by Michael Hast
The Tolero crits were on a tough course for me. There were a lot of awkward corners and a little incline towards the finish. I loved the fact that the crit was in the Casa Adobes Church parking lot. Our team set up in the race course parking lot and it was great to see so many Cat 5 riders that are new to crit racing. My first race of the day was Cat 4/5 which was 30 minutes long. I had a very good start and was in the top 5. After a few laps Kyle made an attack, a prime was announced and I attempted to bridge to Kyle. I was not able to catch him to contend for the prime, but was in a great spot for the next couple of laps. Being up front meant for me to take the corners the way I wanted to take them, but tired me out immensely. For the last 5 minutes of the race I was in the back barely hanging on.
Michael working hard in the Cat 3/4 race
My goal for the next race, Cat 3/4, was to stay in the middle of the pack and get comfortable there. Between the Cat 4/5 and Cat 3/4 race was only 20 minutes of rest and the next race was 40 minutes. Those 40 minutes were a race of perseverance. Gary's Valley of the Sun road race came to mind which reminded me of Romans 5:4,5 "knowing that racing produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." I was in the back of the pack, catching up to the pack after most of the corners. Buzz attacked to bridge to Kyle which tore the pack to pieces. At that point I lost the connection to the pack and was riding for about 12 minutes solo, working hard to not get lapped and pulled from the race. I succeeded, and had a sprint finish with an ASU rider, praises be to our Heavenly Father!
Michael sprinting for the line
by Buzz Wright
My legs weren't feeling great for these crits but I was excited to be racing with so many friends. It was awesome to see so many guys and gals showing up and a handful of them were from our Wednesday night Crit Training Series, which was fantastic. I stayed up near the front for most of the race and could feel residual fatigue in my legs on the slight climb every lap. A little over halfway through the race the group bunched up a bit before heading into the "dumpster corner" and I saw a guy two wheels in front of me looking pretty nervous. Just as I was thinking about it sure enough, there was a bit of contact and he ended up going down. Unfortunately I was not able to get away from him and ended up going down too. I hopped up, checked the bike (it was fine), and went back to the start/finish to get my free lap.
After re-joining the group I was able to stay near the front again. I marked Kyle and Erik and noticed that Ryan was working to get on Erik's wheel. I figured that Kyle would be leading Erik out and Ryan would probably release them on the final lap. Turned out to be a good guess and even though I knew what was happening I just didn't have the legs to get on Erik's wheel once they went for it. It was a great move but unfortunately they took the dumpster corner a little too fast and both ended up in the hay bails. I was so bummed for them I sat up a bit and finished somewhere in the top 10 I think.
The Robold brothers: Evan, Ryan, and Buzz (adopted)
My legs were pretty sore and the slight climb on every lap was definitely hurting me. With some 3's in the field I expected the race to be hard and it was. I again stayed near the front and did my best to hold wheels and conserve energy. Kyle went off the front and had a decent gap and I mentioned it to Evan saying, "Kyle's up the road a bit." A moment later I decided to try to bridge up to him so I jumped on the climb section and pushed hard to reach him. I was able to get on his wheel but was pretty gassed. A third rider also bridged up to us and he was super strong. He and Kyle continued but I looked back a the group and decided that I needed to recover and re-integrate. Just not enough strength to make that work yet. I think I stayed away for two laps.
Buzz bridging up to Kyle
Near the end of the race a couple guys went down on the dumpster corner. Luckily I was able to stay up but had to scrub so much speed to avoid the crash that I lost contact with the lead group. I didn't have the legs to work hard enough to get back up there but I had Evan with me so I was happy. We worked together along with two other guys but then Evan fell off after taking a big pull. When I saw him dropping off I let the other two riders go and waited for him. Once he was back on my wheel I put in a decent pull to get us back up to the other two riders. That worked but then on the next lap I cramped up really, really good -- both calves and both hamstrings just locked up. It was excruciatingly fun! Evan looked back and saw that I was dropped back and so he sat up. I yelled at him to "get up there and sprint it out" but he wasn't listening. We sat up and rode the last lap together and the cramps faded. On the final climb there was one rider coming up on us so for funzies I did a half-hearted sprint to the line. Not sure what I placed but I didn't care -- it was a really fun day of racing!
