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.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Easy Valley Crit Race

Once again it was the East Valley Crit race, involving a ride around a 1 mile circuit for 35 minutes plus 3 additional laps.

I still have a cold, which is a pain and led to some coughing and fuss but I settled down during the race (afterwards was not pretty).

Each race is different and depends a lot on who shows up and this time some interesting characters appeared. Jeff has become the one to watch because we all know he can time trial very strongly so when he makes a break, he can really get away. There were other contenders in the pack too.

The race started kinda funny. Jeff led out. Pretty soon I took the front to take my turn and stayed there much longer than I planned to but wasn't really pushing the pace. For 20 minutes there were 3 or 4 of us at the front with the pack tucked in behind, all nice and restful. The whole thing felt like a game of chess but with a lot of anticipation that something was going to have to happen at some point.

A few times Jeff stood up on the pegs or sped up a little and every time he ended up with 5 riders on his tail sucking his wheel. He often eased up, I supposed fed up with everyone trying to get a free ride (but at the end he said not).

Robert rocketed to the front at one point and tried to encourage the front runners to break but they weren't playing. I think he went a bit early. A couple of laps later he was at the front again and I was behind so we had a crack at it. We gained a short break on the pack and held it for a lap and a half or so before they suddenly reappeared. I settled back down for a rest in the pack and somewhat regretted expending that energy. That may have been one of my mistakes.

Using his usual canny race timing and wisdom, Scott got to the front of the pack at around 32 minutes and started to break away. When someone is making a break you need to size them up and see if you think they can really pull it off. I knew Scott was solid enough to make it stick so I raced through the pack to join him and we set off. For a couple of laps we managed to break taking turns to pull hard into the wind.

The 3 laps to go board came out, then the 2 laps to go and then the 1 lap and we were still ahead. By now though we were being chased by 3 guys working together well. I was just racing into the wind and Scott said something like, "we have company". A cue to ease off. If we raced hard over the last half mile we would just pull these guys along and they would blitz us as the line.

On the second to last corner we were still ahead but 1 of the riders came through very strongly, though perhaps too soon. Then Dave came through hard too but still seemed within range. Their push was really too soon, we should have probably been able to get back at them but we'd spent too many laps pushing on our own into the wind and had little left.

Scott eased up and I took 3rd place but was pretty disappointed. At the end they told us we were still pulling away from the pack on the second to last lap but 3 strong riders got together and pulled us in. Had we been 3 at the front we could probably have made it.

Scott played the better race and seemed much stronger throughout. Had I not been at the front so much we could perhaps have had an extra ounce of strength to keep our gap alive.

At the end, I could hardly breath, my lungs felt very stiff, I nearly had to stop to catch my breath. Pretty soon I relaxed enough to be able to start a coughing fit!

Hanging out with the guys at the end I was very surprised to hear Jeff say he was pushing hard at the start. I thought he was easing up and getting fed up with people jumping on his tail. I'm still not sure how to read him. He certainly is a very strong rider and all around althete - he just finished an iron man in an excellent time.

These crit races are a real puzzle. Scott nearly always seems to time his moves to perfection. I seem much less savvy with race tactics.

I got 14 points today, which puts me at the top of the leaderboard for the year in the C class. Although I'm thrilled with that, I'm a little disappointed with the race. I'm sure if I were smarter about it I could win it. It is truly excellent to have discovered such a challenging and puzzling sport, filled with interesting and amazing people.


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