Cyclonauts Racers Criterum Report

Jun 1 2007

So after a weekend of being spoiled in New Hampshire with scenic, hilly rides, delicious food, fresh coffee, and all the other things a cyclist can be spoiled with, I figured I better even my karma out and do a criterium around a sunbaked race track. Twice. And that’s what I got. Believe me, the Cyclonauts Racers Criterium holds no secrets.

I left my base of operations for the weekend (Hanover, NH) around 11, enlarging my carbon footprint substantially on the ride to Stafford Springs, CT because I didn’t want to be late. I rolled in about 30 minutes ahead of start time to a barren wasteland of a parking lot, with no signs anywhere. I couldn’t see cars, cyclists or anything from the road, and pretty much every gate I came to was closed. Still, I refused to surrender, and eventually found my way in.

Registration was something of a mess, with high winds (maybe the infield wasn’t the best spot for reg, eh, Cyclonauts?), long distances to the car and bathrooms, and no real signage. But because it still wasn’t complicated enough for me, I left my license in the pants I wore to Sunapee, so I had to go back to my car, open my laptop, find my race resume, take the license number off of that, write it down, and finally return to the registration tent.

Rough start, I know, but it was pretty much uphill from there. Second race was a mere $10, so I figured why not, and signed up for the p/1/2/3 as well. Cost me some warm-up time, but since when do I warm up, right? Back to the car, bust out the brand new INTERNATIONAL BICYCLE CENTERS skinsuit, self-pin the number (yeah, try it sometime), hide the keys (no pockets…), and ride back to the track just in time for whatever race it was that came before mine to end.

Course notes: utterly non-technical (see map linked to above), though there were a few tight moments with other riders through the “chicane” (and in another race, this somehow happened), stiff but not unbearable headwind on the back stretch, and short, tailwind finish – finish position is essentially set once you come out of the turn. Put in a few laps just to get a feel for the ins and outs, and then lined up.

Start was easy, put in my usual crit jump and hung out at the front of the field as we let some guy soft pedal a gap. He realized he had a gap, and started not-so-soft pedaling. Then there was the usual mishmash of attacks, jumps, bridges, breaks and whatnot that mark a not-especially selective crit. Good times. I hung in the wheels at, but never on, the front, waiting for that critical moment to turn a good break into the right break.

At 33 to go, I decided that by 30 to go, I would try to launch it myself. Some AFD guy was dangling off the front, and I had been hanging behind his block for about a lap and a half. The HR was getting low (160’s) and I was getting bored. Suddenly some dude from Zephyrs (? – I didn’t recognize the team) roared past – a man on a mission. I was like “that’s the move” and powered up to him, pulling through as soon as I got on. We passed the AFD guy, and ended up with 5 in total: some Anthem health guy on a Scott, a Cyclonaut (big guy, with lots of teammates), the AFD guy, the Zephyr guy, me, and someone else.

We worked well together only in that we didn’t work poorly. People skipped pulls, but there were never any big gaps. I’d say Anthem and Zephyr were the engines (not that I was sandbagging), but the Cyclonauts rider was clearly marking (with like 10 teammates in the field behind him – who does that on the big move of the race?). Eventually, we got the ‘Nauts guy to stop taking tickets, but I think his heart was never in it. We ramped up about half-a-lap’s distance, and I was turning nasty cadence at 180 bpm or so, feeling comfy.

Prime bell rang, we agreed no sprint, and luck of the draw, I took it. I thought I heard someone shout “Powerbars”, so I offered to share with the rest of the break, but it later turned out to be moisturizer cream, which had been free swag at the start anyway. Maybe the bell motivated the field, though, because after that we started getting reeled. Not sure who turned on the gas behind, but it was like 5 seconds a lap. Stuck it out until 15 laps to go.

I easily recovered and reintegrated, and started working on my positioning skills, trying to shadow riders, and trying to get up to teammate Mike to discuss tactics. However, he, probably rested nicely by this point, went off to chase an attack. Still, never any doubt as to how the show would wrap – gruppo compatto. I counted down the laps, and man, I forgot what a rush you start to get riding near the nose of the field with 5 to go. Someone launched a late one at Laps -4, but he never got enough room to panic the field.

Moved up well between 3-2 to go (top 5), but slid 2-1, hit the bell in about 8th. Though the chicane, I held the wheel of my erstwhile breakmate (Anthem), which slid out. But a fortuitous pedal plant jerked him back upright. Not sure if this had any impact on my riding (it happened fast, but I came out of the turn a little wide, and though Cyclonauts was trying a lead out, the field bunched up as it hit the headwind, and I was way up on the bank, partially exposed. I should have just gone from there, maybe had a shot at getting around the front and holding for a better spot, but shooting down the bank into the onrushing field seemed a bad call. I held up and rolled in with the pack, like 25th.

After a cool down lap, I asked the official if I could just keep my 3/4 number for the p/1/2/3 race. A simple enough request, I thought, but it was refused. So Mike changed my number, and I met up with teammate Greg for a little warm up. Legs felt like poo, but after I got lined up and the whistle went, I was spinning ok. I hopped in on Nate Ward’s wheel, which was maybe not such a good idea since he had trouble clipping in, and then switched to his teammate Tucker’s.

Tucker is a big dude, so I had a nice easy ride. I kinda ignored the moves, thinking “oh, you’ll be too tired to break now”. The mistruth of his slowly became apparent, and I remember watching the main selection ride away from me for the last time (without a teammate in it!), thinking “you know, you should have chased that”. After the pack spat forward a second group, I really wanted to chase, but disliked the idea of leading enemies up to a group that my teammate (Greg had caught onto it) was in. “It’s not like you’re gonna get dropped” I thought to myself.

Ah, but there are two ways to get pulled. I didn’t realize until I peeked across the track with 25 to go, that we were in serious danger of getting lapped. I took off solo, and still had power in the legs, but the bridge was just too far. My solo saved me the trouble of sprinting against the other five people who had similarly lazied themself out of the race, and “finished” 19th overall. Kind of demoralizing to wrap up with all that gas left, but I learned a good lesson (race each race as if it’s your first of the day), and Greg finished up Top 10 in the end (nice).

Next weekend (that is to say, tomorrow – I’m so lazy with race reports) is Maine. Much as I am pleased with my form at the moment, and my good break sense and boxes of moisturizer, I sure would like to have some results to show for it. The more I think about it, the more I feel like I gave away a podium at Sunapee, so I’ll have to use that as motivation at Lake Auburn. And the crit? Well, I hear it’s pretty open, but with a few corners/climbs to string things out. If it’s anything like Fitchburg’s is, I should be right at home.

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