Evan and Buzz chatting on the last lap
by Buzz Wright
I'm not really a fan of time trials. My power is pretty low compared to other riders and I don't really enjoy long, straight, steady-state suffering. But, the TT is necessary in order to do the RR and crit, so I had to do it. I haven't spent much time in the TT position and wasn't able to generate as much power as normal (about 10% lower), but I wasn't too concerned with the results so it didn't bother me. I was passed by Kyle, Michael, and a third guy who ended up taking 1st place for the day. I finished right in the middle of the Cat 4's with 26th out of 52 racers. About 4.5 minutes behind the leader. I was just happy the TT was over.
My plan for the road race was simply to do whatever I could to help Michael out. He was sitting in 7th for the overall, 21 seconds behind 6th. Our hope was to move him up in the GC. On the second lap I had a little scare when I rode over the rumble strips on the side of the highway and lost a bottle. When we hit the climb on that second lap there was a decent split that occurred and our front group was around 15-20 riders. I went to the front to try to up the pace but nobody else wanted to work which was unfortunate because the chase group was able to catch back up to us on the descent. On the third climb Michael was in a good position and looking strong. Near the end of the climb about 10 guys opened up a gap and were pushing hard for the finish. I saw that Michael was not in that group so I found him and told him to grab my wheel. I gave it everything I had for him for as long as I could, trying desperately to bridge the gap to the front group. I was able to deliver him about 100 meters short of them and as I exploded I yelled for him to give it one hard effort to catch them. When he jumped there was one guy on his wheel but the rest of the group was a good distance back. I was able to grind to the finish only getting passed by one other guy, taking 14th. Michael took 12th. I was so happy for him and he ended up moving up to 6th in the GC!
I was really, really looking forward to the crit. The course looked fun and I expected it to be fast too, which played to my strengths. I have been wanting to get on the podium and haven't quite been able to do it yet. Pre-race we chatted a bit with Kyle from TriSports, who was only 18 seconds off of 2nd place in the GC. I told Kyle I would be happy to do whatever I could to help him so he asked if I would try to work with him in a break, attacking after a prime when the pack was somewhat tired. I was excited to work with Kyle because he's a very strong racer and a super nice guy. If it turned out that the break didn't work Kyle said he would lead me out for the sprint. It was really cool to work together with another team. There were a total of 4 primes in the 30-minute crit and Kyle and I attacked after the second prime.
The attack worked very well and we opened up about a 10-second gap. Kyle's pulls were almost twice as long as mine which was necessary since his FTP is about 15% higher than mine. Super strong dude. I had trouble just sitting on his wheel to recover after my pull. After a lap or two a third racer bridged up to us and helped with a nice pull. He dropped off after another lap or two and then it was just Kyle and me again. During our break Kyle took a prime and then the forth prime bell rang. Halfway through that lap I took a look back and the group was gaining on us fast. I was so spent. We were caught with around 11 minutes to go in the race. It was a great opportunity and had a lot of potential, I just need to increase my power output a bit in order to be more of a help in that situation. I think our break lasted around 9 minutes.
Buzz sprinting for the line
I did my best after the pack caught us to recover, but my legs were really worn out and the pace was relentless. This was the fastest crit I'd ever done, averaging over 27 mph. I almost told Kyle to not worry about the lead-out and was going to just finish in the pack but he started looking for me in the group and the excitement of working with him overrode the pain in my legs. I took his wheel with 5 laps to go but ended up losing it after about a lap. He kept looking back to see if I was on him so I yelled at him to just stay where he was and I would get on his wheel when I could. I almost went down once, locking up my back wheel and going sideways when the guys in front of me braked through a corner. Luckily I kept it up and was able to maintain my spot in the group. With one lap to go I was able to maneuver my way back on to Kyle's wheel and shouted at him that I was there. As soon as he knew I was on his wheel he cranked it and we went from about 10 back to the front of the group with 2 corners to go. Kyle's speed was blistering and I was pushing as hard as I could to hold his wheel. He stretched the group out single file giving me a great lead-out. We went through the final corner and he faded and dropped me off about 250 meters from the finish. Two guys went around me and I jumped to sprint. My legs were so spent I had no power left but I was able to snag 4th, just a half wheel shy of getting on the podium. It was a great race and I was so thankful for the sacrifice Kyle made for me.
