2008 Witches Cup 8/13 - M4/5
Mens 4/5 NEBC results:
1 Keith Reynolds
6 Bernard Tan
10 Brian Roche
21 Jerry Jacobs
23 Michael Good
26 Jay Robbins
33 Joseph Jussaume
36 Stefan Wawersik
dnf John Cavanaugh
The Witches Cup is a 3-turn downtown criterium that runs around Salem Common in Salem, MA. The three turns are tight and the pavement has a number of cracks and manhole covers, making this race one of the more technical races on the New England calendar.
First, thanks to the outpouring of emails and conversations to those who sent their congratulations on last weeks race. And now for the long overdue report…
This race was all about positioning. Going into the race I knew to stay up front where you could coast through the corners and stay away from any mishaps. My legs were feeling quite good during the warm-up and having won the battle with Rt128 traffic to arrive on time I settled into the race. There was no team plan, however I talked to Joe briefly at the start and we each said that if there was a shot to go for the finish we’d go for it. We set our marks on a few teams and that was it.
Somewhere around lap 5 I was mid-pack and riding near Michael. One rider’s excitement got the best of him when he turned to survey the field and drifted into Michael’s wheel, sending him curbside. The next few laps were slowed with medical attention. Once cleared I jumped to the front and tried for a break with a couple of guys (Breakaway Boston) and another. Nothing was successful and I really wonder how the upper ranks can lap the field!?
The primes came and went all to one rider, McKitterick, riding for Cambridge Bike. I half went for the first one but backed off realizing my poor position. I retreated, noting the last corner wasn’t enough to jump into the sprint.
The NEBC guys were all quite active and I noticed how everyone was riding quite comfortably. With about 7 to go I tried for another break that internally fizzled quickly. With a few laps to go I got near the front and stayed put, noting the CB rider was on the front without a teammate nearby. Richard Fries excited the pack with the nugget that the race was nearly over. The pack accelerated and maintained this into the last lap where I started to cover the front 5 guys. Chuck jumped shortly after turn 1 or thereabouts and the front stayed together.
Nearing the final turns he was coming back to us and I decided to make my move with two corners to go – it would be a very long sprint if it should succeed. I jumped hard and took my position through the first corner and then closing in on the final Corner I could see I would be meeting up with Chuck. We exchanged positions just after the apex and I could hear the hounds’ chains buzzing behind. I kept spinning as fast as I could and oh that straight away to the finish looked ever so long. Nearing the line I had to think to myself, this [win] is really going to happen! It felt like I was seeing in slow-motion. Throw the bike to ensure the win? Raise the arms in victory? Nah, be safe and ride another day.
To top off the win there was prizing, a folding commuter bike! The guys couldn’t have laughed harder while I shouldered my race bike and rode the commuter over to my car. A final thanks to all the club members who should know that I believe the race clinics are invaluable!
First of all, let me say how happy I am for Keith. He has waited a long time for a win like last nights. Congrats!!
I was next to Keith on the starting line and we both had the same goals for the race. Hang in and go for the win if we had the opportunity. With 9 guys in the race, we had enough people to make the race and not be controlled by any other teams. I started the race well and got right into the front holding anywhere from 2nd to 5th wheel for the first 10 laps or so. I chased a small attempt by the guy who finished 3rd to go off the front and brought that back without any problem. The key in this race was to stay toward the front. If you were in the top 5-10 riders you did not even need to touch the brakes in the corners.
