I thought I knew what to expect when I arrived for the Longmont Criterium, as I last raced it in 2010. Apparently there is a new course which has been used the last two years. I did a quick lap before picking up my number and my first impression was ‘sprint, sprint, sprint’. The course had some slight uphill/downhill, but was mostly non-technical with wide 90 degree corners. One observer described the course as “A drag strip”.
I was prepared to watch and wait to see how the finale would play out. I hoped to be strong enough to bridge if a break materialized and I needed to move across to it. I spent first 15 minutes hiding out in the pack averaging only 250w despite our average speed of 28.5 mph. I accidentally followed a strong rider into a move, but I wasn’t committed (neither was anyone else) and we were caught in less than a lap.
Shortly afterward, the break of the day materialized. Its genesis was typical of many winning moves, it happened slowly. As a rider that made the move put it “more of a simmer than a bang.” First it was a pair of riders, and a few pairs rode across the gap. They managed to make the winning combination of team members and ability without looking too dangerous.
One of the strongest teams had their strongest rider in the break, Horizon/Panache’s Jorge Espinzoa. Although their team was not overly aggressive in doing so, they carefully patrolled any dangerous attempts to bridge across (like any of mine, it seemed). Jorge would go on win the race, despite constant attacks from Keith Harper, who would finish second. My teammate Christian finished 7th.
There was a point about halfway through the race when the break was within 10 seconds. The pace had been quite high and it seemed they would be brought back. The seven riders in the break were from six separate teams. This hampered the chase somewhat, since many riders had a disincentive to chase, myself included. My teammate Christian McCarthy was in the move and I hoped to come across solo, or at the very least without teammates of the other riders in the move.
Finally the lights went out of the chase and I knew the break was gone for good. It only takes a half lap of soft pedaling and the break can easily get an extra 15 or even 30 seconds. With only 20 minutes remaining in the race, I knew the race was over.
I hoped this was the consensus in the pack as well. After the field has given up, and the break is gone, there can be a chance to start a counter move. It would only be for minor placings, and there was still some prize money and BAR (Best-All Around-Rider) points on the line. I hoped to to be given the chance to get away, but again the pack wasn’t interested in letting anyone go.
There are a few races per season where the field is at a higher level than the average weekend race. The State Championship races fit in this category. The fields are larger, more motivated, more organized, and the riders have higher fitness. Most riders have been trying their best to be on top form for the event. The feeling of the races is much different (and better, I think), but they’re also harder.
My power numbers were not great, especially compared to Thursday’s training race. One of the downsides I’ve found to the ‘Race, Race, Race’ training plan is unpredictable fitness. Some days are good, and some aren’t. Perhaps if I watch my training patterns and sensations more closely I can find some patterns, but overall I’ve found consistent training the best way to get consistent results.
Most of my power numbers were about 5% below what I’d expect on a great day. Another factor could be the heat. I don’t seem to do as well when the weather is hot, and the 93 degree temperature easily qualifies.
I didn’t want to risk getting tangled up racing for 8th place, so I took off on a last lap flyer. I only made it a few bike lengths ahead of the field, and they hung me out to dry. They didn’t bring me back right away, but held me at arms length until the final corner where I was swarmed by 20 guys sprinting for the line. I finished 30th, which at least is an improvement over my last State Criterium where I finished 37th in 2010.
That last bit is dry humor. I know I can (and even could have) done better, but for this race I rolled the dice and missed the winning break. There should be a few could photos of the race, but it will probably be a few days before I can get my hands on them. I’ll update the post when they come in.