Sunday, August 26, 2007

Riding in the Rain - Niwot Crit 2007

Wet pavement, tight corners, a few elbows, and something close to a 25 mph average made for a fantastic race!

The Niwot Criterium on paper looked to be a crazy crit with 8 corners, 2 of which were 120 degree turns. In reality, it was crazy but lots of fun. I went over early in the morning to catch the SM4 and SM4, 35+ fields and watched Lee, Jose, Bill and Horatio (see pictures here: show how to string out a field and hang right in the pack. Although overall the race course seemed mostly safe, just strung out and fast, I did see one crash doozy (seemed like everyone got up OK)

A few hours later, with the sun beating down and the temps 90+, I arrived back in Niwot. As I sat on my trainer track-side watching Kevin (SM35+) school some of the top pro's of the decade, I shivered as dark clouds started moving over Niwot.

Around the same time Kevin was sprinting to a great 6th place finish, I was moving to the start line. I got front row right in the middle of the street, then made a bad mistake. We had 10 minutes to the start and I had never ridden the course, so along with half the field, we took a reconnaissance lap. The mistake was that when we got back to the start line, the other half of the field (total of 80+ starters) had taken up the first 3 rows. Fortunately, there was no hole-shot at this start and so within 300 meters I was in the top 10.

I stayed right between 3rd and 20th for the rest of the race and (or more) that proved (due to crashes) to be the right place to be. Within 3 to 4 laps the field strung out so far that the last 20+ started dropping off. Within 20 minutes my front group of 12 to 15 was 1/2 lap ahead of the back of the field. Every time we took the corner onto main street, the back half of the pack was coming towards us on the front side of the course - not a place you'd want to be. And, to make the race even more exciting, right about the same time - 20 minutes into the 60 minute crit, it started to rain. And I mean POUR sheets of rain. Through my very muddy 'sun' glasses I had squint to keep the water from drowning my eyes. The mud puddles that quickly formed created crazy rivers in all the wrong places. Fortunately, the group took the corners carefully and I don't remember any wrecks after the rain started (or maybe I was concentrating so hard on seeing the road and keeping off the brakes that I just didn't hear any crashes).

With 16-year old Andrew Barker (I think that is who it was) near peak 'cross form off the front in 3 different solo breaks for over 12 laps and the Feedback Sports team driving the chase and finally the last sprint lap, the pace stayed high the entire race. My rear tire jumped 6 or so inches on one corner, on another corner, someone hit my rear tire and possibly went off the road. And the closest call I had was only a few laps into the race on the 2nd corner. I didn't see the crash, but the sound of bikes, bodies, helmets hitting the pavement was loud and definitely worthy of a nightmare or two. The lesson learned: pay attention only to your line and the bikes directly affecting your line.

Regardless of the wet pavement, tight corners, elbows, crashes and something close to a 25 mph average, the Niwot Crit was a fantastic race! And one I'll definitely plan on next summer…. And so should you… just bring a rain jacket!

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