Tag Archives: Criterium

Helmet view of a crit

It has been awhile since I have put up any video of a ride. I decided to wear my helmet cam in the Spartanburg Regional Cycling Classic. It reminded me of why I don’t do that very often! It is hard to get the camera angle correct and you would be surprised how tired it makes your neck having just that little bit of weight up on your head! Anyway, here it is… for what it is.

I did flip the switch to get the finish of the race. Unfortunately, if you don’t turn the camera on ever so often, it automatically turns off. It must have been off too long, so when I went to record the finish the camera didn’t work.

I’m going to give it another try at one of the St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Series races. I think I have a way to make it capture more of what is going on in front of me. So, stay tuned!

One last thing… my videos on YouTube have been viewed over 100,000 times. Up until this video, these videos have been sponsored by Quarq CinQo. I’m coming up with a new sponsor project that I will introduce soon. This sponsor will be featured in all the videos I produce in the next year. They will be a blog sponsor and will also get exposure on equipment. If you would like to get a head start on being this featured sponsor, you can contact me at lowcadence@pait.org.

Learning to act my age

Thursday evening was the first St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Series at the BMW Performance Center Test Track in Greer, South Carolina. My team, Piedmont Orthopaedic Associates is putting on the six race series the last Thursday of each month during the summer. I had forgotten how fun that track can be!

I was a little nervous because my coach was having me “double-up.” This means I would be racing in two criterium races back-to-back. The first would be Category 4/5 where I would be racing with guys half my age. The second race would be the Masters 35+ event when I would get a chance to race with a good number of my teammates — most of whom are close to my age.

BMW Performance Center Test Track

The course for the first race of the POA Summer Series

Going into the 4/5 race, I tried to balance the fact that I wanted to do well with the knowledge that I would have to race another race which I thought would be a much harder race. I stayed in the field for about half the race and then decided to go for a prime. Moving up to the front, I wanted to stay there going into the east side of the course. I knew if I could make it through there in the lead, the prime would be mine.

After a smooth right hand into turn three, you straighten out for just a moment before entering a chicane before coming into a sharper right hand turn. Once you exit turn four you find yourself coming over a rise and through a very shallow curve. The result is that you don’t get to see the start/finish line until you start coming out of this feature of the course. That factors into the story later.

Heading for the prime - Photo thanks to Jake Strasser

Heading for the prime - Photo thanks to Jake Strasser

My attack worked to perfection and I came out of the turn leading and then just put the hammer down to take the prime. Jake Strasser and Tyler Crotts were right on my wheel. When we crossed the line, we just kept rolling in the attempt to create a break. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long and we were brought back into the field.

Then it was time to think of the finish. My teammate, Billy White, got on the front and started to stretch things out. I put my eye on Kirk Flinte. He was sitting in most of the race and I could tell that he had his mind set on a good finish. It was time to try something new, so I decided to get on Kirk’s wheel and let him bring me to the front. It was time for me to come off someone else instead of the other way around.

It was working perfectly. We entered turn three and sure enough, Kirk started to make a move. I got on this wheel and hung there until we were entering the chicane. At that point my momentum started bringing up to the left of Kirk’s wheel right as we were entering the left turn portion of the chicane. He moved further left to set himself up for the sharp right turn. Unfortunately, this pushed me to the edge of road.

At that turn is a drop off where cars have worn a rut along the edge. I knew if I went off that, it would be trouble. So, I gave and “tip-toed” down the line. That caused me to lose my momentum and Kirk created a gap. To get wound up again, I came through turn four wide. The engine was winding up and I was closing on Kirk. I knew that I could catch him.

Then we came over the rise and started to come out of the shallow curve. Right in front of me was a lapped rider. Because I came up on him so abruptly, I couldn’t judge his speed or tell which way he was going. There was just enough space to his left that I could have squeezed through and to his right would have me going back into the field. I hesitated slightly to take it all in and decide what to do.

That pause cost me dearly. Four riders were right on my wheel and they went right. I picked up the pace again in an attempt to salvage what I could. The result was a 7th place finish. However, even Kirk didn’t take the win since Gordon Whittaker of Palmetto Velo had gotten off the front earlier and took the win.

