Ah, it’s so good to be back racing in The Valley. The unbelievably slow starts, the sketchy riding, the incredibly thin air…truly, la dolche vita. This week’s race went down not on roads, but on the Woody Creek Race track, which was purchased a few years back by the private and exclusive Aspen Auto Racing Club or something like that. Thus, as the track was intended for motorcars, I was expecting not to need to use my brakes. As it turns out, the very last corner before the finish line (see map here – finish line is directly opposite “existing finish line” on map; proposed sections do not exist.) was over 180 degrees, and, with the massive tailwind on the straightaway before it, most definitely needed brakes.
As usual, I arrived late, around 5:59pm, but the Men’s A start wasn’t until 7, so I had plenty of time. Got to chill, meet some teammates, show off the new team kit, and warm up. The course was dead flat, and most of the corners easy, but a massive headwind at the finish managed to keep everything together. ON the line, the organizers switched things up to make the event a 15 lap points race, points on 10 to go, 5 to go and double at the finish. I’d never done a points race, but I was betting on it being my kind of thing.
The start was pathetic slow, even with the headwind, so I up and r-u-n-n-o-f-t right around the 3rd corner and down the back stretch, getting up to 37mph, before putting on the brakes to cruise through the hairpin at around 25. It was tough going down the home stretch, but my little flier did several important things: 1)let me gauge how fast I could swing the hairpin; 2) let me gauge how hard sprinting into the headwind would be; 3) made the field think I was looking to breakaway – and by corollary, not a good sprinter; 4) revealed which teams/riders were looking to keep the field together by showing me who was first to chase; and 5) raised the pace. All this from 30-40 seconds of moderate effort. God, I love tactics!
Anyway, I kept cool after being caught again just before the first corner, and sat in around 5, 6th wheel. The jastling for position wasn’t so bad, but Charlie from The Hub has a bad habit of halfwheeling people. Turns out, I learned, after offering him a teammate’s wheel so he’d stop hovering between us just off to port, that part of Charlie’s crash damage is he don’t see too good, and prefers to ride between lines like that. Scary.
The bell rang, and I took a little pull and slid into second wheel. Not a whole lot of fighting involved, and I found myself lead out nicely by an older chap in an Excel Sports jersey. Though it was a little far out, I said “Aw, why not?” and cranked it up, popping around perfectly into the wind. I had so much time staring at that line unmolested that I took a little peek behind me, just to make sure other dudes were sprinting. Well, they most certainly were, so I got back to my work at took the first sprint by a wheel. Sweet! 5 points pretty much guarantees a Top 10 finish. (The distrib was 5, 3, 2, 1.)
Then things kinda went downhill. Teammate Mike (who’s 15 and darn strong, if tactically questionable) busted OTF with some guy in a Carlton College kit. This allowed me to sit on, which was plenty fine with me; after 5 days back at altitude, I was having a mother of a time clearing any lactate. Ajax decided they wanted to chase, and the field started splitting. I really wanted to be near the front, but man, was I cooked, gasping and whooping like an asthmatic bullfrog. I dropped to second group, and was clinging to the last wheel (like a child). Fortunately (for me, not the team) Mike got reeled in as the bell rang, and things cooled off while people at the front played “not me.” Someone one the next sprint, but I have no idea who.
After much fighting and gasping over the next few laps, I got up to the front group (let’s say 12 guys). At two laps to go, Ajax had a rider up the road, which was fine by me, as I was pretty confident in my ability to take the second place points if he got away. Then Ajax, who had apparently stolen T-Mobile’s play book just before the start, began chasing themselves down. Attacks flew, and I kept the chase on until just after the bell, at which point I hit a lactic wall, beyond which I would not be able to sprint. So I swung off and let someone behind me chase. Mike flew by me and hooked up with the group, but was too far back to factor in the sprint. I was gapped, for sure, but lost no positions (I hit the line 9th or so?), and my winning the first sprint was good enough for 4th overall. Awesome! I love points races!