On May 2nd, I participated in the Wells Ave Training Crit. The race is held in an industrial park on a closed (no cross streets, open to traffic) loop. The only businesses which are operating on Sunday mornings are the local health club and a gymnastics club. It was considered the “graduation” exercise for NEBC’s Spring Racing Clinic. This would be my first USAC race but I don’t think it counts towards the 10 mass starts for a Cat 5 upgrade.
Got there early enough and had the WC roster photo taken. Saw a few people from the clinic, but only 3 (out of 7) from the group I trained with. Matt is a very strong rider and Ken reminded me of a rider from Champaign, although he is not as strong as that rider. Matt was the only other group rider (not the instructors) that beat me in the 3 practice crits we had during the clinic. I knew he would be a good person to keep aware of.
The course is a bit rougher than I had figured. There are some spots that can cause a pinch flat. It is a extremely flat course and only about .8 of a mile. The race organizers do a good job of turning the course into a one way road, they even get a local police to direct the traffic entering the loop.
I had a relatively modest goal for this crit: just to finish. I have been leery of crits because of all the bumping and jostling and prefer to race TTs, but to move from Cat 5 to 4 you need 10 mass starts; the TTs aren’t going to do it for me.
The race consisted of 15 laps around the course and should take around 30 minutes to complete. The race official did notify us that there would be a half way [muffin] primes (an intermediate sprint for a prize) called and if there is traffic during the sprint, it would be nullified.
We started and I was able to clip in right away. The pace was not all out and I did see some riders I did not want to stay around, so I started to head up towards the front. After a lap or so, I looked down and saw we were doing around 25 and my heart rate was in the 160s. Didn’t seem that hard though. I could handle this pace.
The race progressed uneventful until the lap right before the call out of for the primes. I found myself on the front of the pack pulling them along. Took my turn and then got back a bit. The heart rate spiked into the high 170s near my max. As we passed the start/finish line, the official called out for the primes. I decided right then and there I was not going for it. It was a good thing because on the back side of the lap there was a car on the course and the primes got called off.
So, we went around another lap and then the race official called for it again. As he did this, I heard a loud pop. Someone behind me blew out a tire and I heard other troubling sounds. As the pack came around the last turn we saw the carnage. There was Ken lying in the street. He got taken out by another rider and, even though he landed mostly on the other rider, he did hit his head. The primes was called off. It was another 2 laps before he was moved to the grass.
At this point I had lost count of the laps but I was still feeling strong. It was easy to stay in the upper 1/4 of the pack. After a few more laps, we were headed to the start/finish area and I was getting thirsty, so I grabbed the water bottle. The cap came off. So I started messing with putting it back on and slipping back in the pack. As we came to the start/finish area, it turned out that it was the bell lap. Crap. I had fallen back behind 3/4 of the pack. I told myself not to panic but to start moving up. It was going well until the first turn (the tightest turn) and I got stuck behind an unconfident rider. He slowed way down. Now I had to get out of the saddle and pass him. That went OK and I still kept passing riders but I was too far back. I kept increasing the pace until the last turn and was near the center of the road (the yellow line rule was not in effect). Down the straightaway, I saw Matt pop up in the air on the far right side. I thought it was another crash but wasn’t sure. I kept going and brought it in. I estimated I finished in the upper half, maybe upper third, of the race.
Did a warm down lap and came back to the crash area and it was Matt on the sidewalk spread out with his SO (who won the women’s race) and others attending to him. With all the commotion, I forgot to check my computer at the time so I have no idea what my time or pace was.
During the break between the C and B races, the ambulance arrived to take both Ken and Matt away. I talked to both of them before they were loaded up and they both seemed in good spirits. I found out later that Matt did have a cracked pelvis. No word on Ken.
Wound up volunteering to marshal the B race, which was twice as far (30 laps). Got my entrance fee refunded for it. Woot! A free day of racing (other than the tolls and gas to get there).
Overall, I was happy with the race and it made the crits less intimidating. I think the Wednesday Night Wild Card training ride is harder and the polar HRM proved it. I burned less than 600 Kcal/hr, on a good training ride I’m closer to 900 Kcal/hr. The main takeaway for the race is be more attentive to the big picture. I was attentive to the other riders around me but I lost track of where we were in the race. I should have known the bell lap was coming up. Drinking a lap sooner would have set me up to finish better.