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Scott Blakley’s City Park Criterium Race Report
With my first crit race under my belt I can say that I am looking forward to my next one. I felt that I was prepared as much as I could have been for this race. I think that all the places that I came up a little short or used a little too much energy was due to a lack of experience, because I feel like I definitely had the legs. When I got to City Park, it took me a little while to find a place to park that had shade nearby for my warm up. Luckily registering for the race didn’t take but a moment, which was my biggest concern. I luckily found a great spot for my warm up, but I had to park in a somewhat questionable location. After milling around and stretching, I got on my trainer and began the warm up. A few min into my warm up a legit parking spot opened right in front of me, so I hopped off my bike and moved my truck. It was a little odd driving a stick shift with bike shoes on… By the time I got back on my bike I knew that I was going to be a little tight on time to get some practice laps in before my race. The warm up went really good, and my legs felt great, especially since I had a hill climb the day before. The only problem was some trash would blow into my rear wheel on the trainer, annoying! I got off the trainer, changed rear wheels out, got a new bottle, and had a few bites of a cliff bar. I was able to get 3-4 practice laps in before I noticed that riders were lining up for the start. In my practice laps I tried to get a read of the wind and lines of the roundabouts. Coming into the second roundabout, a gusting cross wind threw me off my line a little, and I made a mental note to keep an eye on that so I wouldn’t end up in somebody’s wheel in the race. The second roundabout had some deep groves in the cement, and I did not want to get caught in one of those. My plan was to pick lines that would keep me out of them. I also got a feel for the last roundabout where people were scraping their pedals when they pedaled through it. Having clipped a pedal in a corner and dropping my bike, I am a little paranoid about doing it again, and made a note to be careful of that turn. There were also some reflective squares in the ground on that roundabout that I didn’t want to ride over while banking in the corner. By the time I got done with my last practice lap, the first two rows of riders in the start were almost formed. I got a position second back behind two of my teammates. The official came out and gave us the general guidelines, and said that he’d ring his cow bell on the last lap. As the time to start came closer, I became more mono-focused on the ride that I needed to put down.
When we set off my left foot missed putting the cleat and pedal together, and for the first pedal strokes I had the pedal on the arch of my foot. I was luckily able to get my foot clicked shortly afterwards. For the first lap, riders were all jockeying for the front positions. There was some rubbing and riders lines were a little erratic as we all settled in. I found myself a little farther back than I would have liked, but I knew I had time to move forward. I was just getting into the top ten when the officials vehicle slowed down in front of us. We didn’t know what was going on, and many riders were speculating that there was a crash. There was not… The officials forgot to place corner guards/officials at the roundabouts. So, after about 3 or 4 laps, we had to start again. This was a little frustrating because I was just getting into a good rhythm and good place in the pack. But, since there was nothing I could do about it I didn’t worry about it too much. I was able to get a front line spot near the middle for the second start. My second start was good, although not too memorable. I got clicked in and accelerated to gain good position as quickly as could. There was the same erratic riding from several riders at the beginning, and I was one of them from time to time. I did clip a rear wheel in a crack once coming out of the second roundabout. Also, my rear wheel bounced coming out of the second roundabout several times throughout the race. I talked with some other riders after the race and they were experiencing the same thing. My goal was to race for me, and be aggressive if need be. I didn’t ride recklessly, but I did get some riders to yell at me. One such time I saw a place in the pack ahead of me that I could fit, and moved to take it. When I did this my left hip brushed another riders handle bars. This was unintended, but not too bad. He had some choice words to say. I adopted the mentality that if you don’t like the way I’m riding, get in front of me if you can; other than that, I’m not riding illegally. During the first few laps several riders flirted with danger on the cracks and reflective squares. I had a rider almost go down in front to me in both roundabouts within the first few laps. Only one time did I have to brake to avoid hitting him, and luckily I was able to make up the distance relatively quickly. I was slowly getting further up the field as the laps progressed. I wasn’t looking behind me, but as the laps continued fewer riders would serge around me and the front as did in the beginning. I was not keeping track of time, and we came around I saw the official at the finish ringing his bell. In my head I figured it was the final lap (which it was not)… I put myself in a good position, and came out of the last roundabout with a plan to take the front. I jumped and crossed the finish line first, then sat up and tried to figure out what was going on. I asked the rider next to me, who also was sitting up if it was over. He said he thought so. Turns out that was just a prim (oops), and there were 8 laps to go. This is one of the areas where my lack of race experience bit me in the ass. The race pace got back underway, and I found myself moving closer to a steady 3rd position. I ended up on the front every now and then, but not often. I was trying to not let a gap open up in front of me, and just kept in riders draft when we went into the head wind. Coming into the second to last lap or the last lap, I don’t remember fully, two riders made a jump followed my several other riders. I was behind two riders from a team (I don’t recall which team), and here is where I made my critical mistake of the race. I saw the riders go off the front, and somehow I rationalized to myself that I should keep behind these riders and we’ll pull the jump back. This was not the case. The riders in front of me did not respond to the jump in any way, and I found that I had dropped from 3rd place to 10th or 11th. This is another area where my lack of experience got me. At first I thought that the riders just got the jump on me, and I didn’t have the time or legs needed to pull it back in 1 or 2 laps. While this is true, reflecting on the race later that day revealed to me that I simply missed the jump. When I saw the riders leap off the front with a lap left, I should have followed. Everyone was hurting, and I had enough left in me to move up several places. For the last lap, I held my position and came into the finish strong, just further back than I would have liked. I pulled an 11th place finish in my first crit, and to me that’s a win! Looking back there are three things that I will work on: First, taking the tightest line through a turn is not always the best choice. Since I lacked the ability to pedal through the corners, coming out of the bank earlier affords the ability to start pedaling sooner, therefore I wouldn’t have to jump so hard to catch up to the front riders. Second, PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT LAP I’M ON!!! I think that was a one-time mistake to think a prim is the final lap; at least I plan on not making that mistake again. I chalk that up to being a newbie. Third, and possibly most important, when I see a jump occur going into the last lap get on it!!! I sacrificed a top ten finish by not being proactive in my race. If I don’t see the riders in front of me reacting at all, or quickly enough, that late in the race, I need to take my race in my hands and throw it down. When I reflected about the race later that evening, it occurred to me that I missed the final jump and still got 11th; not too bad.
This was Scott’s first Criterium and first actual bicycle race. I’m looking forward to posting more race reports by Scott for everyone to see.