Monday, 25 June 2007

Cruel and Unusual Crits

After an awesome time windsurfing on Friday (we were those guys underneath the landing pattern at Reagan all afternoon), it was time to switch back to land travel mode and get ready for The Reston Town Center Grand Prix.

The scene in Reston was great. El Ocho and I got in just after the 3/4 race had ended and the Women's Race was about to start. There were lots of spectators, the announcing grand stand was in full effect and the sign in and all of the logistics were very tight. Golf clap to Evolution for the management. The scene took a slight nosedive after we found our brethren who had raced the 3/4 race. They looked like they had just spent a night in the house from "The Amityville Horror." "It was a tough race" was about all we could get out of them. "How'd you do?" "It was a tough race." "How's the course?" "It was a tough race." Yikes. Mental note - do a good warmup.

No matter how good my intentions are for warmup, I never get it right. I haven't yet found my mojo for shutting out the prerace distractions and really getting down to bidness. This is something I really need to work on. The other thing I need to work on is staging. Staging early and getting a good spot in these races is like government cheese. It's there for the taking, and the smart people take advantage. Alas, I was not one of the smart ones.

The race was crazy straight out of the gate. 100 yards in, I was 200 yards behind the leaders. The first three or four laps were pretty desperate times. The only solace I had was that a couple of guys I knew would be there at the end were back with me - Ray from Bicycle Place, Win Elliot and Butter in particular. If they're gonna get through this crap, so am I. But there's carnage EVERYWHERE. The pace is so high that guys are popping off left and right, guys are taking desperate lines through the corners to try and make up some ground, crashes are starting to feature on most of the laps. The course is probably a whole lot of fun if you aren't the knucklehead who lined up at the back, but for me it's an exercise in mayhem trying to make incremental gains up through the field and not giving back the ground that I've gained. At some point I become an expert at reading people's body language from behind and can tell when they are going to give up. Early on the finishing straight about 12 laps in, there is a group of about 20 guys immediately in front of me, all looking like they are about to turn back into pumpkins. I head to the gutter and hammer past this group. It sucks to have had to dig so deep so early in the race and for no good other than just to stay in the race, but the alternative is having my race be over, so there really is no alternative. At about this point I realize that I wish I wasn't opposed to racing with my HR monitor, because this MUST be my true max.

From what I learned later, there was a two man break that was about 15 seconds up the road at this point. They never came back. Those must be two strong homies because the chase group was hauling the mail and we had no shot at getting them back.

It's an interesting head game that goes on at this point. The voices in your head are SCREAMING at you to stop - "all you have to do is stop pedalling and all of this pain will be over and you can have beers." Your nerves are absolutely shot from from all the stupid crap you've done to try and stay in the game, and from all the other stupid crap that people around you have been doing to stay in the game. You've yelled at people you really like for stuff they had no control over (sorry, Charles), you're wishing and praying that they would just ring the stupid bell so it could all be over and still you are somehow convincing yourself that you need to move up.

Finally, the bell did ring. There was a bit of a surge, but I think everyone was pretty torn up at that point. At turn three I was able to grab a peek back and see that there was some pretty wide open real estate behind me, so however many people I was able to squeak past at the end would be permanent gains. This gave me enough incentive to try and stay in the hunt. At the end, I was able to pass a few, which would later prove to be good for 17th. Not a great result, and certainly not what I was aiming for, but given the day it was okay. Of a full field, 36 guys finished and less than a quarter of the team made it to the end.

It is no negative reflection on Evolution (who ran a really awesome event) when I say "THANK GOD NO MORE CRITS FOR A WHILE!!!"

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