This summer or next, please make a bike racing vacation. I recommend Bend, Oregon (see: Squadra Perspective: Elite Nationals Week), the Tour of The Valley (ahem, my hometown, national level stage race where Super Squadra member Chad Haga recently claimed 5th place overall), or some other mildly exotic location, such as Longmont, Colorado, site of the 2010 state criterium championships, where I competed on Sunday.
A new set of terrain, competition, and climate can be a refreshing change. (Of course, Team Hotel San Jose has a large Boulder based contingent, so no matter where you go, some things never change—for example, green and orange all over the front of the race.)
On Saturday I raced in Boulder at the North Boulder Park Criterium, and played the odds not so much in my favor for a hard-fought top-18 on the day. Afterward, Emily and I got to spend the rest of the afternoon plotting our next nap and BBQ party, this time hosted by Boulder’s own Sean Sullivan, who invited many out-of-towners visiting over the summer. We were fueling for a very prestigious event, Sunday’s Longmont Criterium, a hamlet nestled along the front range roughly 16-miles north of Boulder.
The day started off perfectly, a relaxing ride with Ruarri Day-Stirrat, Marc Mayo, and Jenn Mix for “something scenic,” which in Colorado means about 50min of climbing. After 25min of coasting back to the lair of all things vacation related—that is, my good college friends Drew & Kara Vankat’s pad in central Boulder—it was time to get serious for the race. Whole Foods. Pearl Street. Soccer. Coffee.
Arriving at the race was pretty usual: lots of parking with cyclists taking over a bank’s drive thru for shade, more coffee, and port-a-johns galore. The course was a dead flat L, with more right turns than left. All turns were at 90deg. There was a lot of dirt and gravel on the outsides of the course. No real furniture on the Longmont streets, which seemed to be patched just for the race. Thank you, Longmont!
About 100 Pro1,2′s lined up for the race under sunny conditions. Roughly100sec into the race, I got bumped hard for the first time in this event. Really, I thought? I have never seen pack racing behavior as aggressive as in my two Colorado crits. Hands came off bars for pushes. Di2 levers hit hips. Guys, the best way to win is to eliminate excuses and ways to lose.
Then, it rained. I drifted back, not so interested in trying out the traction of my 140 PSI rear tire, and it got safer. Whew.
The rain was heavy, maybe lasting for 8-12min before leveling off to a drizzle. As the course dried out near the 35min mark, I began to regain my nerve and moved up a bit, only for the second downpour of the day to start at the 40min mark. I thought about dropping out, but I needed a workout and everytime I think about dropping out, I win. Then, I thought about dropping out again, but elected not to as I didn’t know where to go for a ride in Longmont and my bike was already dirty.
The rain stuck around much longer this time, perhaps for 25- 30min. It was at this point, the 50min mark of the race, that a very select group got off the front of the race. Their gap of 25sec stayed steady, thanks to the very strong group of chasers at the front of the field. The pace was a 28.4mph average for the 25min of chasing. Pretty fast on drying roads. I got my groove back and started to move up in the group as riders couldn’t handle the pace. At roughly 10min to go, people started bashing into each other in the race. This is how I moved up through the field.
Riders would crash four at a time. The crashes, sadly, were spectacular. All involved broken bikes, thankfully it appeared as though no broken bodies even though it took several laps to clean up one crash. It appeared as though one bike broke twice in one of the crashes. First, the bike snaped a fork on a T-Bone impact of a downed rider, then when it went sailing through the thin mountain air, came smashing back down on the tarmac to break a seat stay. Flat tires on the dirty roads also made riders slide through turns as the tire would lose pressure without the rider noticing anything was wrong until their rim was on a painted crosswalk at 33mph.
At about four laps to go, the break was caught. After about 1hr 26min of sitting in the field, I struck out hard just inside of two laps to go on a 1.1k course. I bombed the right side of the pack, took a clean line through the following right turns, then had a solo rider bridge up shortly after we entered the last lap. I could see groups of one attempting to make it across.
As we crossed the finish line for the next to last time, I was feeling lucky. This is a Colorado state championship, I’m not from Colorado, and a guy strong enough to make this move was towing me around the course. The rider didn’t let up. He kept pushing the pace the whole way through the last turn, completely unaware that Bahati Foundation’s Jason Donald made a solo bridge up to us with about three turns to go. I figured my muscular butt would out kick Jason’s skinny climber’s physique, however, I wasn’t going to leave this to chance.
We exited the last wet turn completely full-throttle, no brakes or goofing off. I jumped hard on the right side of the rider who pushed the race for the last lap. The finish line was about 250m way, and into the wind. I didn’t want to lay everything out too early, so I clicked down to the 11, sat, and pushed hard in an attempt to stay small and force Jason around and into the wind. He attempted to come around and as soon as I knew he was in the wind, I pounced. Out of the saddle, everything. We were both in the wind, him for longer than me, being “larger”, I was able to hold him off, as well as the charging field, for the win.