Power and heart rate graph from Category 4 race

Power and heart rate graph from Category 4 race (click to enlarge)

As it turns out, the Category 4/5 race was harder for me than the Masters 35+ — and the finishing results weren’t that far off each other. I averaged 251 watts in the first race. We finished with an average speed of 25.5 mph. However, there were many more accelerations as the pace would come and go. My heart rate got up to 191 bpm with an average of 173 bpm. Compare that with the Masters 35+ race.

Masters race heart rate and watts graph.

Masters race heart rate and watts graph (Click to enlarge)

This race was completely different. First the numbers: I averaged 25 mph at 262 watts. My heart rate stayed below 187 bpm with an average of 171 bpm. Much of this can be contributed to two things. 1) the tactics were completely different. My job in the Masters race was to help control pace so that my teammates could form a break and get away. In other words, I was being paid to go slow! 2) the racing was much smoother. It was so much easier going through the turns. There was much less braking and accelerating. It was more of a constant flow.

I wasn’t so much nervous about the speeds or the close racing as I was about doing something tactically stupid that would cause me teammates to exclaim, “What were you thinking!?!” So, I started the race toward the back. I was feeling great as the 4/5 race was a good warm up. I found the wheel of John James and sat there.

If you have ever watched Rudy, you’ll know what I was feeling like. Things were happening around me, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to interpret it all. I was just glad to be there with the guys. I only knew that Rodney had gotten in a break and it was our job to hold a pace that would allow him to get away.

Then from behind me about halfway through, I heard Rodney yell, “Jonathan! Move to the right!” I immediately did what I was told and Rodney came blasting past me on my left. We were getting lapped. I was getting really confused. I couldn’t tell who was lapping us and who was in the field with me.

Not long after this, I started to feel really good — except that my mouth was getting very dry. I had used up most of my water in the first race and had forgotten to pick up a second one before this race. I asked John if I could have a swig of his and he handed his bottle over. It was just what I needed. After getting John his bottle back and started to move up to the front.

For nearly four minutes, I moved to the front and pulled the field up to catch some of the riders who had earlier lapped up and now were falling back from the winning break. Of course, I didn’t even know they were actually a lap ahead of us! I just knew that Rodney was long gone and it was time to pick up the scraps.

Yes, there was no way I was going to win, but this was my first ever Masters 35+ race. I wanted to go in the records with a decent finish. It felt so good to be there on the front just tapping out a tempo. Of course, when we got within a lap of the end, things around me picked up and I decided to play it safe and moved into the line.

Coming out of that last turn, I was still with the front of the field and starting to sprint with about 10 other guys around me. Some passed me and I passed some others. I set my mind on beating Steve Baker to the line. I kept closing on him and then threw my bike at the end. I really thought I had him by a tire width, but alas, the camera showed I was a fraction of a second too slow. I’ll get you next time, Baker!

It was a blast! I was very pleased with my 11th place finish — more pleased with it than my 7th place earlier. Mostly, I was glad that I didn’t get in anyone’s way or do something tactically stupid. I’m ready for the next one! Can we have another race next Thursday?

Less critical of the crit

Billy White told me it would happen. It has taken awhile, but what he predicted has come true. I’m actually starting to warm up to criterium racing.

It is a good thing too. Criterium racing is the primary way American cyclist compete against each other. When the summer months arrive, all across the country you will find racers going round and round on short courses. That time has come!

2010 Giant TCR Advanced with SRAM Red

My crit weapon of choice: 2010 Giant TCR Advanced with SRAM Red & Boyd wheels

The big daddy to kick off criteriums here in the Southeast is the Athens Twilight. No, it has nothing to do with vampires. The sucking going on will be competitors trying to gain an advantage – or merely survive – by riding the wheel of the racer in front of them.

Athens Twilight is now in its 30th year. The race has consistently brought over 30,000 spectators to watch the racers compete under the city lights. It is an atmosphere the fans and riders enjoy.

However, there is another criterium series kicking off. The 2010 St. Francis Sports Medicine Summer Race Series kicks off tonight at the BMW Performance Center in Greer, SC. The series returns to the track after a year away with racing at the old Greenville Braves Stadium. The performance test track was a favorite venue and you can expect fast racing — depending on the winds.

