Spokane County Raceway – A Criterium by any other name…

21 05 2010

Spokane Raceway Park Aerial View

I hope more cycling days are like this one. It’s partly cloudy, the temperature is near 70°F, and there’s a breeze out of the NW at 10 mph. But this was in the morning, the weather this afternoon would be a bit different.

Earlier in the day I had picked-up a replacement cassette from a friend of mine. One way to test for a worn-out cassette is to apply tension to your chain by holding the rear brake lever and pushing down on the forward crank arm. A worn cog will reveal itself when the chain rides-up on the cog teeth. This is also the cog where you spend most of your cycling time. Another method happens when there’s more wear on that particular cog. The chain will jump teeth. This will become obvious when you’re jamming hard on the pedals…during a climb perhaps. Lets not allow that to happen alright?

At the track, the Baddlands crew were already setting up. Barb and I were the second vehicle to arrive. I parked as close to the finish line as possible.  Karen and Ken A. were busy with registration, and elsewhere on the track was Alex R. I signed the competitor roster, paid my entry fee, and turned-in my liability release. Karen mentioned having to turn one of her folders a certain way lest it release its contents to the wind. The graying front to the northwest had brought a friend.

The wind is no stranger to SCR. The surrounding topology is flat with little vegetation to shield or redirect. I could expect the usual breeze from the southwest. Half the track would be headwind or crosswind. If I’m fortunate, I might have a tailwind. Then again, so would everyone else.

B-pack would be the first on the grid. My friend Tim L. agreed to run laps with me while I warmed-up, as long as I didn’t slam it that is…Tim was on his mountain bike. Round and round we went. I noted the freshening wind, and its direction into particular turns and straights. Just like Corsa Brutale, drafting and energy management would be important.

Tactics would also play an important part. In this crit I’d have some teammates to ride with: Eric R. , Jeff N., and Scott R.  Being able to meet at a race is the exception as all of us have different schedules.  Getting to train or practice together is quite unusual. After the race, Scott would leave a phone message with an idea on lead-outs for future crits. A team effort is always stronger than any individual effort, and I’d like to see our B-squad record some results.

Tim peels off just before start time and I soft-pedal before rolling to the start area. Alex R. asks me to roll to the start line in order to sight his finish-line camera. I thought that was cool and took my place. I was already cooling-down too much. Scott R. chats with me on the grid:

Karen, as the officiating official gives us her required safety brief. Of note was the odd and lengthy treatise on blowing your nose (aka snotting) whilst in the pack. Here I see three options to the conscientious racer: (1) move to the outer pack and let loose, (2) hold it and breath through your mouth, or (3) continue to snort and dribble. I don’t remember ever having to think about this. Most likely because I’m breathing like an over-worked rail engine at these crits.

pic of the left-side starting grid

"At the starting line" Me on the right with teammate Jeff N. right behind.

So while we’re in the middle of this “fluid diatribe” the clouds in the sky decide to scatter a bit of rain on us. I’m getting colder by the minute and wishing Karen would reach the end of her brief and start our race. I was shivering by the time she was done and I welcomed the start. We were off soon enough.

Our pace pick-up pretty fast and soon we’re carving the apex at the many curves on the course. Just as soon as the lead would pass through, they’d jump and try to create a gap from the pack. Tactically, this made sense and I started to see the ripple-effect as it traveled back. I tried to anticipate it and was successful; being able to jump myself ahead within the pack between curves.

Jumping was a nice experiment. On the other hand, burning my matches didn’t save much for the last lap. In the following clip, we have a breakaway racer, and then the pack. At 0:12, I’m behind Cris L. (green jersey), on my left is teammate Eric R., behind me is friend Scott R. To Scotts left is my teammate Jeff N. This is our last lap before the finish:

Somewhere on the northern portion of the track I reach the end of my matchbook. The many surges, inefficient drafts, not to mention my lapsed training while I was sick indicate the reason…I’m empty. There’s nothing left to dig into. Around the last sweeping, right-hand curve to the north is where you want to get in position. If you have teammates, this is where your lead-out starts. Otherwise, it’s every racer for himself.

We flow onto the drag strip. I’m in the middle of the pack noting that more racers on the flanks are arriving. There’s going to be another surge in just seconds, I can feel it. I start to see pictures in my minds eye of the crash at Chapman Lake. The visual parallel is eerie. I know that my legs don’t have enough to contest the sprint and I decide to let it go and look for a route out. I find a gap and move through it, apparently safe from any imaginary, massive pile-up. The surge coils and spews a stream of racers towards the finish line.

“Finished upright,” I thought. In a weird way, it was right at this location of the track where I was involved in another crash the season before. I stayed up during that one too, but this is just too close to dismiss.

To beat this, I’m going to have to be at the front and in the break. I’m going need more power into the pedals. Time to catch-up on some quality, hard training.

See you at the next race.


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2 responses

25 05 2010
cris lucas

fun read. i burnt my last match in the vid clip. ha ha!

25 05 2010
Eric Abbott

You and me both Brother! (Why is it always the last lap?)

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