Turn the Bike Around
By Jim Barclay | May 25, 2014
Race name: MOSH Criterium 2014
Race date: Sunday, May 25, 2014
MOSH Criterium 2014
I’ve heard of some cyclocross courses derisively referred to as “grass crits”--lots of turns but little else of interest. The Midwest Orthopedic Surgery Hospital (MOSH) Criterium could then be called a “grass crit in a parking lot.” Give it a minute...I swear it makes sense...There, you got it? Good.
.7 miles. 11 turns. 1 round-about complete with manhole cover right in the middle of the apex. A back stretch--IN AN ACTUAL PARKING LOT!--of turns made out of barricades and tape. A few swooping descents into hard, curbed 90-degree turns. “Serpentine” doesn’t begin begin to describe it. This is far and away the most technical crit I have encountered.
Thankfully the masters ? field was small. Actually, all the fields were, relatively. I can’t imagine 75 racers trying to navigate this thing. Something this technical was plumb for a good crash or two so I wanted to stay up front.
Of course I would have trouble clipping in. Of course I would…
3 turns later I finally got my left cleat clipped in and started working my way through the pack. Thankfully there were two longer straightaway sections (one uphill in to the finish,) that allowed such things. I parked myself near the front and focused on figuring out which turns I could pedal through and which I couldn’t. When the first of three primes was called I attacked through the start finish and by turn two had a decent gap. I didn’t even care what the prime was for--I didn’t have much warm up and needed to wake up my legs. I also wanted to see what the field would do. I wanted to use the course to my advantage, knowing I could take the technical sections faster on my own than they could even as a small chase group. I gave a few looks back and saw some chasers but by the time I was through the most technical sections in the back side of the course I knew I could hold them off. I stayed off front for another two laps and then settled back in. The second prime was called and I passed a few guys in the uphill sprint but was a bike length behind the winner, Jason Balden of Team Wisconsin. He kept on the gas and I thought for a second about going with him before deciding to settle back in. Wrong decision. He ended up staying away the whole race. He was a strong rider but benefitted greatly from disorganization in the main field. Rudy Zarate (the other xXx’er in this race,) and I spent a good portion of the rest of the race on the front keeping him in sight but nobody else would chase--despite me yelling at them that the gap was growing. With three to go I knew it was a lost cause and started to think about the bunch sprint.
On the bell lap I again went to the front. I figured the odds of a crash were going up exponentially at that point and I didn’t want to get caught in it. This time I drilled it pretty hard but took a wide turn in the back section and let two guys come around me. I was 3rd wheel--set up perfectly--for the uphill sprint but we were overtaking a lapped rider right in the final corner and the 2nd wheel understandably hesitated a second. That allowed the first guy to open just a bit of a gap. I sprinted for 3rd with a solid bike throw.
10 minutes later I was lined up for the Master’s ¾ race. I am getting close to my upgrade I was anxious to see how I would compete with in the harder field. Pretty good, actually. The race started out much hotter but then settled into a pace I was comfortable with. We were 4 laps into the 45 min race, I was 6th wheel going into the back half when a guy slid out taking me and another rider with. The rider in front of me basically broke my fall (and his collarbone...sorry dude.) I realized I was Ok I jumped up and headed to the start finish. The hot tempo, the corners and the crash all helped to fracture the field pretty well at this point but I kept calm and waited for the refs to put me back in.
”You are with the next group.” and with that, off I went, grateful that I was rightfully inserted with the lead group.
Except I wasn’t.
A few laps later I noticed a profound lack of urgency in my little group of seven. The pace was hot but not, “we have to stay away” hot. I was getting suspicious and asked another rider where we were in the race. “Definitely outside of top 10,” was the answer. With that I broke off and used the next couple laps as threshold work and cornering practice. A few others eventually caught on and we had a nice little group of four going into the bell lap. Again I positioned myself well for the sprint--2nd wheel coming out of the last corner and this time there were thankfully no lapped riders in it. At 100m I kicked hard and came around the leader to take…something...the refs gave me 12th but I’m not even sure they knew. Whatever, I’ll take it.
All in all it was a great day. Since sliding out in a corner at SLO I have taken about 1000 turns in an effort to improve my cornering. Practice helps. A year ago a crazy technical course like this would have had me peeing myself. Today I saw it as an opportunity to create scenarios and then used those scenarios to my advantage.