Check out the event page over at POACycling.com to learn more about the race. Especially if you are a cyclist just beginning to race, consider cutting your teeth out at BMW. Rather than really sharp turns, the Summer Series crits feature more sweeping turns that allow you to get more comfortable with the speeds often associated with crits.

What exactly was it I didn’t like about this style of racing? Part of it was simply that I’ve always thought that road racing was the purest form of bicycle racing. Varying terrain, distance, and team strategy over the course seemed more like the types of racing you see in the Tour de France.

However, more than that, I was scared. Crits typically are under a mile in length and involve at least four turns. Depending on the course, these turns can be rather abrupt. So, you have 40 guys going 25 mph into a 90 degree turn and it can be a recipe for disaster! My first ever race was a crit and I went down alone in one of these turns and dislocated my finger.

The crit is also hard. In road racing, you can more easily sit in and cover the distance waiting for the final move of the day. In criterium racing, you have to know how to handle your bike but you also have to know how to accelerate. Pedal… set yourself up for the turn… hold your line… hold your line… ACCELERATE! Pedal… Pedal… Pedal… set yourself up for the turn… hold your line… hold your line… ACCELERATE! Over and over you go.

However, I have come to enjoy the race as I have come to understand it better. Admittedly, it is also more fun as my bike handling skills have improved and my training has helped me learn to manage the acceleration. One of the things that makes it enjoyable is that there is continual action. There is very little of just sitting in and getting pulled along. You must be fully engaged for the entire distance.

Chasing down the leaders at the BMW Peformance Center

Chasing down the leaders at the BMW Performance Center

Tonight I should have double the fun. My coach has me doubling up racing the Category 4 race as well as the Masters 35+. I’ll finish the first race and then line up immediately for the second race. I’m glad he has confidence! Hopefully it will be contagious.

Come on and give a crit a try. You might find you like it… after awhile.

Thankful now for the top 5 finishes

Saturday we were racing in the I’On Village Smackdown in Charleston. It was my first time to the course and I wasn’t sure what the result would be. I just want to give it my best shot and figured I would get a top ten in the Category 4/5 Masters race. I didn’t expect a smackdown.

Matt and I arrived about an hour before the start. We got turned around for a few minutes trying to find our way. I thought it would be fine, but what threw me off was that I was on my black Giant while I waited for the opportunity to break in my new Boyd Bikes wheels. I was trying to get the iBike computer running and I really got behind the eight ball.

Turned out I never got a chance to ride the course and did not get a full warm-up. I can’t help but think that came back to bite me later in the day. However, at the time, there was nothing to do but to line up and give it a try.

Lining up was its own issue. I was about three rows deep when they sent us off. It made for some excitement as I made my way around the course for the first time in a crowd. I just kept my eyes focused a couple of riders ahead of me trying to anticipate how I would need to enter the turns.

Several laps in I started to feel like I was beginning to warm-up. Then they started calling primes. I had told Matt and Billy that on one of the primes I was going to go off and see if I could get a break going. They would then be able to sit in as the other teams worked to bring us back.

They called two primes in a row. I decided to set up for the second one to be my break starter. There was one rider with a gap on the field and I caught him just as we came out of the final turn. I passed him with about 10 meters to go and took the prime (a bottle of Hammer gel). Then I kept on going.

After turning it on for about 50 meters, I looked back to see that no one was coming over to me. I was alone. Then I turned onto the back portion of the course and got hit by the crosswinds. It was near the end of this section that I got caught.

It was the wrong place to get caught because this put me getting passed just before the hardest turn on the course. I ended up having to accelerate out of the turn without being recovered from the break effort.

It all went down hill from there. There really isn’t a lot to report. I was just trying to hang on for dear life. Then to make matters worse, I went through a turn and thought I was getting a flat. My rear wheel went “squishy” and I moved over to the gutter with my hand up and dropped to the rear of the field as I made sure I was okay.

It must have been that I had lightened the weight on my wheel in the turn causing it to slide. This made me think it was going flat. However, it wasn’t and once again I was fighting to get back on.

Thankfully, Billy and Matt were riding well. I could watch them up near the front from my position in the back. As we counted down the last 4 laps, I watched Matt go to work. He moved to the front and basically pulled the field around the final two laps.