Buzz takes 4th in the crit
by Ken Huizenga
I signed up to do the Valley of the Sun Stage Race a few weeks ago. Three day's out of town for a Stage Race seemed a bit daunting. What was I getting myself into? Seriously, do I belong taking my mediocre talent out of town to represent IC3 and Tucson? These were the questions I was in search of answers to. My feeling was that I would now find out if racing young kids at 48 was a waste of time, or solidify my hope that I will be in a group long enough to compete and keep this race “hobby” alive.
Day one Time Trial had now arrived. After a mostly sleepless night, it was time to clamp on the TT bars and play the mental game of balancing consistent power vs. blowing up before the finish. This day turned out good for me. I found the course a good fit elevation-wise and came close to my FTP for the complete effort. This is about all I could hope for and it turned out to be good enough to place me in 18th position out of 28, 7:00 down to the leader. I was happy with my run.
Ken working hard in the time trial
Day two was a 46-mile road race in Casa Grande. This was 3 laps around a mostly flat course that had a long climb at the end of every lap. I was stoked to think this was going to be the day that I did not lose the group. I felt strong and was determined to stay with the pack. All went well till the first climb. The group thinned out and became mostly single file up the climb. I dropped slightly but worked with a small group to get back on to the leaders. I held one till the second climb and then the effort required this time around definitely burned one of my “matches” and I was left to work with only one guy that looked close to my age. The pack was ahead of us, and the two of us dropped the remaining field. We worked together most of the last lap and passed a few Cat 4 stragglers (they left 5 minutes before us) so that felt good. I thought I had saved enough energy to crush the last climb but as always, this never works out. I did finish semi-strong and was again content with my performance. An hour after the race, the adrenaline wore off and I felt totally wasted. Clearly I had given everything I had and was about to pay for not drinking or eating enough... when will I learn?
Day three was tough to get out of bed for. I had a crit left to run and my start time was 7:15.. ugh! This turned out to be the highlight of the weekend for me. I held onto the pack for half the race and had I listened to Kyle (coaching me from the sidelines), I might have stayed up front and had the best crit finish ever. The problem was they called for a prime and the field surged and I could not hold on. I am hearing that the surge is best handled if I’m up front when it happens. I hope soon to be strong enough to try this. I had four guys left to work with and we managed to not get lapped and finished with a 23 mph average speed. I ended up 18 out of 28 in the GC. I am gaining skill and confidence. Maybe I am in the right place.
The weekend can be summed up this way: my team is super supportive, and guys like Erik and Kyle from TriSports also were awesome to be around. I am very lucky to have great people to race with and that care. Thank you to all of you that took time to support me. I appreciate you all.
by Michael Hast
This was my 2nd TT in a cycling race. I have done plenty of triathlons and didn't feel as nervous about it and you're not all wet on the bike :-) Our start time was just before 11 am which put me in a bind of should I eat before the race or not. I have been following Hammer Nutrition's advice of not to eat 2 to 3 hours before a race. This time it was closer to 3 hours and I didn't eat. However warming up on the trainer I had a gel with caffeine. I started after Kyle who started after Buzz, which was a great setup, 2 riders I knew ahead of me. A few minutes after the start my cycling computer display stopped working and all I had as a gauge was Kyle up ahead. On the way out, I think initially closed the gap between Kyle and me. Then I had a horrible onset of dry mouth and started coughing (I blame me having the gels during warm-up). I reached for my bottle of water more than I anticipated. Before the turnaround point the TT/GC winner, who started 30 seconds behind me, blew by me and took some wind out of me. On the way back, I passed one rider, but didn't see Kyle or the TT/GC winner anywhere ahead of me. I placed 7th, one place ahead of Big Mike.
Michael preparing to chase down Buzz
I have never ridden that course, nor anywhere close to Casa Grande. It is a triangular shaped course and we had to ride it 2.8 times, about 46 miles. The first section of the course was a slight downhill with a headwind and the second section was a straight away with a headwind. Nobody wanted to do any real work, so we all just sat in and rode. The third section was where all the action happened. It had a 400-foot gradual hill climb followed by a fast descent to the first section of the course. One rider just took off on the base on the hill and we didn't catch him for a while. On the second lap just before that hill we got passed by the Cat 5's and the referees put us in a neutral mode, so no attacks were allowed until the Cat 5's had some distance from us. Then there was a mad rush to the top of the hill because time bonuses were handed out on the 2nd lap. Buzz passed me on the way down after each climb and yelled, "Grab my wheel, we're going to the front!". WOW, what an encouraging working teammate. So I got on and we went up front.
