Tuesday, May 10, 2011

El Dorado Criterium (Again)

I (heart) this bike...
I've missed the last couple Tuesday night criteriums at El Dorado Park in Long Beach, so I was really looking forward to tonight.  But I tell you what - when you take a few weeks off from riding at race intensity you definitely feel it when you come back.

I got there around 5:00 and TRI714 showed up around 15 minutes later.  After we kitted up we headed out for the requisite 3 lap warm up.  While talking, tactics came up and we hatched a plan that if the race went well, on the last lap I would move up the outside to about 5th or 6th wheel and Craig would drop in behind me.  The idea was that when the final sprint started I would give him the best 100 meters I could muster and hopefully that would be something he could take to the finish line.

We started with a neutral lap, and once we were racing I quickly realized that I've been in better form.  But I managed to stick to the lead group for the first few laps as everyone burned off the initial nervous energy.  There were sprint points up for grab on lap 4, but after that the pace slowed down just a little bit and the race came back together.

There is a slight hill coming out of turn 2 and after about 5 laps it became obvious (I assume due to a pretty stiff headwind) that the pack was slowing down quite a bit here.  I found that if I came out of the corner with enough momentum, there was always a clear inside line that I could use to float up to the front of the pack. Since this rise crests a little less than a mile from the finish line, I figured it might be a good place to start executing a plan a little more complex than our original - which as I mentioned was to simply find a spot on the outside before the final sprint.  I found Craig and explained my plan:  On the last lap, I was going to hit the hill pretty hard from the back and come up the inside.  I figured that as I came by, Craig could get on my wheel and then we would then drift to the outside to insure that we were where we wanted to be for the final sprint in plenty of time.  The last lap is actually one of the slower laps, at least until the last 200 meters.  So I guessed that there would be minimal drama getting into position.  I was actually really excited - Maybe we'd get the chance to try out some bona-fide tactical maneuvers.

Then about a mile later, somebody attacked.  The peleton as a whole immediately responded but somehow I got caught off guard, undoubtedly due to the high volume of internal high 5's I was giving myself for for my tactical brilliance.  In a matter of seconds, I was gapped.  Then we turned into a headwind and I officially got dropped. 

I had one option - to shift down and pedal really hard.  So that's what I did.  I figured if I could minimize the damage, I'd get back on to the rear of the pack at the hill.  And luckily, that's what happened, but just.  I hooked back on about 100 meters past the top.  As I was riding up the hill, out of the saddle and with a look of extreme anguish undoubtedly smeared across my face, I noticed a race photographer.  So there might be a decent shot of me - all alone and fighting the pain - out there in a few days.  This might be a cool picture, but too bad it's me coming up from behind and not hammering away out front.

Once back on, I found a draft and let myself recover.  There was about 15 minutes left - most likely 3 laps.  We could still execute the plan.

Order was restored and things were going fine.  A couple of other guys attacked, but the peleton didn't respond - instead we let them hang out there.  The wind had picked up and by default the front of the race came back together every time we turned into it.

We started the last lap.  But then we had to go neutral to let another race pass.  I was surprised by this and a little annoyed - I thought we had been going hard enough over the last hour not to get passed.  Most of the other guys weren't pleased by this, either.  Unfortunately, we stayed neutral over the hill so my grand tactical plan was not going to happen.  When we started up again, there was maybe 3/4 of a mile to go.  I got up to about 6th wheel on the outside, but I looked over to my left and saw that Craig had an inside line and definitely wasn't looking for me.  But at the end of the day, this ended up being a good thing.  Because when the final sprint started, I found that I had nothing left.  Going neutral had given my leg muscles just enough time to tighten up and when I tried to lay down some power it just wasn't there.  I finished last of what was left of the leading pack.  I can't say I wasn't frustrated.

Ask Craig how he did, though....

Final Stats:

Time:  1:07:51
Distance:  25.8 Miles
Avg Speed:  22.8 MPH (includes 2 neutral laps)
Max Speed:  41.9 MPH


XLMIC said...

It is crystal clear from this post that you walk the walk. You live that credo you shared with us earlier :) Not the outcome you were working toward, but a stellar effort nonetheless. You gave it all you could. I am impressed.

The Green Girl said...

Wow. That was dramatic - reading that took my breath away!

Unknown said...

cool stuff! sorry you didn't get to execute your plan but you will...looking forward to the pic :D

KovasP said...

Outstanding writing Patrick, really felt like I was in the peloton with you. Sorry you hadn't fully packed your suitcase of courage.

Tri4Success said...

I enjoying these crit recaps. Sounded like a solid plan to me - darn neutral lap! Nothing wrong with finishing in the lead pack when you don't have your best stuff. Nice work!

TRI714 said...

Nice job of getting back in the field Patrick that fricken headwind was wicked at times. I was looking for you comming up the right side. I only made that inside moce to the final corner to drift right and set up an outside sprint. Good times, it's always motivating to me to look over and see a team mate.

JohnP said...

I love reading about these!!!

Barbie said...

I give you so much credit doing these types of races. I would be too scared.

Unknown said...

Wow! Reading this got my adrenalin going! Bike racing scares me. It's one thing to climb on during a tri when cyclists are more spread out but just racing is different. I'm really impressed with how far you've come in the past year.

Johann said...

Really great post Patrick! Well done, that was a fantastic ride, hard but good. Reading this made me think about why I don't ride and will probably never do so again. I'll share the story one day maybe.

Unknown said...

I love reading these, feel like I am in the saddle with you. Minus the pain, of course (-:

Good job to both you and craig. These are going to pay off so huge for you in tri's!


Related Posts with Thumbnails