Monday, May 22, 2006

Race Report: Da Vinci Fest Crits

The Da Vinci Festival in New Albany at this time last year was the site of my first race ever. Naturally, I was excited to return, this time as a Cat 4 and a member of a strong team rather than an unattached Cat 5 with no experience whatsoever. Just as last year, the weather was fantastic and the course looked great.

The 4/5 race was first up, and my teammate Larry and I made sure to be on the front at the start. Our plan was to sprint from the line and drop half the field if possible. Sure enough, the whistle blew, we jacked the pace, and the field was shredded before they knew what hit them. Larry and another teammate were off the front through the first turn with Matt from Team Louisville and another guy or two, with me and Sean from Team Louisville not far behind. We bridged to them fairly quickly, but while I was content to hook up and form a bigger group, not two laps into the race did Sean and Matt from Louisville take off in a bold attack. They took one guy with them and shot off the front---I didn't realize this at the time. Left behind was me, two teammates and three other guys in a chase group of six. So right then we had three guys in the top 10, with the pack behind us nowhere to be seen.

At some point Sean from Louisville pulled off the course to check his bike after a slight crash, and since he was the only rider I thought to be off the front, I came to the (incorrect) realization that our group of six was alone on the front of the race. My teammates Larry and Jack were leaving a lot of work to our chase group companions, so every indication was we were the leaders. Unfortunately, this was incorrect. Sean was soon back in the race and he and Matt ended up crossing the line together in first and second, with our group coming through 20 seconds behind. At the time I didn't know this, and celebrated the finish like our team had won the race. In reality, Larry won the sprint for fourth, Jack got eighth and I pulled down ninth. Not too shabby, despite my overreaction.

Later in the day I did the 3/4 race as well, despite having ridden very hard in the earlier 4/5 and the impressive strength of the field. A lot of the Cat 3s had skipped the 1/2/3 race, apparently, because the pace was again crazy right from the starting whistle. I had the foresight to again be on the front of the pack at the start, and around the first two turns was in fifth wheel. My legs weren't having any of it, though, and I quickly fell back. With all of my strength I clung to the back of the front group, and was the only member of my team there for a little while. Luckily Andrew and Nate from my team (who had both skipped the 4/5 race) bridged up with authority and maintained good position throughout the rest of the race. I just hung on to the back. How I managed to do that I'll never know.

The race was 50 minutes long, which translated into something like 30 laps of the course---eight turns including a fast, sweeping downhill right into another right back up a short but steep little rise. Very technical, and very fast. By the last 5 laps I was just barely keeping contact with the leaders, trying to stay as close to the wheel in front of me as possible.

In the end Andrew got a great 11th place, with Nate a little behind him and me rounding out the lead group in 21st. Out of 50 guys, that's not too bad, especially since I already did one race earlier.

I had a great time and scored my first top 10 placing of the season. I'm really happy with my form right now and looking forward to the upcoming downtown Louisville crit and Cherokee Park race the second weekend of June. Hopefully I'll be even stronger by then.

Special thanks to my girlfriend, her brother and his girlfriend and my two best buds for showing up and cheering me on. You guys know I appreciate it.