On the last lap I just wanted to move up to the front before the hill, but launched an attack because I saw 3 riders up ahead and wanted to bridge to them. The pack followed and we bunched up in the middle of the hill. Towards the finish line at the top of the hill a pack of 10 riders broke away. I fell back, but tried to bridge. Then out of nowhere Buzz passed me and yelled, "Get on!" My legs were screaming, but I followed, then he released me and yelled, "One last sprint and you'll catch them!" My legs still screaming, but my mind said, yes, I can do this. So I stood up and sprinted a few feet. The guy behind me released a big sigh, but he eventually caught up to me and passed me. So I ended up 12th and moved to the 6th place for GC. Then we watched Gary and Coul race. WOW!
Well, crits are crits, too many corners and too many riders :-) The plan was to form a breakaway with Kyle, Buzz and I after a prime was given to have some separation from the pack. Well, right from the the start I was at the end of the pack yo-yoing and it took me a while to get comfortable. With the crit only being 30 minutes, there wasn't much time to get comfortable and to move up. Whenever I tried to move up, others had the same idea and I unfortunately held back. Buzz and Kyle broke away and stayed away for a while. It was great to see and I was there with them in spirit. The last 5 laps came and the strategy changed for Kyle (and me) to lead out Buzz for the sprint. Well, I almost made it to Buzz's wheel on the last lap, but again held back because a corner was approaching. I came in last in that group and didn't even sprint to the finish, which added 21 seconds to my time. So I need to be aware next time to at least stay in the pack all the way to the finish. I kept my 6th place in GC though and am very thankful about that.
by Coul Hill
It truly can be a great experience to spend quality time with people you barely know. This last weekend—a great weekend of racing—was just that for me. Though I’d met a few of the International Christian Cycling Tucson Spoke guys last June at Bike the Bluff (Arizona State Championship Road Race), it was a very brief “hey we both look cool in the same jersey, praise be to Jesus” sort of conversation; since then, it’s been Strava kudos, and that’s it. Until, of course, I saw the Valley of the Sun Stage Race on the USAC calendar and I happened to notice how well it lined up with our school’s early spring break. Those of you that know me know that’s about all it takes: when my race itch gets twitching, I start scratching. Racing in February? Absolutely! There I was, leaving on a jet plane to stay with Buzz, Gary, Michael, and Ken.
Now, I’m a brand new Cat 2, coming to Arizona – where there is no winter – to compete in a stage race in a field of 79 Cat 2 guys (many of which who will be next year’s pros), without TT equipment, and criteriums (although I love ‘em) are not my strongest discipline; although I like to dream big and aim high, I wasn’t planning on coming away with upgrade points just yet. This one was for the experience, the Cat 2 experience, to start my race season early and knock the cobwebs out of my race brain – this was to get me focused.
The time trial was fast, really fast. I like TTs because it’s me against the clock and it’s all about finding that zone where I’m oblivious to the pain, power is maxed, and the podium is the legitimate focus. That’s fun. I ended up 52/79 in the TT without a TT bike, aero bars, or any TT gear, but I’m totally stoked that I was able to show up regular roadie style and whoop 27 experienced Cat 2s. Next stage race/TT: this guy will gear up for the TT.
Coul crushing his time trial
Man I love road races. This is where my pipe dreams come alive. If you ever tell me I can’t do it in a road race, I’ll turn around and show you I can. I absolutely love going out there and grinding it all down to nothing – and I prefer to do it off the front. This field was a bit intimidating though… I’m looking around at the start and there are seventy-some beasts on bikes looking lean and proudly displaying and discussing the fact that their race season started three months ago. I started off in the middle and stayed with the pack, but got dropped at the very top of the climb at the end of the first lap (to be expected given that I’m still over 200 pounds, but I’m working on that), but I caught the pack about a half a lap later. The next two laps the same thing happened: I stayed with the pack until just before the crest of the climb, and then I was off the back, but I caught the pack three times – that took some serious grinding I must say. That’s my beast mode, the goal is GO. On the fifth lap I was not able to catch back up with the pack after being dropped a fourth time, but a group of five other OTB riders did latch on to me as I passed and they looked to start a pace line. Their idea of a pace line included slowing me down several miles per hour and they had already resigned themselves to not catching back up as they were encouraging me to “save some for tomorrow,” but that’s not my style. I go hard until there’s nothing left, then I keep going. So, I did the pace line with them for a few miles through the headwind and I dropped them on the top of the climb of that lap. Then, I pounded out my 6th and final lap solo and came in 54th with a time of four hours and seven minutes for ninety-five and a half miles (with my cool down I got in an even century on the day).