“I knew I wouldn’t win a sprint,” he said. “the only chance I had was to stretch everyone out and keep the sprint at bay for as long as possible. Then I would hang on for the best finish I could get.” he did exactly that. He crossed the line in forth – just about a wheel off of the winner.

Billy was also moving his way to the front and came home with a 6th place finish. I really did have a surge of relief as I saw there places. The success of the team had nothing to do with me. I wish I could have given them some help, but I was extremely pleased that POA had once again put two riders in the money!

It was a pleasant surprise to find out that I had finished 20th. I knew I was finishing with the field, but it felt like I was the last guy in the group. The whole experience has me scratching my head. I really am not certain what happened.

Today we go back to Hampton Park to race the SC State Criterium Championships. It would be great to see the POA colors on top of that podium. I’m certain Billy, Matt, and I will be giving it all we’ve got. I just hope I have more to give than I had Saturday’s race.

Do style points count?

Last night was the final POA Cycling Team Summer Series criterium.  It is a good thing too.  By 8:30 the darkness was settling in making it hard to see.  Thankfully all the racers were off the course by then.  However, it wasn’t the darkness that caused the wreck… it was the rain.

Perhaps it was because I knew the SC Championship Road Race is Saturday, but I had a hard time getting up for this crit.  The facts that it was a race sponsored by my team and that my in-laws decided to come see me race had me cinching up shoes and climbing on the bike.  My plan was to just stay with the pack and keep my effort to a minimum.  The result was an almost best finish for the series.

Photo by David Hicks

Photo by David Hicks

Of course, taking it easy in a crit is a relative thing!  By the halfway point I felt like pulling off.  I was slipping off the back in the turns with a small gap forming and then working my way back onto the wheels in front.  It was taking a bit of work to do that.  Just a little after that, the rains came.

I did not want to be back there on a slick course, so I moved to the front.  During the brief shower I stayed on the front or in the top five or so.  This allowed me chose a better line going into turn four.  The first time I went through my wheels hit a pavement patch that was pretty slick.  It broke my rear end loose and I had to chase the bike out to the edge of the road.  I avoided that spot for the rest of the night!

The rain eased and so did I.  Suddenly, I was sitting in and feeling really good.  “Don’t do anything stupid,” I told myself.  “Saturday is more important than tonight.”  I started to think about how I was positioning myself in the pack.  This race could be a good learning experience.

I remembered something Jim Cunningham said at his criterium seminar.  Stay on the wheel.  If you ease off the wheel in front of you going into the turn, you are going to have to exert energy to catch back on once you are out of the turn.  I started to concentrate on staying right there on the wheel in front through the corners.

Just that little adjustment made a huge difference!  Rather than coming out of the turns dreading the work of trying to cover the 5 foot gap in front of me, I found myself being sucked through the corners.  The only downside is that it takes an element of trust to do that.  You are counting on the rider in front of you to hold his line and not go down.

The rains had moved through and the course was drying in spots, but turn four was still a little wet.  At three laps to go, I started to move my way up toward the top five riders in the field.  David Bright from Anderson and Peter Mathern had broke away and we weren’t going to catch them at this point.

Photo by David Hicks

Photo by David Hicks

Things were looking very good for me to have a top 10 finish.  I was marking Jae Bowen – the winner of the omnium – as we moved around the final lap.  As we neared turn four Jae and I lined up to come around the outside.  My idea was to keep as much momentum through the turn as possible.  That would give me a jump for the sprint to the finish.

Some riders came flying up to our inside.  I eased just a bit to adjust my line and a gap formed between Jae and myself.  Then I leaned into the turn.  The riders to my left moved slightly in front of me.  Then just as they were reaching the first part of the apex of the turn and I was still somewhat upright, one of the riders went down.  He split between Jae and me.

Immediately the rider beside him went down as well.  They were skidding across the wet pavement toward the outside of the turn.  Jae barely escaped while I adjusted my line slightly and eased my brakes hoping to squeeze through the shrinking gap before they closed it off.  However, the combination of changing my line and braking caused my rear wheel to break loose once again.

It was like slow motion.  I wasn’t fearful – until it was over – and I was seeing everything that was happening in a matter of seconds, but my brain was analyzing it in detail.  I knew if I kept trying to shoot the gap I was either 1) going to get taken out by the sliding rider, or 2) slide out myself.

