Sunday, July 09, 2006

Race Report: Madison Cycling Regatta (Criterium)

On Saturday, I lined up with 25 other Cat 4s (including four teammates) for a 50 minute crit in beautiful Madison, Indiana. Madison is home to the famous Madison Regatta boat race, but also to the somewhat less-famous Madison Cycling Regatta bike race. The weather was perfect, the course was scenic and the atmosphere was pretty laid-back. Even better, all the proceeds of the races will go to Bret Neylon, an Indiana racer recently paralyzed in a crash.

At the start I struggled to get my foot in the pedal but had no problem finding a spot in the pack because the first left turn took us up a steady power climb that slowed everyone down. I figured this climb would be the site of a winning attack by somebody, but it never quite worked out that way.

The first couple of six-turn laps saw me in my usual spot at the back of the field, assessing my opponents and learning the course. After five or six loops, I decided to get a bit more active and take some pressure off my teammates that had been policing the front. On the hill I hit it hard and came up on the right side (the road was four lanes of wide-open pavement, closed course) and took the lead. I sat on the front for a little while, and then just moved about in the front five spots for the rest of the race.

About half way into the 50 minutes, the initial attacks had been caught, the pace was slowing (due to fatigue, I assume) and the group was still all together. Ideal conditions for a bold attack, but I didn't quite have the legs and wasn't confident anyone would go with me. I needed at least one other guy to work with me but it was clear that everyone in the pack was marking our team---anytime one of us turned up the pace, ten guys were on our wheels. Flattering, but frustrating too.

Fast forward to the last three laps. I was comfortably sitting third wheel, still not suffering and still waiting for a good opportunity to try something. By the second-to-last lap, I knew I would need to attack on the hill and go for it, but for some reason I didn't. I stayed where I was and just waited like a tool.

On the last lap, everybody jacked it up the hill into the second left turn, and with so much room to pass, I got boxed in and shoved back a few spots. My perfect position was gone. The rest of the lap went by quickly, and we hit the final straight with tons of speed. I was able to pass one guy in the sprint but finished a lousy 11th out of 25. The best result our team got was 9th place. Even worse, we all got beat by another 15 year-old, Clayton from the Papa John's team. I like Clayton, so I didn't beat him up in the parking lot after the race like I should have, but I can't promise to be nice much longer. Hopefully he'll discover cars and girls soon and quit racing bikes so the rest of us have some kind of chance for success...