Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Reno Air Center Crit Race - Alta Alpina vs Reno Wheelmen

Skipped out of work early for the inter-club criterion cycle race which started at 5.45 for the 'C' group. The circuit was 0.8 miles around an industrial park near the airport and was an excellent flat course with one tight turn leading to the finish straight.

We set off at what felt like a hard pace but harder for me was the cornering amid 40 or 50 other riders. I was yelled at a lot by one of the coaches for not pedaling in the corners. Partly this was fear of scraping the pedals but partly it was fear of bumping into someone else who wasnt pedalling. After being yelled at a few times I found that the coaches had a point, I really could jump a few places if I kept pedalling into the corners. It was still spooky to ride into a tight corner in a pack, with people very close on either side, in front and behind. Not pleasant.

The back straight was near the airport and was very windy so you needed to tuck in well to get pulled along by the pack, which turned out to be an art for the whole race. I wanted to be on the right hand side of the road for the straight to stay out of the wind but then get around to the left to take the corner fast.

With so many riders out it was hard to plan the race properly. The idea of a crit is to stay in contention and stay relaxed conserving all your energy for the first 30 minutes and then when they say "3 laps to go" start thinking about how you might win (I haven't figure that part out yet). One of the coaches suggested a good insurance policy was to move up through the pack so I gradually made my way up there and tried to tuck in (not easy).

As we circled the course every so often the starter guy would should "ten dollars", which I thought was some coded message to the Reno Wheelmen to pull some kind of break away. Alas I found out later that it meant the the first person over the line for the next lap would get $10! A good incentive to keep the pace up!

Coming into the finish I had a fairly good position near the front and the last corner is tight but a nice one to end on. I did probably my best sprint yet and came around 13th, which was pretty good given the competition. Word on the street was that the Wheelmen 'C' grade is like Alta Alpina 'B' but I don't really believe it, we have some tough 'C's too.

I got to the line just ahead of Christine, who organises Alta Alpina races. She asked me if I was going to ride with the 'B's next. I thought this was some measure of insanity since we had only just crossed the line and had one lap to warm down a bit. But sure enough, she lined up for the next race too, so I thought, after driving for an hour to get there I might as well do the same.

The 'B's race for 40 minutes + 3 laps and I was feeling tired at first. We set off at the back of the pack and coming out of the first corner we lost the pack and were left stranded in heavy wind. I thought 'these guys can really ride'. Christine remained determined and said we'd just pick them up next time around, and that's what we did. I learned a lot in the following 35 minutes and stayed with them all the way until the end (though I dropped off before the sprint finish because I was a lap down).

In every corner I went in hard, pedalled through and came out of the saddle as we hit the straight. A short blast of energy coming out of the corner kept me with the pack. A couple of times I surprised myself with how stable the bike felt and how natural it felt to rise out of the saddle and give it some to get back on someone's wheel. I'm really impressed with my LeMond Versaille. I was pretty surprised to have enough energy to keep up with the 25mph average speed the 'B's were putting in. I felt surprisingly strong and feel like I learned much more from riding both with the Cs and the Bs. I'm quite looking forward to my next race, though I am keen to try to win one of the C events!

I hadn't planned to stay to watch the A's but Mel from work was racing. The whole pack of A's were really moving. I was very surprised when a couple of them made a break early and made it stick for a while. Even more surprised to see that Mel had managed to bridge the gap on the back straight of one lap. It was a shame to see that the pack behind them suddenly started looking very efficient and working together. They managed to reel in the leaders with their 13 second lead. I saw Mel wisely sitting on the back of this pack of about 20 riders after being caught, recovering some energy. He had some left for the finish too and came around 6th I think. It's really a pleasure to watch the A's ride. They ride fast and seem to have more tactics to their ride. Very impressive.

A nice night out and a challenging new hobby with lots more to learn about.


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