Sunday, May 07, 2006

Race Report: Eagle Creek Park Crit

The ride up to Indianapolis from Louisville was uneventful, and we arrived at Eagle Creek Park northwest of the city with plenty of time to warm up before the start of the Cat. 4 criterium. The weather was sunny but chilly considering it's May. Most everyone was decked out in arm warmers and knee warmers, but those got peeled off pretty quickly once we got warmed up and ready to race.

At the start I guessed somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 guys were in our race, with our team as the most heavily-represented followed by a decent number of Mob Squad gentlemen. I recognized a few of our competitors from the Ceraland race a few weeks ago. The field looked fairly strong in general.

The start was quick with a decent pace from the whistle, but it was obvious nobody had been able to warm up on the course itself. The first lap was slow and nervous, with the pack nearly making a wrong turn as we all tried to figure out the route through the woods. In general it was a pretty simple loop, but the pavement was in pretty bad shape all over the place. Gravel, potholes and weird bumps made for a rough ride. One left turn in particular had both holes and gravel on the surface, which would prove disastrous at least once.

By the second lap the group calmed down a bit and the pace started to rise. My legs were fine and I had no trouble sticking with the leaders. Apparently this wasn't the case for a large portion of the pack, and as the laps ticked off, so did the weaker guys, until the front group was down to around 20. An early-race crash in the gravel turn contributed to the thinning-out, and at least one of our team members was taken down (or at least slowed considerably) by the early smash-up.

I stuck near the middle of the pack as much as I could, but typical of my lack of experience, I found myself slipping to the back again. However, this time the course was wide and the pack was small enough that it didn't have much of an impact on me, and I was still able to slip back to the front with relative ease whenever I felt it necessary.

The race in general was pretty predictable, being a totally flat crit. A few break attempts here and there but no success. Near the last third of the 45 minute race, I moved to the front ready to put in some work, and attacked the hesitating pack up the small rise to the finish line. I got away solo and was able to stick a strong pace past the line and through the first two turns. I looked back and saw a teammate had bridged to me, and as he passed for his turn up front, I told him I still had the legs to stay away. We seemed strong together and had good speed. Much to my surprise, though, the group was on us fast despite our efforts to keep a fast pace, and our valiant break was over.

The group pretty much stayed together from then on as we reached the final two laps. Again, nervousness set in and everyone got overly anxious. On the last lap the front pack made it safely through all the most dangerous turns, but on a slight dip in the pavement just before the rise to the finish, somebody made a stupid mistake and then BOOM! Directly in front of me five guys went down hard. I was able to brake and barely avoid hitting anyone, but the remains of the pack had gotten a gap, so I rode in to the finish pretty much solo.

None of our guys were involved in the last crash, and we managed to pull some decent placings. Our captain and current Mag 7 points leader finished a strong fifth place, with others from our team in sixth, tenth, eleventh and me in twelfth, my best placing yet this season.

So we had five guys in the top 12 in a field of 35 or so, and we made our presence felt with some good attacks and some strong pace-setting on the front. We're really starting to gel, I think. All in all, a great race for us and a really good one for myself. I'm pretty pleased.

(Photos and a link to the results to come soon...)