Day 1: Raritan Cycling Classic – Race Recap
With several members of the BOLD team off racing in the hills of Vermont, I opted to tackle a series of three crits in the “wilds” (as in anything outside of NYC) of New Jersey. Somehow, despite not touching my bike since Tuesday of this week, I convinced myself over a couple of drinks on Friday afternoon that registering for these crits would be a totally sane thing to do.
Lessons of the day:
1) When races are listed “to follow,” show up much earlier than you think you should. I arrived to the race this morning as the field immediately before mine was getting underway. I had completely underestimated the speed of the earlier categories.
2) Pre-ride. I consider myself a fairly competent racer and a decent bike driver. But this course was far more technical than I could have imagined. The turns seemed to pop up out of nowhere.
3) Warm up. Moving up from a back row start on the course was in no small part hampered by the lack of cooperation/preparedness of my legs. The first few laps felt like death before I settled down and slowly started clawing my way up through the field. Ten laps in, I made it to where I wanted to be and was able to semi-recover.
4) Expect chaos. Decent weather, a large field, and an advertised payout to seven places meant a lot of people were trying to win the race. Despite all the early troubles—and foolishness of registering to begin with—I found myself racing decently well near where I wanted to be in the field in anticipation of a pending field sprint. Then all hell broke loose. With five laps to go, two riders pinballed off each other on turn two (as the field was attempting to negotiate it six-wide) putting several riders on the ground. I skirted around the carnage and stuck near the front of the pack, but as we came back through that turn, a rider was in the process of being back-boarded in the middle of the road and our pace car stopped to assess the situation. A couple of neutral laps followed and allowed many riders to make their way back to the front of the race. When the race began again in earnest, a few of those fresher-legged riders launched attacks. Things got re-sorted a few laps later until, as the field was about to see two laps to go, there was another wipeout of riders. This bounced me way out of position as I was forced to close around people slamming brakes and peeing their pants (I may have let out a slight tinkle myself). And as the field bunched up into the chicane on the last lap, I decided that death on day one of a three-crit weekend would not be a good thing…ultimately finishing 21st on the day.
Day 2: Bound Brook Criterium – Race Recap
A few lessons learned from the day before, I woke up ready to tackle the second leg of my three-crit weekend. Realizing the race started several hours later than I originally thought, I snuck out for a short ride in the morning before driving out to NJ. I made it to the race well ahead of the start time and quickly realized I was going in for a warm day—and that I should’ve brought more water.
After a small bit of additional warm-up (riding in the morning helped cut down on the necessity of doing so), I found a semi-shady spot near the start line to pre-stage and wait for the race to begin. This time, I managed to sneak onto the front row of the start grid, but on the wrong side of the road because, of course, I hadn’t pre-ridden the course. When we were sent off, I zoomed off the line toward the first turn only to realize that I was set up completely wrong since it was a tight chicane. I attempted to shift to the other side of the road, but was met by a wall of riders. I don’t really know how I made it through that turn, but thankfully I did and kept it upright.
After the initial couple laps of responding to surges while still figuring out the lines through the turns, I settled into a comfortable spot near the front of the field. The bigger teams in the race seemed either disorganized or unwilling to do too much work, as I watched a few do very little to control the pace at the front of the field. The only true attempt at wrangling the field occurred when a rider made it to the front in a small move of five riders and two of his teammates moved to the front to slow the field through the chicane, resulting in some field-bunching and sketchiness. I zipped around them and closed the gap, dedicated for the rest of the race to shut down any big moves. A few times throughout the race, I took to the front to up the pace of the field and try to make things a bit safer, but when I pulled off, no one followed.
With the writing on the wall for a field sprint, I tried to hold position going into the final couple laps. There was a crash in the chicane with two laps to go that jostled me a little bit out of contention, but I fought back as best I could. Going into the final two turns, riders were taking bold risks diving into the corners and throwing me off my line. As we hit the finishing straight (a long way to the line), I was maybe 25th and decided to hunt down as many people as I could. I dragged back 10 people by the line to finish 15th on the day. If only I could’ve entered that sprint in the top 15 or so wheels…oh well. One more to go.
Day 3: Tour of Somerville – Race Recap
I guess I should’ve known something might go wrong when I wasn’t remotely nervous going into this race. After an uneventful morning and an easy trip out to Somerville, I went about the business of preparing to race. Numbers: check. Pee break: check. Kit on: check. Warm up: check. My legs were feeling good and I was at least confident I would be able to crack into the top 20 (yea super-deep payouts!), if not better, on the day.
When I made it to the line, I found myself sitting in the 3rd row on the start grid, worse than the day before, but not as bad as it could’ve been. As we were sent off, I was able to quickly find my way to the front of the field with a plan to sit in for a few laps and maybe chance taking down a prime sprint. Then, as the race passed through the finish line after our first lap, riders were suddenly bouncing off each other and some were hitting the ground. Not one to panic, I saw a possible path around the carnage and aimed my bike for it—just as the rider in front of me slid into that path. I hit the ground hard. Game over. Thinking I was supremely messed up, I laid on the ground for at least a lap as the field came back around before gaining the courage to walk off the course. Road rash, torn shorts (my poor Castelli!), and a possibly broken bike. My legs were feeling so good, but I guess the bike racing gods were not with me this time.
Corey Williams – Cat 3 Road Racer