and put...
2 days ago