Monday, June 20, 2011

Race Report: EcoFest Criterium 2011... and more...

By: Brent  

Hello friendly readers, it has been a while. As you may have noticed I have been slightly absent from the Pursuit of Fit for a while. Life ganged up on me a bit and I was in a spot I needed to focus on me and my family. I needed to vent and I needed a release and to my surprise that seemed to happen the most in the saddle of my trusty bike. I have logged miles, there is no doubt. Memorial day weekend through that week was my largest mileage week ever at 132.83 miles moved. That included the 2011 version of the Indy Mini Marathon where I turned in a respectable 2:19:12 with no real training and honestly, no real interest. Running really lost its flair after the marathon last April. Luckily riding has become a first love to take running's place.

Along this journey I am on, I have met some great people. One of which, who we will call AT. AT is a leg shaving, hard riding, fun personality, Cat 4 racing, golfing pro of a guy. We hit it off immediately at the bike shop while Jeff was getting fit for his new LOOK Keo pedals. It all started with a simple conversation about leg shaving, which I did not participate in. In what seemed like 3 minutes we were exchanging numbers and planning on meeting for the next group ride.... and we did. The more we talked it was obvious his love for racing, and my interest was sparked and I kept asking questions. Fast forward a month, many miles, a couple books on racing, and more miles in the saddle. On the weekend of the 11th I was informed of a Crit race the next weekend in South Bend. The best part of this was the location. Crit racing is maybe the most popular version of bike racing but that's like trying to find a pick up game of cricket in Fargo, ND.

Essentially "crit racing" which is the cool way to say Criterium Racing, is located on a small course blocked off in the streets. Normally .6 to .8 of a mile long, that goes for a rough amount of time that gets converted over to laps to reduce confusion when the finish is. Every American starts as a Category 5 racer. Yes, you too Lance. The move from "Cat" 5 up to Cat 4 happens just based on participation. After 10 races, you have the option to become a Cat 4 racer. After Cat 4, to move to Cat 3, we will need to start seeing some results. Top 10's and what not. So with not a lot of mental planning and proper training other than just logging miles, AT and I arrived downtown South Bend for a day of riding and watching racing. We rode the course a couple times to check some worry spots that I had concerning a turn and just locating the nasty spots in the road, which the volunteers at least walk the course ahead of time and spray paint in bright orange.

So its GO time. The field of 37 lines up and the US Cycling official tells us the rules. He informs us of the 2 different primes (pronounced preems) that are prizes for one particular lap, both being $25 in this case. This race was listed as a Cat 4/5 race so AT rode in it with me along with a couple other guys I knew of. I had a couple goals in this race.

1) Just be a part of it. Expect nothing, just take it all in.
2) Get used to it. 37 guys all want to be in the same place. Learn your location.
3) Know you have more in you. Know you can push more.
4) Be safe.

The good thing is that coming from a running race background, You start YOUR race and you finish. I was at best an 8 minute miler. Never a 5 minute miler. In biking I am a 19 mph guy, not a 24 MPH guy, so I rode expecting to get lapped, but hoping for the best. When the official announced he would let us get 2 or 3 laps down before we got pulled I felt fine with that. I get you have to be safe and having some loner on the course in a bunch sprint isn't a good practice. As the race started and we were following the Ferrari pace car, by turn 1, I knew this was going to burn. after turn 1, its a long sweeping curve that starts down hill and at the apex kicks back up. By the next turn, where I was concerned being that it is tighter than 90 degrees, I was about 10 from the back of the pack. No problem. You climb a small hump in the road and take the last turn. By the end of lap 1, I may have only had 3 guys behind me. MAYBE. As each lap carried on I watched the field slip away that much more. I knew I had a guy on my wheel, but I couldn't get him to come up. Even after 3 or 4 laps, the announcer called out, "come on you two, work together!" Alas, he never came up. I think he pulled himself out of the race after that lap. I pedaled on and after 6 laps was seeing another guy falling off the back that I felt good I could catch. As I finished my 7th lap, yet to be lapped but knowing it was coming this next lap, the official stepped out into the road and spread his arms out pulling me from the race, after 7 laps.

Ummmm, what just happened? What happened to "2 or 3 laps?" The field was still together, after the long sweeping corner, they all would have been by and I could have gone another 5 or 6 laps and not been in anyone's way! I was not impressed, but chalked it up to my rookie debut and just went along with it. Either way I achieved my goals. I got out there and rode among guys that were MUCH better than me. I also averaged 20.5 mph and felt good about how I dug deep and kept of fighting. I actually topped out at 31.3 mph.

It was a great experience and I look forward to next weekend's crit race. AT and the others did great. I think the "bug" has bit me.

And yes, I shaved my legs.
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