Instead I gathered the bike and straightened up.  This put me headed for the curb and the water retention area where a rider a couple of weeks ago went down and got messed up pretty badly.  Thankfully, I had slowed enough so that after bunny hopping the curb, I was able to grab my brakes and keep from sliding down the embankment – or hit the stump I realized for the first time was there.

As I was hopping the curb, I could hear the sound of entangling bikes behind me.  I’m still not sure how many racers were involved.  I was just trying to get my bike stopped, back onto the course, and under power again.  As I moved back on I got my feet on the pedals and started to go.  Ugggghhhh.  I had too much gear.  However, I just pushed it up until I crossed the line.

Jae finished seventh.  Based on where he was in relation to me as we entered the turn I am pretty sure I was on my way to a top ten – my best finish of the series.  Still, as I crossed the line I was elated with whatever place I got.  For once I was right there in an obvious crashing situation and I avoided it.  What made me happy was that it wasn’t just luck.  Each move I made had an intention and I was able to react to avoid the crash.

I imagine it looked pretty cool when I came out of the field and hopped that curb.  Sure, I didn’t win – or even place that well, but I figured I get a few points for style.  Even better than that, I didn’t break a shifter!

Get ready for those end of the season criteriums

THURSDAY, September 3, 2009 CYCLING SEMINAR
PRESENTED BY

Jim Cunningham Coaching **** CRUNK Physical Therapy

• CRITERIUM TRAINING & RACING
• UNDERSTANDING AND TREATING THE MOST COMMON CYCLING INJURIES THAT CAN HINDER YOUR PERFORMANCE

Jim Cunningham, Owner & Head Coach JimCunninghamCoaching, USACycling Level II Certified, Computrainer Certified Coach, Bicycle Fitting Specialist

Timothy J. Crunk, PT, MS, OCS, CFMT, FAAOMPT, Owner of Crunk Physical Therapy, PC, Board certified in Orthopaedics, Certified in Functional Manual Therapy, Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Therapy, Functional Manual Therapy Board of Directors, Functional Manual Therapy advisory Board and Fellowship Curriculum Advisor, Nationally recognized instructor.

  • WHEN- Thursday, September 3, 2009, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
  • 6:30-7:15—Tim Crunk
    PowerPoint Presentation, Discussion, Q & A

    • Common cycling injuries
    • How they are treated
    • How they are prevented
  • 7:15-8:00—Coach Jim Cunningham
    PowerPoint Presentation, Discussion, Q & A

    • Criterium racing and its skills
    • Bike selection and set up for Criterium racing
    • Training specifically for Criterium racing

MORE DETAILS — Jim@JimCunninghamCoaching.com
www.JimCunninghamCoaching.com
(864) 630-3081

Do a little learning off the bike

Thursday night I don’t believe I will be out riding.  I’ve decided that I am going to attend a cycling seminar presented by Jim Cunningham and Stephen Keiser, M.D.  Maybe I might be able to learn something off the bike, seeing how I can be pretty slow trying to learn on it.

Why don’t you join me on Thursday, August 13 at 522 N. Church St., Greenville SC 29601? It is the Criminal Law Building located behind the Bi-Lo Center.  Don’t worry, there is plenty of free parking on the premises.

There are two sessions – the first (starting at 6:30 PM) by Dr. Keiser is a PowerPoint presentation followed by a discussion and questions and answers.  I probably need to go to this one since it will be covering “Common cycling injuries and their care.”  The way my body is feeling now days, that would be a good one!

However, it is the second session with Jim Cunningham that interests me the most.  It is a similar presentation structure, but the topic will be “Criterium racing and its skills” as well as “Bike selection and set up for Criterium racing” and “Training specifically for Criterium racing.”  With all the crits we do around here, it seems like you basically HAVE TO attend this session.

I’ll be following up this session with a visit with Jim to go over my power files for the last year.  I am evaluating whether it would do me good to enlist his help as a coach for my 2010 season.  I feel I have reached a plateau with what I am able to pull out of myself.  I’m thinking I’m going to need someone else to come along to squeeze anything more out of this lemon.

Still, this session will be a good start.  Why don’t you join me?