Race Report :: June 23, 2002 :: Monta Vista Velo Criterium

5th Place!
Date: June 23, 2002
Event: Monta Vista Velo Criterium
Race 1:
Category: Masters 35+ 4/5
Time: 50 minutes
Place: 5th place and both primes.
Field: ~80

Two words are very common in criterium racing. They describe the setting, the feel, and the location of the race. They also ignite a love hate relationship with the sport. Well, maybe more so from an avid mountain bike racer that loves the outdoors, dirt, trees, and trails.

Those words are “office park”.

Now, unless you have attended or raced one more criterium you might not catch on. Let me explain. Criteriums are short fast road races. The courses are normally rectangular loops of a mile or less. A race organizer therefore needs a set of clean paved roads located somewhere that allows their closure for the event.

Finding paved roads is easy here in California. Clean paved roads, a little harder. But, clean paved roads that can be closed for a bike race? The horror! Ok, it’s not that bad here but it can be difficult. Which leads us back to those two words, “office park”.
Aha! You are beginning to catch on.

And so if you were to read the race flyer for this event, you might note the location:

   Race Location: Gateway Business Park, Fremont, California

Ok, it doesn’t use the word “office” but I’m sure you can equate.

These days, an office park in the south bay on Sunday will remind you of a ghost town. In fact, as you drive through these places you might recognize various DOT gone business names along with For Lease signs. That was the case heading towards the Monta Vista Velo Criterium.

No matter, I was there with a bike and not with a doctored up Web Designer resume. My race resume contains no fluff.
I also intended to show my stuff this day. I felt great, my bike was clean and tuned, I had enough sleep, and the weather was nice. Positive thoughts for a positive race. During my warm-up I focus on those positives. I rolled to the start still carrying the positives.
The whistle blew and we were off. It’s race time and the mind, or at least mine, switches into another state. There is action that occurs all around. For example, the rider to your right in a corner that is drifting closer and closer. Or the rider ahead that keeps hitting his brakes before the corner. Or the two riders that have attacked off the front. The mind focuses on these things and what is outside of that zone is lost or filtered out.

We may have been in an office park but during the race we were in “the race”.

This race had me and I was savoring it. Even the chewed up back side wasn’t bothering me. The guys charging the inside chewed up corner bothered me, a little, but I would let it go.

We circled the course several times before the first prime bell was rung. The pace quickened as always during a prime lap. I was already near the front so it wasn’t much work to head up to 3rd or 4th position. The first prime lap is always a great time to test the sprint. The speed increased as we headed around the last corner. I had already sized up the riders ahead and was ready for any jump. And there, just after the corner, was the jump. But I was ready and gassed it up the inside. I was quickly past the first two riders and then the next. Then I cruised by the lead rider and I pulled ahead. As I looked back I knew I had the prime so I leveled off the power and kept an eye on the field. Smoothly I crossed the line to win the first prime.

The pace continued after that lap. The prime lap had charged up the field. But now riders were doing more and more ugly cornering. The second corner must have had an invisible “Brake” sign posted. Each time we came to the corner riders would brake. There was no reason since it was an easy sweeper.

Keeping to the front really helped on this course because slinky effect in the middle and back was a drain. Staying near the front also paid off for the primes. When the second prime bell rung I was again near the front. And I held onto the position as we sprinted around the backside and to the last corner. I again watched the riders ahead and then when the time was right, jumped into my sprint. It was a little closer this time since one rider jumped hard and also got away. But I managed to catch his tail and draft for two seconds before coming around and taking the second prime.

Now it was time to recover and get ready for the finish. The lap cards would soon be up and the racing even more dicey.
When the cards did appear, the pace quickened and along with it the squirrelly riding. Now it was very important to be near the front. As the laps counted down from 5 to 4 to 3 to 2 it was all out racing and tactics. Riders were trying to get in position. Nobody wanted to break away off the front and then get eaten up when they faded. Those at the front felt the hunger of the riders directly behind.
Into the start/finish for the beginning of the last lap several riders finally jumped. They were the bus rides for the last lap and I had my ticket. We carved hard around the first and then the second corners. The lead rider was starting to falter on the backside. The next rider was hesitant about losing his draft and the pace began to fade. That signaled another attack on the inside. I pulled out my other bus ticket and boarded that ride for the next leg.