Overall the course was smooth and fast with only one memorable bump on the inside corner on the last turn. All of the guys took their turn at the front of the race: Mike, Stefan, Brian, Keith, Bernard, Jay, etc. The team worked really well together and seemed to know instinctively where they needed to be and at what time. About half way through the race, Keith went off in a group of 3. I went to the front to block. When 2 more guys tried to bridge, I called out to the team-riders up! Without hesitation, Stefan jumped on the wheels with an “I got it!” When the next two attempted to bridge up to Stefan, I jumped and within a lap the race was back under control, with Keith not having to expend too much energy. With about 5 to go I noticed Keith begin to work his way to the front. Bernard was not far behind. I jumped on Bernard’s wheel just as Mike came up to the front as well. I knew Keith had the legs and with Bernard and Mike with him, we would be in a great position. On turn two I got bunched up and lost my position behind the front guys and then had to spend too much energy attempting to get back up front. At that point I was hoping that Keith was in good position heading into the last lap. I had a blind view of the finish and could not see who was winning the sprint, but then heard the announcer say, “NEBC with the 1-2 punch” and I knew that either Keith or Bernard had won the race.
What an awesome feeling! Great job to all who raced last night!
Traffic hit and by the time I made it to the race it was 4:50 (5PM start). Ken was waiting for me with food and water and pretty much saved me in getting ready to go.
I lined up towards the back of the race and stayed there for the first 15 minutes or so in hopes of warming up a bit. Not sure what was up with my heart rate today but it was running ridiculously high, probably due to the little amount of riding that I’ve done lately. My heart rate reached the 195-200 bpm range during this “warm up” despite perceived effort only being medium.
A few racers were being dropped but for the most part I was able to stay ahead of this. Initially I tried riding the inside line but it seemed sketchy and hard so I moved to the outside line where I stayed for the majority of the race. It seemed a lot smoother there. This ended up being a good decision because there were three crashes during the race, all of which occurred on the inside line. One racer was taken away in an ambulance.
After sitting in for the first 15 minutes I felt good and moved towards the front. The first prime had come and gone and I expected that the second would be coming up shortly. The prizes were good and I wanted to try for one. Two riders were off the front so I bridged up to them anticipating that the bell would ring. After joining them I realized that this break was pretty much just one rider pulling around the other. By the time I caught my breath from bridging we had already been caught and the prime bell definitely hadn’t been rung. It’s amazing how breaks never seem to stick in cat 4’s.
As the bell was rung for the remaining primes I was out of position each time. I was floating back and fourth from 10th to 25th in the middle of the race, but it seemed like I was closer to 25th on every prime lap. This was probably for the better because I started feeling really tired in the last 10 or 15 minutes of the race as it was.
During the last third of the race I spent most of my time resting up for the finish. The field had shrunk considerably from 73 starters down to 45 or so and I was not finding it difficult to gain position. It was my plan to burn a match and stick myself in the front with four to go and duke it out until the finish.
As we went around turn 1 with 4 to go I began moving up along the outside and heard someone’s tire burst, but I couldn’t tell where it was. Suddenly the rider who’s tire had burst came out the side of the pelican directly in front of me. I swerved to the outside to avoid him which was a bad decision because that was the direction that he was heading. I ended up giving the brakes a tap and got back to shelter, but ended up losing position.
With 3 and 2 laps to go I was able to move up a little bit, but not as much as I’d like because everyone else was doing the same thing. It also required quite a bit of extra work and I was really starting to fatigue.
The pace really went hot when we cross the line on the finishing lap, but I was still a good 25 wheels back. With the tight turns before the finish I knew I needed to be much further up than that. I caught a lucky break between turns 1 and 2 when a big gap opened up on the inside. I went through the hole and moved up probably a good 10 wheels or so, putting me in 15th position on the inside line. Not a horrible place to be.
Approaching the final turn to the finish I stopped pedaling just a little early, allowing a little more space in front of my wheel. I figured that the guy in front of me would break more than I’d like to, and I wanted to be able to carry as much speed as possible through that final turn. I didn’t time it well and I was forced to tap my brakes just a tiny bit. Exiting the turn I came out of the saddle to sprint up the clear inside lane but my legs felt like cement. I coasted down the finishing stretch and was passed by a ton of racers, finishing in 26th place.
Goal 1: Don’t get dropped.
