Moving to cat 4 has been challenging.
Long gone are races where there may be folks dropping in and trying it out, perhaps not realizing that
24mph is a lot different surrounded by 40 guys. In cat 4, everyone knows that they want to be there and
have put in the requisite number of races to get there and is willing to spend some time training.
My first couple of Cat 4 races have been challenging. Longer, faster, guys are well aware of others taking
free rides in their wake. After inadvertently chasing down a teammate in Livermore, and struggling
through the winds and turns in Napa, my mantra for Land Park was going to be to just sit in, That was
the plan, and I was going to stick to it.
Nick and I showed up in Sac at some ungodly hour. It was freezing, slightly drizzling, and generally
miserable. The course was wide open but had 3 tight switchbacks. The gutters were full of water and
mud. if I stuck to the middle, should be easy.
The race started, 32 deep. I sat in. Through the corners, along the straights, for 35 minutes I simply
surfed the wheels of others in the back half. 1 or 2 fell off, but all in all it was a very mundane race.
Nick easily took the first prime. Others were by whomever was willing to put themselves out in the
wind. Frankly, I was too busy hanging on to notice much.
The switchbacks caused the field to yo-yo incredibly. I stuck to the plan. 35 minutes in I was sitting in
the middle of the pack. I moved up a bit to chat with Nick, then went back to sitting in.
Coming into the start/finish with 1 more to go, I started my move, surfing up the outside trying to get in
and on a wheel. However, no one was letting anyone in. I fell back and got in maybe 20th, thinking I
would make my move after the last switchback.
Last turn I came in fast and wide. Unfortunately, everyone else dove and came out in front of me. While
still in the pack, with 300 yards to go, I was sitting on the back of the main field.
So I unleashed every bit I could still muster. I managed to sprint up the field a bit passing 8 or 10. Out of
the field of 32, I ended up 24th, in the bunch, actually sprinting.
Nick ended up taking 10th in the tight field, certainly continuing his streak of always being a factor in the
races he enters. to race the 35+ 4’s.
Overall, I was pleased. I managed to hang with the big kids the whole race. Next time I move up a bit
Up later were the elite 4’s, Cole, Austin, and Nick again. That race had 47 starters, guys of all ages
including some that were quite obviously destined to get into cat 2’3 and 3’s. From the very start, it was
an ugly, brutal race.
Every lap had a different guy attacking. Attack after attack after attack, driving the pace up to insane
levels with laps well in excess of 25mph. Cole, Nick, and Austin played it well considering the
circumstances, just sitting in, with guys dropping off left and right. All in all, it looked really sketchy.
As the laps dwindled, it seemed more and more frantic up until the bell lap, then it all went horribly
Somebody flinched, swerved a bit, perhaps at a particularly deep pothole, and it whipped down through
the pack. Nick, always a factor in races, got pushed into the gutter full of mud and lost control, starting
a sizeable pileup. While Cole was in front of it, Austin was not, going up and over his bars at 26mph and
hitting the ground hard. Both guys were alright, no broken bones, but certainly sore as can be and
scraped up pretty good.
This was a great course with a few technical chicanes that added a little spice to a straight forward
course. With a huge field of the usual suspects I knew it would be fast! As always, Open Cat 4 has a wide
variety of riders, from fresh juniors to the weekend warrior “trying out real racing”…… This race was fast
from the start. The chicanes brought speeds down a bit, which provided a falsely slow 25mph average
over the whole race! During the rest of the course, the group was easily hitting 27 to 28mph lap after
lap! Half way through of just hanging on this is how I felt (see picture).
All plans of effecting the race went out the window, as we just tried to hang in attack after attack, and
surge after surge. With 2 laps to go, the speed picked up again, and the craziness ramped up…With 1 to
go, Nick and Austin got caught up in a chain reaction crash that all stemmed from one rider overreacting to his own inability to manage his front wheel! In the end, I blew up and coasted to a mid pack
finish, while Austin and Nick collected themselves. Bruised, scrapped and sore, luckily there were no
broken bones. You can’t win them all! It was a good reminder of how fast and un-controllable crits can
be. On to the next one!
Youtube link to last few laps: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehj16naw65I&t=560s
On Saturday morning I completed my second Criterium race, and my first time representing the Red
Peloton. The course in Land Park is more technical and therefore, it was very beneficial to be the first
group to race that day because it allowed me to study and try out the best lines by myself during my
warm up. We had a group of 39 riders. Despite of one rider having to jump to the lawn because he
overcooked a technical turn, and a homeless person being in the middle of the road during one of the
laps, the race was uneventful and safe.
During this race, I was committed to avoid the errors I made on my first race, in which I wasn’t sure 1 lap
to go meant last lap, and also when to do the attack to get in front of the pack and cross the line. On
that first race, I left a lot in the tank and there was not enough road ahead to catch the winner before. I
stayed in the middle of the pack most of the race, saving energy and taking the turns safely but also
efficiently. On one lap to go, My plan was to move closer to the front and on the last technical turn do
my attack. I executed my strategy and finished 5th overall, which is an improvement from my first race
in which I placed 10th.
In hindsight, I should have done my effort on the technical turn prior to the last, that way I would have
accelerated while the pack was forced to slow down. This was the spot where the winner group
attacked with effective results. I also learned that I need to keep an eye on the riders from Kinetic cycle,
as they won both races I have been a part of.