Thursday, April 28, 2011

Crit Report 4/21/11: This Ain't Camarillo.

Well, I have to say, I had trepidations.
  • The rose bowl ride, or just "the bowl" as we call it, is not a very safe environment.
  • I have not been in a crit in close to a year, Last one was a few weeks after RAAM last year. I got within about 10 seconds of lapping the field solo. 
  • I have had crashes this spring, one of them hard. Its taken a few weeks to feel comfortable on the bike in corners. 
  • My fitness is down from not riding too much in the last half year or so. No more residual RAAM fitness to use. 
  • I have a sleep disorder which makes my recovery much worse, and affects my writing.
See, I told you racing is all bout having your excuses ready, and always repeating them the same way! ;-)

So Will and I rode over, but it took longer than I thought. Got there 2 laps in, we think. So we jump into the pack just after the start/finish. No, there is no line there, or any lap cards. This ain't Camarillo. It took less than a lap to get heckled by some idiot telling me to get out of the pack and trying to scare me. I thought about replying, but hey, what would I have thought 10 years ago if I was in his shoes? I did make a note of what he looked like for future reference though.

The field was about 120 riders. Its bigger than Camarillo. From the video you can see that there are pylons on the right to separate the bikes and cars from the runners, walkers, baby strollers. There are roller bladers too, but some are too fast for that area. The paint and pylons are new this year. The ride has come very very close to being shut down in the last few years, and this segregation is the seen as a way to keep the ride alive. However, it changes how the ride play out. The course is narrower. On the left we have the yellow line. Need I say more? Well apparently I do, as some still cross it to move up.

Another new "rule": no passing cars in front of the pack. See them all here:

Most good riders know that you need to be in the front 20% of the pack. Why?  The pace does not fluctuate as much, and crashes are less likely, and you will have a chance at winning or getting in a breakaway.  They also know that when the pace slows at the front, and they are too far back, they can move laterally and pass a bunch of folks to get to the front. Well, when its this narrow, you get scant few opportunities to move up. there is just no place to go. A lot of European races are like this. The other 80% are not really racing, they are just hanging on, or in a few cases, trying to take it easy.

Now the things that add danger are motorists, and slow rider on the right. The latter we are watchful for, and call out. I did find it somewhat ironic that as the guys with the least forward visibility, I was the one calling out most of them. The motorists are the issue. There are those that will pull out at 10-15mph in front of a pack doing 22-36mph. This means that you do a lot of this ride with both hands on the brake levers. If you can't see 10 riders in front of you, you do not know what is going to happen next. when it happens, there is a bunch of yelling, braking, and then we have to get up to speed again. The yelling is mostly internal in the pack, not at anyone else. I can't imagine its a very safe feeling to be passed inches away our pack doing 30+, and this has been happening for 60 years. Still, they come out on T and Th nights between 6 and 7 and hope nothing bad happens. It there right, its a public road, and we, the overtaking pack, are the burdened party. We have to avoid them. The motorists are easier to understand.

So when I jumped in I was about 50 riders back, and just happy to be doing the speed and riding smoothly. Having done this ride many times in the 90s, I know where to move up. One the back side, where we are doing 30-35mph on a slow night. Gaps open up there, so you have a place to go, plus on a CarbonAero, my aero advantage is biggest on the fastest part of the course. I saw a hole to go through near the yellow line and went for it. Hmmmmm, had to stop pedaling cuz my front end was bouncing around too much! Cracks, like little frost heaves, likely from roots, under the pavement. So much for that, had to coast with everyone else. Here is the killer though. I was on my favorite rims, HED Belgiums, 23.6mm wide. Conti 4000S tires. Very smooth set up. To top it off, I had not checked my pressures in a few days, so the front was down around 80 psi. If that ain't enough to smooth it all out I may need to mount the 25c Pro3 Race tires I have around. 70psi next? I feel like Fabian Cancellara at the spring classics. I need 27mm tires too!! Containment: next time move up on the right, and dodge the slow moving cyclists.

Within a lap or 2 started having little conversations with other riders. All positive. One guys asks if I had been there a few years ago on the same kind of bike. He says he only remembered one thing: very fast! Another guy, ex pro from Europe, asked if I'd be contesting the sprint. I then described how I'd have to win this, probably from about 2 miles out.

We had a soccer ball roll out into the field at the third turn, when we were doing 32. No one crashed!

I am sad there are no primes.

There were at least half a dozen hard braking espisodes when motorists pulled out in front of the pack. I actually got to the front a few. Once I was in a small break that was caught immediately. The surprise was that it was on the uphill side. Another time I got to the front on the back side just in time to see that there was a 12 rider break 5 seconds up the road! There is this guy in a blue jersey (I swear its a waffle fabric, like old thermals) who yells at everyone. it seems one will ride the way he wants them too, and this really upsets him. He happens to be right behind me as I get to the front. He yells, at someone,"HOLD YER LINE!!!!!". I give it some gas and start after the break, opening a gap on he and the rest of the main field. I yell back,"Close the gap!" Hehehe. Just after that somebody flys by me at warp speed. He must have been slingshotting the field on the yellow line. We both make it to the break, but so does the field half a lap later.

On the last lap I found myself in about 25th or so coming to the little 4% grade just before the line. I was right in the no mans zone between the guys who would be sprinting and the guys who knew there was no point. I decided to stay out of it as it was my first night out.

I tell you, this has made me realize how I dominated Camarillo (most of the time). Its wide!! When I want to go, or need a line, its there!! It does not matter where in the bunch I am. This means I can keep the pace consistently high when in the pack, until a break happens. I'll need to stay closer to the front to make that happen here. I wonder if I will be able to hang with a break on the uphill side. I wonder if they will keep me with them knowing how much help I will be on the back side. I still think I need to launch somewhere on the backside to win this.

We will see what happens tonight!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Crit Video 4/21/11

Here is the raw footage from the last half. Report to follow.

Rose Bowl Ride 4/21/2011 from Bent Up Cycles on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Crit Report 4/21/11

Well its been close to a year since I've done a crit, but its time to see if I still have enough to survive one.

Its faster than Camarillo. At 10 times 3.1 miles its longer too. Camarillo is just 40 times 0.5 miles. There are more riders, usually over 100. Its narrower, and its got a little hill right before the finish line. Not exactly bent friendly, but hey, neither are crits!! Oh, did I mention the walkers, rollerbladers, baby strollers, beach bikes, and the occasional soccer or golf ball landing in the middle of the peloton? Motorists also frequently pull out in front of the pack, even when we are doing 35!

Here is the course:

I just realized the there is 120' of elevation change every lap. No wonder we are in the mid 30s on the back side!

Time to get changed and ride.
Wish me luck!