Then the criterium – my weak point in any stage race or omnium. I have to admit, I get scared on those corners and I freeze up and fall back. I start out in the front and I get super sketched out by the proximity of all the other riders and the bumping, tapping, grinding, tire rubbing, etc. On the back side of this course dudes were bunny hopping up and over the sidewalk to advance and to avoid wrecks – I can barely see (I’m supposed to wear glasses) so everything in front of me is a blur of jostling colors – all I can think about at that point is not being in a pile-up (or causing one). Simply put: I’m the cowardly lion in criteriums, but I hate that and I want to overcome that fear. I like crits, I think they’re fun and I love the idea of them, I just have not mastered them and my cornering skills are sub-par. At least I know what I need to work on. So I rolled tight with these boys for 12 of 50 minutes before I got dropped, then I hung on till almost 30 before they lapped me and I was pulled from the race (that is fairly standard in crits, lapped riders typically get pulled for safety reasons).
Coul getting comfortable in the corners
I didn’t hit the podium, I didn’t earn any upgrade points. I didn’t get to finish the criterium. But, the weekend was a total success for me. I got my first three races of the year under my belt in February and I did it with the best in the country in my category, and it was my first outing as a Cat 2, AND I beat a lot of them in two out three of the races. This weekend made me stronger, it honed my focus, and it highlighted for me what I need to address before I line up in Seattle in March. This was my pre-season race weekend and it was a blast.
On top of all that, I was truly blessed to spend the weekend in great company with new friends that I’m super thankful to have had the opportunity to get to know. For me it’s always a great blessing to share my testimony because it forces me to remember two things: the incredible body of work God has done in my life so far and that He’s not done with me yet. As I sat there at the dinner table that first night I found myself trying to temper my testimony because in the front of my mind I realized that if I’d just met someone and they were telling me this same story that I was telling, I don’t think I’d be able to believe it! God is great. Many of the conversations that I was truly blessed to have with these Christian gentlemen brought me to a few crucial realizations of my own (personally, I love epiphanies because that’s usually when life makes some kind of drastic change – it’s like the apex of the roller coaster: time to hold on!). One of those epiphanies for me was this simple fact: I am, now at this point in my life, living my dream. I dreamed this years ago, that I’d be a college graduate with a teaching job, traveling to bike races all over the country, married with children – not the whole nine, I got the whole thirty-six! My second crucial epiphany came with the realization that I must not resign myself to outside expectations of my perceived limitations of me. To put it another way, if God can do what He has done with me thus far, then truly I cannot fathom what He has planned. Where so much around me in my busy life is screaming for me to quit, slow down, accept my position, etc. I recognize that the Lord’s drive within me will take me where He wants me (but I must remember there is no “destination” here, it is the journey, the how that He is interested in with me). Today I turn thirty-three years old and I am confident and rejuvenated to say that I’m going to keep going hard, hone my focus for the Lord, and trust in the knowledge and faith I have that one day soon (still maybe years away) all of who and what I am will culminate into something beautiful, sustainable, and honoring to Him. For now, I am in the refining process, and although it hurts, I GET to be a part of the incredible testimony He is writing and I GET to call it MY LIFE.
I must thank my sponsors, The Spoke Shop, Chalet Market, Chiropractic Health Associates, Hammer Nutrition, Schwalbe Tires, and PowerTap CycleOPS.
Without Dean Cromwell, Sarah, and all of the Spoke Shop staff, there’s no way I’d be able to keep rolling, I love you guys!
I really enjoy the fact that my spine and neck are ALWAYS properly aligned on race day, and the only way that happens is with the awesome work of CHA; Paul Berger and Body Mechanix with the sports massage are the best in the business and that’s no aside.
I am very grateful for the Hammer sponsorship—I love being an ambassador for y’all, the best part (aside from the best fueling and supplements in the industry) is giving away stickers and temporary tattoos to the kids after the kids’ race… what a blast!
