Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Melon City Criterium 2010

We finished off a great weekend of racing in Iowa with the Melon City Criterium in Muscatine's Weed Park. The race takes place in a somewhat secluded park in Muscatine and is a mile long closed course. Melon City, besides being the filler between Snake Alley and the "Cage Match", is known for it's "speed bump". To explain, the course is fairly simple: slight uphill start, gradual turn, 90 degree turn, slightly left turning descent, SPEED BUMP, climb, 90 degree turn, chicane (Janette's term, I'm not sure I know what "chicane" means) and downhill finish. Hitting a speed bump on a road bike at 40 mph sounds utterly terrifying to me...which is why, as I suspected, it's not what I consider a speed bump but more of a speed "hump". The speed bump was fairly gradual and was more of a ramp than anything else.

EDIT: My teammate Zens did some awesome camera work documenting the speed bump with his flipcam. After watching the video, my only reaction is "holy s*$%!". I guess adrenaline helps in situations like this.

I woke up Sunday morning mentally fried from the day before. My body felt fine but I had no excitement whatsoever. To be perfectly honest, I carried this attitude until around lap 4 of the actual race. I had decided that my embarrassing performance at the Snake was due to being overheated on the start line (among the other obvious factors). On Saturday I think that I had warmed up my legs enough, but my body temperature too much. On Sunday I opted for a quick 15 minute spin with a cold water bottle over the head and a relaxing walk up to the start line.

Our race was about 40 minutes behind schedule which gave me even more time to cool off and wallow in my indifference. When it was finally our turn, I lined up in the first row and our race was off. Right off the start line, some guy attacked. I am pretty sure he was the eventual winner, but I am not positive. I followed because he wasn't going very fast anyways. Being the biggest rider in the race, I of course took the descent faster than everyone else and ended up first on the climb. (The speed bump ended up having no bearing whatsoever on my race. I don't think I took it "correctly" until Lap 7, but it didn't have any effect on me or the race.) I had decided pre-race to take the climb in the big ring and had was undecided on standing vs. sitting. I was feeling fast coming off the descent so I took it standing...in WAY too big of a gear. I killed my rhythm and ended up doing way to much work to maintain a top 10 position going into lap 2. I got to the top of the climb and was red lining...kind of ridiculous for the first lap of an 8 lap crit.

Lap 2 things settled down. The climb had whittled the lead group a bit, down to about 20 riders. The second lap I found my rhythm on the climb and maintained position. Lap 3, I saw some Cat 5 hilarity as a rider launched himself head first over the curb...while trying to take a drink! Unreal. He apparently had not read Luke's Tip #15.

By Lap 4, the lead group was down to 12 riders. On the climb, a rider attacked off the front and two other riders followed. I was sitting second wheel after the attack left and I had no intentions or the adequate energy to chase down the attack...neither did anyone else. I was left in a group of nine that would not grow or shrink at all before the final climb.

I realized during the race that I was saving a lot of energy compared to other riders because of my fat-man descending skills. I did not have to pedal to maintain position until 300 meters or so after the other riders began pedaling up the climb. I hoped that I would be able to use this during the final laps. I decided to try to move up to the front on Lap 7, hit the descent in the front in the final lap from which I thought I could easily take 4th.

We hit the climb in Lap 7 and I was not the only rider that had planned to attack the climb. The pace increased uncomfortably and I found myself at the top in the same position (mid-pack) but with much less oxygen than I would have preferred. The went as hard as I could the final lap. I picked off 3 riders on the final climb but there was no sprint to be had for anyone. I came in 9th, my best result yet. I was extremely happy that I was able to hang in that hilly of a crit. My days as a 5 are quickly coming to an end, but this crit gave me hope that I will have the fitness to be competitive in the next category.

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