Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Niwot Criterium -Would you like some Cheese with your Whine!

First let me say that the Niwot Criterium is a GREAT venue. Since it is a figure 8 you can stand in one spot and actually see almost 2/3rds of the course! Anyone who did not get out and do this race this year, mark it on your calendar for next year. It is technical, fast, close to home, and a great race.

Coming into this season in March I had been off the bike for 15 years and weighed about 195 lbs. Being the last race of the season, Niwot was going to be a real test for how far back I had come. With around 50-60 starters, a technical the course, and seeing how much work Jose, Bill, Horacio, etc. had to do to close gaps that morning, I decided staging at the front was worth the extra 5 minutes of just standing there.

As usual, Einstein's sent someone (Michael Gibson) right from the gun (yea, Lee you are going to like the 35+'s a LOT MORE). Since this was a non-BAR/BAT race Einstein's was the only team to show up in force and their usual tactic in these cases is to keep sending someone until it sticks. Gibson was slowly reeled in by a series of counter attacks including a couple by yours truly. I am sure that everyone's idea on these was the same as mine. If you can get away clean and get up to Gibson, all the Einstein's guys are now blocking for you.

Unfortunately, none of these early moves stuck as they did not have the right combination and the field still had to much energy.

At about the half way point in the race another series of attacks lead to a three man break including Gibson again and Bob Dahl (the BAR winner for this year) getting a gap. A lap or 2 later, a chase group of two was dangling about 5 seconds off the front of the field when I decided I was tired of letting Einstein's slow the entire field into each and every corner. As a result of simply going around them and quickly rolling the 2 quick corners at the far end of the course I found myself off the front in between the field and the 2 chasers without making any real effort yet. After I quickly bridged to the 2 chasers, we were joined by a 4th about a 1/2 lap later and the second break of the day was off (yes, Isaac there is a Santa Claus...I mean breakaways).

With plenty of support and time gaps from Dan and Jennifer, we then set about the job of trying to pull back the original break. Unfortunately, there was one guy in our group of 4 that either would not (or could not) help and I was having to wait through the technical parts of the course as the other 2 either would not (or could not) peddle through a corner. As a result several times I had to sit up and wait for the other 3 and then spin the pace back up on the straight-aways. Obviously, with this situation we didn't make much head way on the 3 farther up the road but did manage to put a decent gap between ourselves and the field. With about 7 or 8 laps to go, we were finally joined by another group of 3 who had bridged from the field, our gap swelled to about 30 seconds, and we started to eat into the original break's lead.

Unfortunately, it was at about this time that I ran out of water and came to realization that we were going to run out of time to catch the original 3. To make matters a little more complicated, one of the new comers to our band of merry (and winded) men was a Subway guy who all of a sudden started letting large gaps open in our pace line. He would simply rotate to the front and then pull off behind the lead rider and not take his pull. This combined with the other guy already sitting-on lead to one of the riders from our original group taking a solo flyer. While I knew I was fast enough to get across, all of us with something left were just looking at each other going "I'm not going to pull you across that gap with a couple of laps to go." As a result, we now had 4 up the road and were now looking at a sprint for 5th which was probably a big mistake on my part. (As it turns out from what happened on the last lap there were probably only 3 of us with enough gas left to get across. But hindsight is 20/20!)

Coming into the last lap I had drifted to the back of our group of 6 as there was no longer any reason to chase and it was time to start thinking about how to set up the sprint I wanted. Given the 2 greater than 90 degree corners were the 2nd and 3rd to last and the last strait away of any length was between them, I knew that anyone who did not consider their acceleration excellent would have to go there. As a result, I decided to jump just hard enough to get 2nd wheel going into the 2nd to last corner. In essence I consider this a tryout for the rest of my break companions as they have their own little mini race to see which one gets the honor of giving me my lead out into the last corner. After this going exactly to plan (experience is a wonderful thing) going into the 2nd to last corner, I spent just a split second to long congratulating myself (overconfidence is a terrible thing) and was not paying attention to the guy on my wheel. He jumped immediately on the 2nd to last strait-away (rudely interrupting my self-congratulatory interludical...yea it's a word) and got a slight gap on me going into the last corner. While I immediately went after him and took the corner much faster than him, I simply ran out of room and had to settle for 6th. In the words of Maxwell Smart, "missed it by that much!"

Despite making a couple of mistakes that may have cost me 2 places, it was a "stone cold groove my man" (name that movie) and a light year forward from March!

Finally, thanks to everyone who has been dragging me around in training all season and making my first year racing in a LONG TIME a stone cold groove!

Kevin A.

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