Goal 2: Try to finish.
Mission accomplished! I’m glad I decided at the very last minute before pre-reg closing last Sunday night to do this race. I remember liking this well organized race from last year and not to mention that I also happen to like downtown crits. However, I have also been off the bike or any physical activity for the past 3 weeks while on vacation. I suppose one could call my culinary experience physical activity of the mouth, but that doesn’t do me any good on the bike. Hence, when I decided to do the race, I had little expectations besides a personal challenge to see how long I would last.
To my surprise, as the race went on, I felt quite comfortable. There was little surging and the pace was a tad slower than last year. So I thought maybe I’d try for a prime since I may not finish the race. However, I was finding it hard to surf the pack to get to the front. As we were approaching the last prime, I told Keith this and he told me to get on his wheel. So I tried, but still could not get all the way to the front. By now, a single Cambridge Bike rider had swept ALL the primes for the day. Kudos to him for the monstrous effort to sweep up all the goodies.
Now, with less than 10 laps to go, I feel like I could finish the race. I wasn’t too far off the front either, so I tried to hold my position and moved up towards the end of the race. With about 4 laps to go, the pace picked up. That’s usually the case and it’s especially good in a tight course like that. The main field thinned out a lot by this point and I felt it was easier to carry speed through the corners. On the final lap, I was able to get myself 10-15 wheels back before the last turn to finish the race much better than I could have asked for.
All of NEBC rode strong in this race. My only comment from seeing other (non NEBC) riders is don’t look back when a crash happens behind you. Finally, congratulations to Keith for getting himself to the front from the second last corner and taking it to the finish!
I left work right at 3:00 for what I expected to be a 1 hour or shorter commute to Salem… I pulled in at 4:20 and jogged over to registration to make sure they still had a number for me.
Now 4:40 and I debate the need to replace my rear tire but there really was no debate—no way I can start a race with a slow leak and a tire with a known cut right in the middle of the tread… tire fixed and roll into the back of the crowd @ 4:50… We get the word to go, everyone around me clips in cleanly, and I snake my way up quickly into the front half of the field and settle in.
As usual in the 4/5 field there were a few sketchy riders to watch for but other then that things stayed pretty tame and I could comfortably keep pace and for the first 15 minutes I simlpy stayed in the front half and tried to stay out of the wind and get a good warm up in. Once I felt like I was ready to race I move forward and work up to the top 15 and then maintained my position in the top 10-15 riders. I’d decide for this race that I’m going to try and stay out of the wind early and not mix things up myself and I’m only going to respond if there seems to be a serious attack where NEBC is not represented. No attacks to speak of, certainly nothing that seems to be of any risk, so its pretty easy to sit in and maintain a good spot toward the front.
Historically in crits I wait to long to start fighting to get to and hold position nearing the end of the race and/or I get surprised and am unprepared to react to the real surge when it happens and lose a lot of positions—I decide my objective for this race is to take a spot around the top 5 within 3 laps to go and to fight to hold that spot and be ready to go from there when things pick up on the last lap. With 5 laps to go I figure its time to start working for position for the finish and to pick my spot and wheels and get ready for the effort needed to hold it. I move forward picking the wheels that I think will be best to follow and with 3 laps to go put myself up in the top 5 and start watching everything and everyone closely, ready to respond to anything that might happen from in front or behind me.
As we come up on the line for the bell lap I expect that things will pick up by the first turn so I pick up my pace and ride up along the curb and pull out into the lead as we cross the line. As we get to turn one I’m expecting to see people coming up the left side into the turn to join me and I’m surprised when there is no one there and I don’t feel any real pressure from behind me. I keep things going and figure by the time I get to turn two the field is going to start to show and come around me and I’m pushing and working to be ready for that surge so I can slip in when it comes. As I start the sweep around turn two I’m surprised that not only is there no one coming up on my left but I don’t have any sense or feel that there is anyone on my wheel – its seems like I have a gap on the field—which was not my objective when I first pushed past the lead riders at the line. About halfway down the back stretch there is still no sense or feel of any riders anywhere nearby so I peak under my arm and am surprised to see what looks like a 50 meter gap with no one in it—I’m not sure how far out I really was but with the quick glimpse I got the lead of the pack looked awful far away.
