The Radiant Lake Criterium

7 01 2010

The Course

I previewed the course Monday morning, noted the topography, direction of the prevailing wind, the condition of the road and it’s characteristics. I knew this was going to be a fast ride. I also knew that if I wasn’t able to draft much I’d burn my reserve and not have much left for the finish line sprint.

Race day arrived, and the family and I found a parking space near the registration tables and finish line…cool. The kids and Barb didn’t have to move too far to see the race. It was right there in front of the camping chairs on the sidewalk. My kids got busy with the still and video cameras, while getting to sit on top of the van too.

The wind was hustling and the temperature was near 87F, upwind riding would be done in the drops to reduce my profile drag. Being able to draft would help reduce energy spent. “B” pack was already making laps on the course, so I set out to the road in the middle of the lake to warm up. I wanted to stay warmed-up until just before we left the finish line. Time turned to about 6:30, I dropped off my extra gear at the van and found a spot on the starting line next to Larry #162. We chatted about Trek bikes as he also had a Madone. The safety brief ended, we clipped-in and pedaled off.

Right away, the pack lead stretched to five or six riders deep in a single pace line. My position in the middle of the rear pack was not where I wanted to be. I had mentioned to Alan that my plan was to get to position number four to six and stay there. This way I might catch any breakaway attempts. If I could not make the jump, it might be tough to bridge up by myself, “Better to stick with ’em and draft,” I thought. There were many surges but none sufficient to maintain the gap and get away.

Somewhere on the southeast side of the course, at the start of another surge, Alan yells to “Get up there!” It was good advice and aptly timed, I needed to shake-a-leg and move it. Usually, the break would feel the burn and slow to be absorbed by the pack once again. I had positioned myself near the front by this point and felt alright with the pace being set. My cyclometer indicated an average speed of 22.8mph. I thought we would be a little faster than this.

The laps seemed to drag on, surge here, surge there. Burn, burn, burn. I lost my focus somewhere and ended up pulling everyone a lap or so. I could hear my friend Phil’s words bouncing between my ears, “Why are you leading? Get back into position!”

I signaled off the front and eased my cadence putting myself back into the draft. The wind in my contacts caused double-displays from my instrumentation…rpm good, H/R in the red, speed good. I am doing OK– maybe. I noted the lead of the pack was tending to dive and drive into the final left turn. Dave holds up two fingers, “Two laps to go!” faintly wanders into the back of my hearing.

“Get into position now! It’s time,” I thought. Burn, burn, burn.

We hit the final lap. I am on the outside about eight places back from the lead thinking that I’m screwed. There’s going to be just seconds to go after the final turn and I’m sitting out here swinging in the breeze. Great. The pace line re-forms 30 yards before the final turn…and drifts toward the outside of the lane. The inside line is open! The thought crashes into the place somewhere between my eyeballs and my brain.

In a split second, we are into the turn, I clear my left and lean in. My move worked, I am now about four back on the inside and gaining. I think the other riders were thinking more about the draft. There is no chance to get back in…I can see the finish, it’s now or never and the other guys are sitting in their pace line waiting for someone to make a break for it.

Slow motion, sprinting now, my handlebars are waving side-to-side, 50 yards to go and I feel like I’m stuck in molasses. 30 yards to go and my left knee makes a bid for the sky. “What?” My left leg’s hanging out, un-clipped, no power to the pedal. A blur passes me in my peripheral vision. I roll over the finish wondering what happened with my pedal. I coast for a while and thank the guys for a clean race. Phil tells me I made second place. “Incredible” I thought.

What a race.

2nd Place at the Finish Line Picture

2nd Place at the Finish Line

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