Wednesday, March 21, 2007

2007 Land Park Criterium

2007 Land Park Criterium - Race Summary

On Saturday I headed down to Land Park for my first ever mass start road race. The format was a criterium. I was entered in the Elite 5 category, which sounds fancy, but it's actually the beginner class. I arrived in plenty of time to park, register, change and put in a 1/2 hour warm up on my trainer. I was surprisingly calm. Sure there was some obvious first time race nervousness, but overall I felt pretty good. I was here for the experience and most importantly to have some fun!

After my warm up I headed over to the race course. I got there just in time to chat with a few buddies who were racing in the Elite 4 category a bit later. After that I headed out onto the course just in time for 1 practice lap. The course was great. Mostly flat with a small downhill section just after the start / finish line. All on closed roads inside the park. There were mostly right hand turns with an S turn thrown in for added fun. I'm pretty comfortable cornering my bike coming from a mountain biking & bmx background, but knew it would be dicey with 50 other riders trying to negotiate the same corners at high speeds.

After the practice lap all 50 riders lined up at the start line. I positioned myself to the left, 2nd row back. I should have been on the right, as the first corner is a right hander. The race official gave us a quick talk about being safe, etc. stating it's not a pro race, and to make sure and have fun. They also notified us that we could be asked to pull off the course if we were about to be lapped by the main field. There was a pit with neutral wheel support in case of a flat. There were a few other first time racers including myself, which made me feel a bit more comfortable.

Once the race course was clear, they were ready to blow the whistle and get this race of 40 minutes started. Tweeet... and, we're off. Bam, the pace was high right off the line as people sprinted for the front right side of the course. I tucked into the middle of the pack and tried to move over to the right side of the course as quickly as possible. A quick glance at my computer and we were going 27 mph, and my heart rate was pegged at 178, just 4 beats shy of my maximum. Wheeew, this was hard. I was with the pack up until the first set of tricky corners. The field started to string out a bit through this section. Once we were back on the straight away towards the start / finish line, that's when I really started to fall back. Given that it was my first race, I knew I would probably get dropped at some point. As I watch the main pack proceed to pull away I begin to look around to see who else is around me. There were a few other riders here and there. I rode alone for a bit then caught up with another rider. He and I worked together for a bit trading pulls and we were able to catch a few others along the way. As we hammered our way around the course we could see the main pack ahead for a while. They were a couple of turns ahead of us. We kept on hammering and did not let up one bit. After a while I had settled into a rhythm and forgot about the main pack. Ultimately though we were pulled off the course with just 5 laps to go. Oh well, it was fun and there were no crashes! Next time will be better. I won't be as nervous, and will think more about where to position myself at the start. A bit more training, and I should be able to hang in the pack. Probably not win, but at least not get pulled and be able to finish the race.

Since we got pulled we were able to watch the remaining 5 laps and the finish of the race. After that I pedaled over to my buddies who were now warming up for their race. They let me know that they were dropped their first race as well, and to keep on trying! I wished them luck and headed back to the car to change.

I want to thank the Sacramento Golden Wheelmen for putting on a great race!
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