Monday, April 12, 2010

Pure Luck

Criterium racing is dangerous. This is lap 3 from Dana Point this weekend. I'm on the inside near the front. My teammate, Terry wasn't so lucky. Fortunately, he escaped this with a skinned knee and broken bike. Others went home with shattered bones.

This nasty crash happened with three laps to go. Guys were beginning to get nervous as the end of the race was approaching and were making risky moves to stay near the front. The most common is what we call "diving for the turn." When the guys on the front of the pack are taking a wide line into a turn to shave the apex - some joker 15 riders back interprets the open space in the road as an easy way to get to the front. He then comes out of the line of riders and dives for the turn. Finding himself with too much speed he usually had to grab the breaks at the last moment and pushes the guys who were taking a sensible line out of the corner. What happened in this video wasn't a case of this particular kind of rider error - but devastating to those involved nonetheless.
Terry and I were the only Cat 3 representatives from Ritte Racing at Dana Point, but that didn't keep us from having a winning plan. Terry was in great form - coming of a podium finish the previous weekend we were confident that we could get good finishes. Terry Would motor off the front on the uphill stretch into the final turn and I would try to close the deal.

Both of us started at the back of the 80 man field, and it took me nearly 3 laps to work my way to the top 10 or 15 positions. Terry was warming up slowly so hung back until about 20 minutes to go. We stayed close to each other near the front as the lap cards began to tick down. With three to go I took the inside line on the straight away through the start finish.Here you can see my light blue helmet on the front four guys from the left. You know what happens next. Don't know why I was on the inside here - I'd taken the wide line almost every other lap. I've been lucky that way. Four years of Crit racing and (Knock on wood) never been in a crash. Probably has something to do with always riding at the front which also has something to do I suspect with a lack of results in field sprints.

With 2 to go I was without Terry, so moved myself up into the top 10 positions. The sprint is only 200 meters from the final turn - so the race is basically determined by your position into this turn. I pulled off a a third place finish this way as a Cat 4 two years prior.

Into the final turn with one lap to go at 20+ MPH my back wheel locked and started to slide out. Instinctively, I turned the front wheel into the turn unclipped my foot and started sliding across the road like a flat track racer. I nearly lost complete control 3-4 times before my brand new Vitoria tubular burned down on the pavement and burst, spraying white sealant all over my legs. It turned out that my tubular had rolled off my carbon wheel and wedged in my breaks - which in turn locked the back wheel. Had the front wheel rolled - the result would have been worse - I'd have gone down for sure.

I watched from the side of the road as the field came around for the final sprint and threw my bike in disgust -luckily not doing any further damage.