Back in the Criterium Racing Saddle

Hopping back into racing, especially criterium racing is always a wake up call. The severe leg burning, erratic breathing, and super fast cornering are aspects I have desperately missed. After a two and a half year hiatus thanks to my triathlon obsession, I saddled back up lusting for anaerobic bliss.

The 2012 Greenville Criterium in Greenville, North Carolina hosted by the Bicycle Post brought a race within two hours (which is very close for us). Despite the threat of torrential downpours and sever thunderstorms, we brought a group of racers to race day.

After my warm-up, I rolled up to the line for the Category 3/4 race. The officials gave their race overviews and walked off the line. Like any performance or big event, the moments before the start are always instances of calm nervousness. The whistle blew and we were off — thankfully I hadn’t forgotten how to clip into my pedals in a tight pack. Boy, were we off! I have raced well over 120 races and this was the fastest start I have ever been a part of. The first four to six laps were brutal. I truly thought I was going to get dropped….. but I didn’t.

A breakaway formed in the first few laps. One rider said they were cat 3s on the cusp of being cat 2s. Once I regained my breathing composure, settled into the race pace, and my race legs from years past had hints of revival, I got down to business. I had a couple goals this race:

  • Get back into racing form
  • Work hard and feel “pain”
  • Have fun
  • Be safe!

    • Greenville Crit Rain

      It was raining, HARD!

      The ominous clouds did give way to a downpour. I could not gauge how hard it was raining, but my peers said it was torrential for a few minutes. The picture on the left gives an idea. Criteriums, corners, street paint, and water are never a good mix, but everyone handled themselves pretty well. The cruising break away benefited the most from the weather conditions. For me, the rain was refreshing. After things settled down a little bit, I methodically worked my way up to the front of the pack. Proper cornering gained me so many places.

      As the race progressed, I was on the front quite a bit, hungry to work. There were no aspirations of sitting in and saving myself until the end. I wanted to drive the pace, take my own lines in the corners, and keep out of harm’s way. Plus, I wanted to pull that lead group back. The little “hill” on the back side of the course was always a nuisance. When I needed a little breather, I’d sink back four or five places.

      One of my favorite aspects of racing is when there’s a group of guys who want to work together. This race was no exception. Once we started communicating, we almost brought back the break away (twenty seconds initially and had them under a 10 second gap), but a couple guys broke up our rhythm and we lost them for good. Two of the lead guys ended up lapping the field… oh well.

      With the final remaining laps, the speed picked up, I put in some work and then slipped back a couple spots. On the final lap, I was ready for the field sprint. We started the sprint and I ended up winning the field sprint. While it wasn’t for a podium spot, it was for a top 10 spot and pride. I accomplished all the goals I was aiming for. I was very pleased for my first race back.

      The Greenville Course:

    • Pot holes. I hope they patch them up in corner one.
    • Bricks. There is one section in corner two. They caused problems in earlier races.
    • Little “hill” on the back side. It has just enough rise to make the legs hurt if you’re tired.
    • Overall, it was a good criterium course. I loved the wide sweeping corners because you can take them at full speed!
    • Observations:

    • Corners. A lot of riders need to work on them. The roads were wide with 90 degree turns. You can easily take them wide enough to keep pedaling and not lose momentum. Taking time to practice cornering does wonders.
    • Communication. I like communicating in the pack. It keeps us all safer, but it also brings organization. Organization can be a beautiful thing. Someone has to take control, set a game plan, and hope every one gets on board. It’s fun working with others (when the race dictates it). Thus, we almost caught the break away group.
    • Handling skills. I still have them! I rode over a wet sewer cover and my wheels slipped out from under me, but I saved it.
    • New Friends. It was great meeting some solid and friendly racers from the UNC-Wilmington cycling team.
    • Racing is fun. If you have never raced before, give it a try. The first couple races I ever did I was lapped multiple times. Your body doesn’t know what to expect. You’re not used to riding in a tight group. Put your pride aside. You will quickly gain it back!! Once you have the basics down, it is exhilarating.
    • [one_half] Karston Helping[hr_small]One of the guys from the UNCW Cycling team. He worked hard in the group.
      [/one_half] [one_half_last] Taking the Corner[hr_small]Taking my own line leading through the corner.
      [/one_half_last] [one_half] UNCW Cycling[hr_small] Jordan and Ian helped set the pace and worked with me to try and bring back the breakaway. +1 for the red Jack Kane!
      [/one_half] [one_half_last] greenville nc criterium stats[hr_small] Garmin Stats (click for a larger view)
      [/one_half_last] [hr] Finally, I had put aside my carbon steed for my K Team Carbon SL aluminum/carbon bike. Since joining Jack Kane bikes, I had not raced on this frame. I finally got too. Whooooo weeee, what a fast frame. No wonder our pro teams have done so well.

      PHOTOS WERE TAKEN BY WALTER POFAHL. Source link for Walter’s Work