Schwalbe Tires are looking to be a god-send sponsor-wise. I’ve never ridden them before this weekend, but MAN am I impressed. These tires are LIGHT, FAST, DURABLE, and they grip well even when pumped up over 130 PSI. I’m a believer and proudly sponsored by Schwalbe Tires. I will get your banner on the podium this year!
PowerTap and CycleOPS are also a new sponsor to MY arsenal – ones which I have not yet begun to utilize, but I am very excited to start using PowerTap in my training and CycleOPS in my warm up as I know that these two will greatly improve my output and my standings.
I must also recognize my wife, and thank her for her steadfastness and support. I love you too. Our six kids are great too: Ezekiel, Rose, and Hannah are already well infected with the bike racing bug (there’s no cure, just more races), and I do enjoy every opportunity to mountain bike with Nate and Isaac. Abbi, I sure do miss you and hope and pray that the day comes soon where we can reconcile and enjoy time together again.
Key takeaways and lessons learned from the Valley of the Sun Stage Race: don’t over eat the day/night before a race, be more intentional about pre-race nutrition, have a more purposefully designed and intentional warm-up for all stages, somehow get access to a TT bike for time trials, get crit and cornering practice to build race-day courage, monitor power for training, IC3 Tucson is excellent, some aliens speak English with a German accent, Don Russell is the coolest USAC referee, and Jesus loves me.
God bless y’all, thanks for reading!
by Gary Schobel
It was an exciting weekend of racing with the members of my team as well as Coul Hill from the Montana spoke, Paul Boots and his son Ken from the Colorado spoke, and our friends from Tucson.
I was blessed by Doug Perry and Dan DeZess with a TT bike, wheels and an aero helmet. Now, I looked fast, I felt fast, therefore I was fast if only in my head. The distance was 20k and I finished in 34:14. That time was 3:57 off the first place. While looking at the results it was brought to my attention that I had entered the wrong category. I had entered into the men's masters 45+ category instead of category 5. I learned that the Men's Masters is made up of category 1, 2, and 3 racers that are no longer interested in being at the pro level so they fall back into the Masters category. I was probably the only cat 5 racer in this category. Looking at my finishing time If I had been registered in the cat 5 category I would have my first time on the podium. I would have placed third instead of 40th out of 57 racers. Oh well, I guess you live and learn. Little did I know that was the first of many times I was going to say that this weekend.
Gary about to start the time trial
Time for the road race and the second time for me to say live and learn. Since I was in the Masters category instead of a cat 5, I got to do two extra laps. 62 miles! How lucky was I... I did my best just to hold on to the group. I stayed in the pack for the first two laps. The last two laps I rode solo. Sure there were other groups that passed by, but per the USA Cycling race Bible I could be penalized or disqualified for jumping into another category of racers to draft off of and aid me with catching back up with my group. I finished the road race in 3:03:34. That put me in at 51st place out of 52. Definitely nothing to phone home about. Finished 19:12 off the leader. It was at this point that I felt God has really blessed me with some great team members. Encouragement was fantastic. They kept reminding me of the caliber of riders that I was racing against and to never sign up for Masters categories again. That was a hard day.
Gary hanging on in the road race
Here's something to make you laugh. I didn't know what the term "roll out" meant, but I kept hearing them mention it. As I was standing in the staging area waiting for my category to start the race I see a group of cyclists in this roll out line getting their bikes checked. I thought to myself, "I didn't have that done." I jumped out of the staging area to take my bike over to the line, only to find out when it was my turn to have the bike inspected the nice lady gently slaps me on my cheeks laughing and says really, you may think you're a junior, you may feel like you're a junior, but you're not a junior. With that I stepped out of line and back into the staging area. How embarrassing! Boy did I feel dumb. That has something to do with a gearing for the junior racers not a 46 year old guy.
The Crit! We got a chance to sleep in Sunday morning. All except for Ken. Cat 5 were racing at 7:15 and I was the next up a 10:55. The weather was perfect and the course was nice. But I already let the race get into my head. I knew I was going to get my butt handed to me. And I did! 30 minutes later I finished the crit. solo. The group left me with two laps to go. I finished in 51st place. Dead last! With an average pace just under 25 mph, it was obvious again that I registered in the wrong category. Of course I took the time that I finished in and compared it to the cat 5 times and I could come in the top 10. If only I had registered in the right category. Once again live and learn.
