Photos courtesy of Mike Briggs and Fred Jordan.
Crits are fun. Crits are fast. Crits used to be the mainstay of USCF racing around this Tri-State area and road races were the more difficult ones to find.
Now it seems that road races are more the "norm," and although I do like me some good road racing, I sure do enjoy racing Crits too.
Scroll down far enough and you'll find what was the ABRA Crit Schedule
Though I can sprint well enough, I'd much rather whittle the odds down a bit more in my favor. Why contend w/ 35 guys when 5 is much more mangeable? Course now you do get to choose from your excuses when there are more in the group, i.e. more things can go wrong if you're a bucket of bolts racer, but since I'm more into winning and placing than excuses, I'll try hard to get up the road w/ a few others whenever I get the chance. And w/ this season it has been always!
Mountaineer Classic Crit, April 9
Smallish field, mostly the Pittsburgher fellows. W/ the start gun Bob Gottlieb is off and hammering, and I'm close by him, even though he's in the 50+ class. Steve Svoboda is always a good one to be w/ and then there's Motown local Marc Glass who likes to give it a go.
And w/in a few laps that just how it is, the 4 of us working over the rest of the field and then lapping them for good measure. Some try to hang on when we come rolling by, but to no avail.
Close to the end the tactics start but doesn't seem like our group is going to let anyone get away, so we all know that it's gonna come down to the 3rd and 4th corners. The slightly downhill into the narrow stretch of the 3rd and then the slightly-uphill that leads to the curb-coming-up-quick 4th. And so it is, Bob really pins the 3rd, aces the 4th and I can't quite get around him at the end. Good enough for the class win, but I'd still rather beat him.
South Connellsville Criterium, April 16
Ah the start of the rainy season!
Neat course, more of a short Circuit Race, but we'll call it a Crit anyway. Some neat features: a shallow climb, sweeping turn, fast downhill directly into a painted crosswalk ahd steepish little climb followed by a gently rolling section, a prerequiste 90 degree turn and on to the finishing straight.
Wet and windy, oh boy.
Not really sure what happened in this race. Don't know if the wind and rain just had everyone not wanting to go hard, or whether things just "went my way." Whatever it was, the gang of usual suspects starts off going hard up the shallow climb, but then doesn't after a bit, a little hesitant on that downhill turn into the steepy thing and w/in a few laps I find that I've gotten away from the field and am just rolling away. "Well this is probably okay, so I'll just give it the old college try and wait for someone to come up to me," but no one does.
Maybe it was something in the air, or the oats I ate, or whatever, but though I had no real intentions of doing a solo move, there I am. Commit or regret. So I keep on burying my head and spinning my little legs and try to maintain the speed up the shallow climb, roll into that downhill corner as best I can and try to carry some speed and then keep it going up and over the steep thing. And it worked. Poof, I won!
As I side note, I also did the 1/2/3 race and they approached the course *much* differently. They'd just roll up the shallow climb, but *really* pin it up the steep thing and across the top. Boy did it get strung out across the top there. I rode fine, didn't have much in the legs for the sprint and finished 9th.
Steel City Showdown, April 17
Next day, up in the 'Burgh. No rain, but it is cold and windy. And the big boys from the area are here too as they are throwing the $$ at this race. And it really is a neat course, dahntawn Pixxburg, over two bridges and close to da stadium. And the place is full of vendors and what-not. What a time!
Did I mention that it was a large field and there were all sorts of fast young 40+ers?
The race is off and Freddy Fu is hammering. The field is getting strung out and you can just tell that things are going start popping, so I'm near the front, ready for "the move." One seems likely, doesn't materialize, but then the second one comes, Joe Ruggery (Freddie Fu) and Andy Clark (Panther Trucking?) light it up out of the 2nd corner and up over the bridge. "Oh man, this is it!" and I jump and chase up to them, which takes about 2/3 of a lap. These guys are going *hard* and sure enough we are clear of the rest of the field just like that. But I am struggling from my effort to get there and my general "not as fast as them" feeling. But I pull through and do my work. 4 or 5 laps of that and I can tell that it's just not going to happen for me, try as I might. So off the back I come. Ahh... that's feel much better! Amazing what a little rest does for you. But now I'm in no man's land, but still no pack in sight, so I auger in and do what I can. Another solo, but not for the win, but for 3rd, and that's gonna be okay w/ me if I can pull it off. Lap after excuriating lap, I try to use the same gears for each section, try to stay on top of the gear, try and get close to the bridge for a little wind-relief, anything and everything might just make the difference.
Not soon enough, but soon enough, the race is over, and I have done it. 3rd in that race was really all I could have asked for.
Pro Bikes Criterium Championship, July 30
Ahh, the lovely Aliquippa Industrial Park course. It's been run clockwise and counter-clockwise, it's had the start/finish on one side and the other. Still a decent physcially challenging course. Not a particularly technical course as most of the corners are plenty wide, but it does have a wee little uphill and then it is usually windy there as well, so on one side or the other you really have the opportunity to fly!
Decent field, some that weren't at the others, but are showing up now, mainly Frankie Ross (Sette Nova) and Jason Zimmerman (Freddy Fu). Frankie is always one to watch as he likes breaks almost as much as me, and w/ his teammate Ray Russell in the race too, but 50+, there will certainly be some action from them. Jason usually doesn't care if he's in a break or field sprint, he's just there to win, and he can.
And off we go!
Roll around, string things out, then bring them back together. Try a few little moves, but the right move just hasn't "happened," will the right group of folks get up the road? It's just not looking like it.
Then old Jeff Guy goes out on a flyer, comes at a decent time, I let him get up the road some, then bridge up. The prior times I did this the rest of the field came along too, but for whatever reason this time they didn't. So pin it we do!
All of a sudden we've got a pretty decent gap, but there are still 6 or so laps of the 1+ mile course to go. Jeff's doing what he can, I can't afford to just drop him, but have to be mindful that he's close to being popped.
5, 4, 3, 2, now we can see that there are 2 riders starting to really whittle at our lead. How much time are they making up, how much time are we losing? Crunch time but I've not got a whole lot left. What I have is out there.
With 1/2 a lap to go we're caught. Poopie pants, but not surprising. It's Frankie and Jason.
Jeff realizes that he's the leadout fellow and so w/ him at the front the rest of us line up and start strategizing.
Frankie jumps first into the 4th corner, I am NOT on him, crap, but I'm trying to hold my own on the long lonely straight to the finish, but alas Jason comes zipping by me, and that's it.
Still was in a fine break that "almost" really made it. But we didn't get caught by the rest of the field, and it was still a good solid race and a nice end to the series.
Yay, I win the 40+ Crit Series with 2 wins and 2 3rds.
ABRA 2011 Crit Standings
Sure was a fine and fun season, and I for one really hope that it happens again, the opportunity to race is always strong w/ this one..