I got stuck with a seat a little farther back than I wanted and I needed to move up now. But then we were already heading around the last corner. Someone jumped and the final sprint began. I was stuck in traffic and had to find an opening. My legs were screaming to be let go. Then I got my chance and I darted out and began chase. I quickly passed the first pack of riders that had held me up. But the leaders were still up there. I put the hammer down and tried to pick them off. The finish line was coming up faster than I wanted. I could see my position and that of the others as I flew over the line.

I finished 5th.

Timing and position for the final sprint is very important. Don’t get stuck behind a pack. That was another lesson learned and hammered into my head.

3rd Place!
Race 2:
Category: Seniors 4/5
Time: 50 minutes
Place: 3rd place.
Field: ~80

With wear from the earlier race in my legs I knew I had better stay loose and also to keep up the energy. I made sure to eat and drink during the down time. For 15 minutes before the race I spun around the back roads. When I rolled up to the start, I felt good and thought positive about a good finish.

The pace in this race pace was quicker. It was also crazier than the first and there was no rhythm. This combined with the effort from my earlier race started wearing me down. My legs didn’t feel as snappy.

When the first prime bell rung, I was hesitant about going for it. I moved towards the front but didn’t have the mental “go get it” in me. Coming around the last corner I started up the engines for the sprint but then shut down and let the other go for it.
No matter, I had won the two primes in the earlier race. Why be greedy? :’)

I continued riding towards the front but that was really some work. The constant braking and accelerating, even near the front, was working me. Then another prime bell and the field picked up pace. I again didn’t feel like working for it so I sat in.
But after that lap I was feeling better. My legs felt snappier. I was feeling positive again and I was thinking about the finish. I started thinking about doing well and going for the win. These thoughts came in time for the start of the lap cards. It was now 5 more laps until the finish.

With that the speed increased and then the crazy jockeying for position. I knew I had to be at the front. Top five if possible. It took me until the second to last lap to get there. If someone attacked, I would jump and drop into that lead. Now we were into the last lap. The bell lap. I was sitting around 5th. As we entered the second corner there was a loud pop and then the sounds of a bike sliding and going down. The lead rider had blown his rear tire and we, the riders directly behind, veered to the left and outside the safety cones to avoid him. Then we slid back onto the course and pushed the pace. We lost no positions and luckily avoided the crash.

But I managed to drop back around 6th and needed to move up. But at this pace all I could do was hold on and get ready for the sprint. Around the last corner and bang a rider was off into a sprint. I had a clear shot up the right and jumped on it. I quickly ramped up speed and passed several of the riders. There were now two ahead of me. I could now see the rider at the front had too large a gap but rider in second was fading and I was coming up fast. I dug deeper because I knew it was going to be close and that I might pull him at the line.

I was at a full sprint as we both crossed the finish line neck and neck! I was so close and because I passed him so fast I could only guess which one of us took it. As I blasted across the line I shut the engines down and then glanced up. Whoa!!! The lead rider had slowed and sat up directly in front of me. I braked and swerved, just barely missing him. That was close.

When the results were posted, I was placed 3rd. The second place rider and I got a chance to see the video from the finish. The official said it was a great finish and that the left line judge called it for the other guy and the right judge for me. So they had to use the video. The photo showed my helmet about 6 inches forward of his but his wheel was 3 inches forward of mine.

He had pushed the bike at the last second when he heard me coming up. That saved him and gave him second. A very cool finish.

So I finished 3rd.

Cheers!

p.s. The prizes for this race were really nice. Many thanks to the sponsors and organizers. Also, to my coach and team Sycip.

3 Comments

  1. susie from switzerland

    I like this exciting step by step you are there tale. I know how it feels to have your body say, GO GO GO, and also know how sometimes it says, un-uh, not today…also how you feel so very much alive during such a competition. It’s addicting, the rush you get from such feats, isn’t it ? But it also puts everything else into perspective: hard things seem less difficult – you can handle them. Are you going to come to the Cristal Alp in August ? We’ll be rooting for you. Franco says though that the number of places are limited. Too many people want to do it.

  2. auntie Betsy

    very exciting tales… interesting bikey jargon, or is it racing jargon? But I think I got it all. Sounds fun, dangerous, exhausting. Funny that my nephew is playing Masters. what does that make me?

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