In closing, here are some of my take aways from the weekend.
by Buzz Wright
I didn't feel great during the 4/5 race but was able to stay near the front. The pace slowed multiple times causing the group to get pretty wide in the corners, which made for some stressful moments. One rider in particular was moving off his line way too much. With one lap to go I was in perfect position in the 4th spot, but was a little tentative and ended up losing a couple spots on that lap. Looking back I should have been more aggressive in holding my position. I didn't put up a very good sprint and ended up getting 7th.
My legs were pretty worn out starting the 3/4 race. The pace was rough from the beginning and I had thoughts of sitting up more than a couple times. I burned some matches here and there closing gaps that I let open up on the corners and started cramping in both calves with about 10 minutes to go. I stayed near the front though and was again able to maintain a nice position (top 10ish) with 2 laps to go. In the back of my mind was the need to be a little more aggressive in holding my position for the last lap and I made a decision to move up on the outside in a tight corner and unfortunately my speed carried me to the curb. I almost saved it but ended up going down, luckily not taking anyone else with me. As I got up I could hear the bell being rung for the last lap and I was just so frustrated with myself. Wish I could do that lap over but I'm glad I didn't hurt anyone, the bike is fine, and I didn't get hurt.
I'm very proud of Ken and Jimmy -- they raced very well and I can't wait for the next one!
by Ken Huizenga
The Sun Devil Crit was not on my radar for this year but I decided at the last minute to sign up and go. I am so digging this style of racing. It is awesome being in these groups. You are cranking through the corners and wondering on each turn what you might be in for. It is just an awesome adrenaline rush.
I still find myself at the tail of the fields wanting to observe and be a little cautious, but I am learning that this is no way to get the job done. If you lead, you roll through the turns and keep the momentum up. If you trail, you have to slow a lot and have to crank up the power pulling off every turn to not get dropped. The coach keeps telling me to get my butt up to the front because I am putting out more average power than many of the leaders and needlessly killing myself in the process. Data does not lie. I know what I have to do to improve.
Jimmy and Buzz both put in some insane efforts and I know they learned a ton as well. It was great day spent in awesome company. Our team is getting wiser and faster. Coach Buzz; your endless encouragement and refusal to give up on us is so appreciated. Thanks to you and the rest of the team for another great weekend of racing.
A quick shout out to the guy’s from Sabino Cycle in the Cat 123 race. You guys were awesome in that last race of the day. Strategy, drama and full-out effort. I was impressed!
by Jimmy Davis
Sometimes you just don’t know what you like. Of course, you think you do but you really don’t; that is how I was concerning crits. I really loved watching crit races but I did not want to do any because I had seen a few crashes up close. That’s when I decided that I’d remain a fan but not a participant. However, what I did not know, or would not acknowledge, was that the excitement of the race reminded me of running track and that in fact I would probably really enjoy participating in the aggressive, crazy races.
At some point I began going to the BioPark crit course and doing workouts to see if I could corner… I couldn’t. I guess I’ll stick to road races and time-trials. Again, there was something in the background working on me, not to mention that every cyclist that I talked to about crits loved them. I became aware that many of my teammates loved crits and that I would eventually have to get into one. As a team we started having crit practice every Sunday evening and this increased my cornering confidence. I also watched several videos on crit racing and corning.
Eventually the first crit of the year was upon us… I did not enter into the race, lol! I’m here doing support for the team, I reasoned. It just so happened that it was raining a lot that day and I was not going to corner with 25 folks at 25mph in the rain. I said, “I’m doing support today… don’t want to peak too soon.”
Another race was soon coming that I was considering but needed a little prodding to sign up. I talked to my wife about it and she was saying that I should do it (so much for her help getting me out of it). Also, coming straight on was Buzz working on me to come do the race with the team. Then, Ken sends me a private message asking me personally to ride the Cat 5 with him. Wow, they tag-teamed me. Later I found out that they were having private conversations designed to encourage me to sign up. Well, it worked! Oh Lord (pronounce it Lawd for effect), what have I done!
On race day Ken and I met up with Buzz, drove over to Robert’s and hit the road. Robert and I had a great time talking about the Lord all the way up. It was fun, basically we preached at each other for an hour and a half and by the time I got out of the car I felt edified! All is well.
As we get to the race site we unpack and set up our tent and get ready to race. Surprisingly I’m not nervous (must be Robert’s preaching). Before every track meet or football game I would have nervous energy packed in me like dynamite waiting to get out but not today. Perhaps after preaching so many sermons and teaching classes I’ve learned to control my nerves. However, something in me wants to have that feeling so I can feed off of it.
