Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Salida Omnium: Lucky #13

Report from the trenches of the Salida Omnium (by Eric). My wife Lillian and I drove down to Salida on Friday afternoon. When we arrived in Salida by 4pm, the weather looked dark, gloomy, and of course, wet. My start time for the 35+/4 time trial wasn't until 6:45ish, so we checked into the hotel first, then I went out to scout out where the course was.

Near the starting area, I spotted the BlueSky jersey of Jose. I stopped to talk to Jose and he told him the race was delayed at least 30 minutes due to the rain. He and the other 3's, Barry/Issac, we're supposed to roll out soon, but the weather was not cooperating. I wished him luck and headed back to the hotel to relax a bit and get my bike ready.

My wife and I headed back out to the warmup area a little after 6pm. The weather was still drizzling, but it looked like the TT show must go on, so riders persevered in the rain. By 6:30ish, the rain started to dry up and conditions improved. I warmed up in this new residential subdivision and watched some Chipotle pro riders heading back to their cars. One of them was Mike 'Meatball' Friedman, who's heading to Beijing in the Madison track event in a couple weeks.

In any case, my TT start time arrived and I rolled out as fast as I could. There was a fast downhill for a short section, but the remainder of the outbound part of the TT was a slight uphill false flat that just burnt your legs. I saved enough for the return portion to place 14th out of 20 plus riders. I reckon I could have done better if I got the time to recon the course.

The next day was the infamous road race. The 35/4+ group was lucky in that we only had to do 4 laps (48 miles) of the 12 mile/1300ft per lap course, most of it in a private, hilly residential neighborhood. The 4's had 60 miles/5laps, while the 3's and 35+ had 72 miles/6 laps. The start left from Alpine Park in downtown Salida, and because they could not guarantee road closures, we had a neutral rolling start for 6-7 miles out to the country roads before the mayhem ensued. Another key point to note is the race finished not back at the bottom, but at the top of the hillclimb. Joy!

At the starting area I ran into Dave Kilmoyer, who signed up for the road race too. It was great to see a familiar face, and Dave and I talked shit while we could during the easy pace of the neutral roll out. It started to feel like a group ride as the neutral pace was something like 15mph. After what seemed like 10 miles, we finally stopped at an intersection of the country roads.

After a mass nature break involving half of our 3 dozen rider field, the official read us our rights, and started the race. The pace started off very easy, probably because everyone knew what lurked ahead and no one was in any hurry to start the painfest. In any case, once we turned right off the highway onto the first climbs, the pace stepped up and a group of 10 riders went to the front. I tried hanging with lead group up until the first super-steep section, but decided not to burn a match this early in the race.

I rode my own pace until the top of the first lap, and I was about 1/4 mile behind the lead group. Two other rider's were slightly in front of me and I tried to reel them in on the fast, twisty descents, but I was getting nowhere. I was in no man's land, and I saw a train of half a dozen riders behind me, so I joined their paceline. Before long, we had pulled back the 2 in front to form a chase group of 8-10 riders. I looked around for Dave, but he didn't make the cut.

Our chase group broke apart on each climb and we never saw the lead group again after the second lap. I was feeling pretty good and I rode at the front of this chase group, alternating pace duties thru the next couple laps. At the top of the 2nd lap, I saw my wife Lillian holding out a nice cold water bottle, which I gladly accepted. Thanks!

On the third time up the climb, I saw the BlueSky jersey of Max Arias. All the junior riders got lumped in with the cat 4, 60 mile/5 lap slugfest. By this time Max was on lap 4 of 5 and showing some signs of the effort. We cheered him on and continued up the road. Go Max.

By the start of the climb on the final lap, our not-so-elite group had whittled down to only four of us. When he hit the steep part of the hillclimb, two of the riders bolted, and I just couldn't respond as my legs were about to cramp up, but I was able to drop the 4th rider to gain another place. I rode my own race and finished in 13th place out of 30 plus riders. Dave said he finished in the back of the pack. We rode back downhill to town at a leisurely pace and we were finally able to enjoy the majestic, mountain scenery on the descents. That downhill was fun and almost made all the other pain worth it.

After a fine dinner at Amica's Saturday night, I somehow dragged my tired body out of bed at 5:55am to stuff some carbs and caffeine in my gut. Lillian and I got to the park start area about a half hour before the gawdawful 7:30am start time. With the altitude, it was a bit nipply out, and it was time to add some arm/knee warmers and roll out for some warm-up laps on the downtown figure 8 course.

Some of the riders I chatted with the day before assured me that the crit last year wasn't too bad as everyone gets tired from the road race the day before. Cool, just what I need. When we lined up with about 3 dozen riders for the start of our 45 min race, the official announced that they had a whopping 9 primes to award during the race. What that really meant is each lap was going to be a sprint to the finish line with the pack all strung out.

The race got off to a quick start and by the 2nd lap there was some gift certificate prime and the pace had the group in a single line. We regrouped on the backside of the course only to hear the bell go off for another prime. One of the more memorable primes was a coupon for a hoagie sandwich from some local restaurant. As we hit the back half of the lap, a bunch of us were chanting, 'HOAGIE, HOAGIE, HOAGIE...'. A Mob Cyclery rider bolted into the last corner only to get pipped at the line, all for a hoagie.

The insanity ensued and it took me half the race to find my rhythm. I thought I was riding somewhere in the middle, but when I looked back, I saw myself near alone at the back. A dozen riders were already gone off the back. I dug deep and moved into some place near 10-15 riders from the front for the last few laps. I heard DaveK cheering me on the sidelines which really helped morale. During the final lap, the pace went ballistic, and I did all I could to finish in the bunch sprint, placing in a modest 15th.

After three days of riding, my consistent placings of 14th, 13th, and 15th netted me an overall of 13th. Lucky #13. Lucky that I avoided rain on Friday, lucky to not cramp up during the road race, and lucky to not crash during the criterium. I was really hoping for a top ten overall, but since its my first omnium, I'm happy with the results. Good times.


jasonod said...

Entertaining write-up, Eric. Sounds like a good time! Jason

Jose said...

Good Job Eric. The Salida weekends is one of my favorite weekends.