My intent wasn’t to sprint the entire final lap on my own but I quickly realized that now that I was out here I really didn’t have a choice anymore. If I didn’t bear down and get to the finish line at this point as fast as I possibly could there would be no way for me to rejoin the pack once they caught me so the only option I had to place as well as I could was to fully commit to what I had started and do what I could to finish it. So I put my head down and took my PE from a 9+ to a 10 and figured getting to the finish line as quickly as I could on my own was the only option I had. Through turn three and still no sign or sense of anyone nearby. Midway to turn 4 a quick glimpse under my arm and it looks like the pack is just getting into turn 3. Through turn 4 and still no sign or sense of riders nearby, but I know they must be close and that I can not afford to check again. The finish line seems like a real long way away now and about a quarter of the way to it I know I’m just about done and that I can not hold the pace I have been any longer but I keep riding with all I have left still in front but starting to sense the head of field close behind. About halfway down the finishing stretch I see the first two sets of wheels out of the corner of my eye and know I’m not going to win this race—I think I knew it when I first look behind me and saw the large gap on the back straight but until I was actually caught I had to hold out some hope. I notice one of those two riders is Keith and watch as he comes by and as others begin to follow. I keep peddling my way to the line for an 18th place finish as spent as I’ve ever been at the end of a sprint. Proof of that was a new max HR for me for any race or training I’ve ever done.
I really hadn’t intended to try and sprint away from the field with 1/2 mile to go but that is what happened. Perhaps in some small way my doing this put some pressure on the front of the field and helped control the pack. This may have made it a little harder for folks to crowd forward through that last lap clearly the way some for Kieth and helping to minimize the number of potential threats he would have in the final sprint to the finish. So I’m going to put a check in my race resume goal column for a team assist for this one even though it wasn’t in the plan and it wasn’t what I had intended when I rode away from the field.
Show up late, skip the warm up? I really don’t think either of those are good ideas but it seemed to work for me in this race.
Make sure you get and fight for position early enough in a race, a problem for me in the past, but be careful not to get to anxious and ahead of the field without a plan. A 1/2 mile sprint for the finish will not often succeed. Even without this planned for it may have helped Keith, and was fun while it lasted. Had we planned for this it would have been even more fun, and perhaps even more productive…..
It had been a while since I’d raced a full-fledged crit, so my
expectations were modest: I was hoping to do some work covering breaks
early and to work as a set-up man in the end. The first part went to
plan, as I spent some time off the front solo and with one or two guys
early on. I heard a few crashes behind me so that was motivation to
stay in the first few wheels. Plus, I found that being near the front
meant you could pick your line and pedal through the turns much better
than further back. No surprises there.
My mistakes came near the end. I’d worked my way into a break of three
guys with about 10 to go, but it was clear that the other two weren’t
really planning on working to stay out, so we were mostly waiting to get
caught. When it happened, I did a poor job of jumping onto
forward-moving wheels and got swamped into the middle/back of the pack.
This made it tough to get into position for the final laps. I moved up
some, but I never really made it to the front to be of much use in the
final 3 laps.
The other place I saw as a missed opportunity was after the last(?)
prime when a group of 15-20 of us had formed a sizable gap on the main
field. Had a few NEBC’s (there were at least 3-4 in that group,
including Keith) gone to the front and hammered for a few laps, we would
have at the least forced a big chunk of the field to burn some matches,
and would possibly have eliminated them from the sprint altogether.
Something to look for in the future…
In all, I had a great time. After suffering through Bow (what was I
thinking?!) it’s good to be back racing to my strengths.