After a mediocre warm up I head for the line. Ken is with me and we are in pretty good position. I’m right behind the ASU Cycling team and one row back from the start line. I decided to be on the outside because I didn’t want to be one the inside for the first turn and come into it too hot or too tight. As they released us to race the rider in front of me had a hard time clipping in and we were stuck near the back. I race forward hoping to make up a few places but was stuck in position. Since this was my first crit I was not being too aggressive because I was not sure what I could sustain for the entire race. During the race there was a crash in the front and several riders went down. I was able to avoid it, thankfully. After this I tried to just follow wheels. Our group began to be gapped at some point and no one was willing or able to close the gap. The gap began to grow and after a while I could not see the lead group. So we started working together, taking turns on the front of the pack.
Now my only goal is to not get pulled by the judges (In a crit, if you get to far off the main pack they will pull riders off the course for safety reasons). I look at my Garmin to see how long we had ridden, I knew we were getting close to the “5 laps to go” portion of the race. As we came around the corner I looked up and I saw the judge standing in the middle of the street. ‘Oh no, we are gonna get pulled!” Sure enough the judge signaled to us to remove ourselves from the course. I was disappointed I knew I almost made it to the end. How close was I? As soon as the main pack came around on the every next lap the signaled, “5 laps to go!”
I learned a lot. It’s time to go rest and wait for the next race.
As I began to prepare for this race I was a little nervous. I had been pulled in the Cat 5 race and I knew that this race would be faster and harder because it was a mixed category race with Cat 4’s. All the Cat 4’s I know are stronger riders than I am so I knew the pace would get rough. I also thought that the cornering would be faster and folks in greater Categories don’t slow through corners as much.
As we got to the line I have two teammates in the race, Ken and Buzz. I know that I have to get off the line fast based on what happened to me in the previous race. However, when they start us I have a little trouble clipping in and as I look up I see Buzz charging off the line. He gets in good position and I try to get the best position I can. At this point I’m not sure where Ken is and I’m too uncomfortable in the pack to look back. I’m also unsure of how the pack will negotiate the first and second corners (the second corner is an “S” bend with a little elevation change).
After a while things calm down and I can see Buzz ahead of me. I decided to just hold this spot for a while. The third corner is difficult because the whole group slows down to make the corner causing us to all bunch-up. Meanwhile the guys on the front of the pack are powering down the road… this goes on for about 15 minutes. It was not long after this that one guy in the race allowed a gap and the gap grew fast. I’m thinking, “Oh no not again!” We begin to start working together, I think we all had the same thing on our minds, “Let’s stay close enough to the main pack that we don’t get pulled.”
As we rotate it is obvious to tell who is getting tired and who is still feeling OK. We keep it together for the most part because we are stronger as a group but we are each trying to conserve energy. Then, like a surprise the race announcer declares, “5 laps to go!” Wow, I made it!
Suddenly the pace kicks up as a few guys attempt to attack our neat little group. Each time I let someone else close the gap. In my mind I’m wondering why they are trying it at this point because none are strong enough to go it alone. I find myself in about 5th position… I like it. One guy falls off the front, good. Another falls off the front… then another. With one lap to go I’m just where I want to be. As we came to the back stretch the riders on the front began to open a gap on the rider in front of me. I waited to see if he will close it or if someone behind me would come around and close it, no one did. I decided to set up for a sprint and maybe catch the guy at the sprint if he has put in too much breaking away. As we turned the corner coming to the finish line I see the rider about 15 feet ahead of us. The pace increases, awesome, that’s just what I like. Time to launch! I kicked it into high gear and it took a few pedal strokes for me to get into my sprint form. I was closing the gap but I could tell that it would be difficult to pass the rider with the distance we had left, but I tried anyway. I believe he got me by about a bike length.
All is well; I sprinted for 25th place (haha). I was 19 out of 32 and for the Cat 4/5 race I finished 25 out of 42. Not bad for my first crits.
End of the Day
After the races we shard stories and ate pizza (thanks Ken) and Jimmy Johns. All in all it was a good day. I stuck around and watched the pro’s race. Again, I’m a fan… I want to see the race! We all made it home safe and sound. Life is good!
“Hey Buzz, when is the next crit!”