Aspen Criterium – Report

May 23 2005

After Saturday’s hill climb, I was a little more prepared for the “Aspenness” of this morning’s crit. Like when I noticed they ran the A Women (these aren’t USCF races, after all) simultaneously with the Veteren Men (35+) Sure, it worked out well for the one chick who could keep pace, but sure wasn’t fair for the two who couldn’t. Or when I went to check-in and they zip-tied a transponder to my fork. I ask “is there a finish camera?” They just look at me and say “No, that’s what this chip is for. Why would be need a camera?” Unbelievable. Head tube angles, chip position on the fork, aero forks, straight blade forks; all these things make this a bad idea. Aspen just further proves my theory that money makes you dumb.

Racing got under way with a countdown from 10 seconds to go. Needless to say, I left on “2.” The course had 9 corners, which sounds way worse than it was, because the roads were wide and largely flat; it was nowhere near as tricky as the Beanpot. The action was hot from the gun, and I found myself alone in third on the road. I started closing on two leaders, until one of them took off. I passed the other loser, and was catching the solo ahead, but the field was catching me faster. So I eased off, and the second I rejoined the field, another attack went, and those left behind shut down. Great. Just what I wanted. Fortunately, I got together with some motivated parties, and we got a good pace going until some lazy dickhead got to the front and the pack bunched up, ejecting another break without me in it.

So now, I’m in the third group on the road, after somehow missing two breaks, and the race becomes absolutely dominated by team tactics. These guys from The Hub of Aspen (in fruity pink get-ups, I might add) and Ajax Bikes just sat on the front, and everyone else in the group was too beat-up or too satisfied with hanging on to help. I was very theatrical in my attempts to rally the field; I even, after one long pull, sat up and starting pointing at people, screaming at them, asking if they had anyone up the road. But it was all futile. Fortunately, this was only 20 minutes or so into the hour-long race, so I fell back into the field to rest up a bit.

Around 30 minutes to go, a team that had missed the break, Boulder Couriers, I think, came to the front. Now, I don’t want to speak badly of them, because they seem like nice guys, but damn, I hope they courier better than they ride tempo. At least, I think, the effort was enough to inspire the rest of the teammateless riders and I to start pulling, and with about 8 laps to go, we came in sight of the second group. And promptly stopped. The Hub and Ajax guys came back to the front, and we stalled out again. *Sigh* I said to myself, and with five to go made the bridge (towing the whole field behind me) on a lap-and-a-half long pull. It was tiring, and to make matters worse, as soon as we got in contact, everyone suddenly had legs again, and started attacking, and taking crazy cornering lines.

Now, I should mention again that this was not a USCF race. This madness was open to anyone who signed up, aged 19-35, regardless of category. The dude who won looked good, Cat 1 good, while many riders looked like they had no clue how to ride in a group. I heard and heard of some epic crashes, and even got to see one; a two man attack about 25 minutes in, where, a corner after the broke, the second guy slid out. He then proceeded to hop to his feet (and after I passed to the inside of him) get creamed by like 50 other dudes. Kiddies, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: if you crash, make sure that a)you’ve stopped moving and b)THE FIELD HAS PASSED YOU before you get up.

Back to the action with 2 to go. I slip down the drops for better aerodynamics and stability, and box a few guys off my line in the second corner. I swear to God, I’ve never heard so many people call for the inside. Inside is bad, dudes. You will get flattened or at best lose positions. So don’t do it. At the bell, I am right where I want to be, 4th wheel with field s t r u n g o u t. And of course, right at this moment, all the team tacticery fails in an instant. It becomes a five-wide game of
“Not me” as people look all over the place for someone to lead. And of course they sit up on the best lines, so all attacks are suicidally close to, well, suicide. There are two complete reshuffles of the field in the last lap, and I drastically misjudge the second. Turns out, you have to start the sprint 3 corners from the finish straight. I manage to catch sixth wheel, but it’s too far back, and I can only make up one spot in the sprint, for a bitter 11th place (5 riders got clear in the initial break), right behind Crazy Charlie (who f-ed himself up real bad snow biking a few years back.) I am starting to feel worn from my training as of late, but hopefully I can salvage some face in Wednesday’s road race.

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