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!”