Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A late King's Valley / Icebreaker Crit race report. Or: MY FIRST WIN!!

Two weekends ago I doubled up on bike races: the King's Valley Road Race near Corvallis on Saturday, and the Icebreaker Criterium in west Eugene on Sunday.  I had attempted King's Valley twice before, and on both occasions was dropped handily on the longest hill on the course.  I am much more fit now than in previous years, so I decided it was time to give it another go.

No one took any photos of my field. Here is what Google came up with.

After the customary early departure, we arrived in the staging area, which was quite frigid with a gusty cold wind blowing through.  I was looking forward to getting the race going so I could warm up.  Once the race was underway a couple of guys attacked during the first lap but no one seemed at all interested in joining them and working so they always came back in to the fold quickly.  I think all the rollers kept the field from getting complacent since the pace was fairly consistently high whenever the road pitched up.  This also discouraged would be attackers.  I wouldn't say any major selections happened, but I know there were people getting shelled in the crosswind section and probably on the climb.  I worked very hard to stay near the front going into the final climb on each lap, and was one of the first few over the top every time.  Coming in to the climb on the final lap, a few more guys managed to sneak around me in the pack and I was a little boxed in, but still fairly close to the front.  I applied the gas gradually as the climb started and rolled past a fair number of dudes who probably hit the gas too hard early on the slope.  I think I should have gone harder from the beginning in hindsight, but that is easy to say now that I am sitting on my couch and not suffering.  One dude clipped someone's wheel and rode in to the ditch ahead of me, and Kennet's little brother blew up spectacularly while sprinting for the line.  I was happy with a 5th place finish, but I think I could have done better if I had hit it earlier on the climb and got with the leaders at the beginning.  5th place was good enough for a cash prize, and I even got Goldstein's trivia question correct for $5 more (it was Tom Boonen winning Paris Roubaix - duh!).  After the race, I put on my recovery compression socks and did some lawn mowing and yard work.

 Kind of like plowing through the wind on a solo breakaway.  
Dammit why didn't anyone bring a camera!?!

Later that night, one of the torrential downpours we have been having occurred and I started to worry about the conditions of the course for the Icebreaker crit.  I've crashed a few times this season, and taking corners at high speed on a wet road didn't sound too appealing.  By the morning of the race things were drying out a bit, so at the last minute I made the decision to go for it, kitted up and jumped in the car to get my crit on.  There were about five riders from the Pacific Power team in the field, and I was initially worried that they were going to effectively use their numbers to dominate the race.  They did a bit of attacking and counter attacking early on and made some attempts at "blocking" which really didn't work.  They had riders off the front for a couple of laps, but none of the moves looked very threatening. When the first bell rang for a prime, a couple of guys from Portland attacked hard and went free at the beginning of the lap.  Two more riders went on the back stretch to try to bridge, and then I went because I figured that if all five of us got a gap we could work together and make the break stick.  Even though there were still 18 laps to go, I thought a break of a few strong guys could run away with the race.  After the prime, all of us who were off the front came together and it became apparent that those dudes were only interested in the prime because they sat up despite the decent gap back to the main field.  I didn't attack them since I actually was hoping at least one of them would go with me.  I just ramped it up to a time trial effort and quickly noticed that I was all alone.  I had a pretty sizable gap on the field, which was catching the 4 other guys.  I thought things might slow down when they re joined the pack, so I was motivated to make my gap even bigger and kept going as hard as I could.  I noticed that there were still 17 laps to go, but I figured that if I could meter my effort and not blow up, either someone would join me and we could stay away, or the worst thing that could happen is that I would get caught and have to make another plan.  I put my head down and kept suffering, using the thought of lapping the field and getting back in to the draft as motivation to keep going.  The laps kept ticking by and I didn't start really hurting bad until about 5 to go.  This was also when one guy got pretty close to bridging up to me.  He must have motivated the pack, because they got a fair bit closer as well.  I knew that if the solo guy caught me at that point he would most likely take me in the sprint, so I didn't wait for him at all.  I managed to pick it up a mph or so, and finally heard the bell for 1 to go.  Knowing the field would be winding it up for the sprint, I emptied the gas tank, and managed to hold them off for the win.  That was the first mass start race that I have ever won; it was certainly one of the most thrilling moments I have ever experienced on two wheels.

Lisa raced with the cat. 3 men along with several of my Paul's teammates.  Their race was quite animated and a lot of fun to watch.  It ended up being won by a couple of dudes in a breakaway, with 3rd and 4th place going to yet another breakaway containing my buddy Matt Baumann.  Winning is much more fun than being dropped.  Now that I am somewhat fit I am going to be chasing that dragon for the rest of the season.  Hopefully I will get another "W" under my belt before winter rolls around.

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