Spoke ‘n Words: Providing an inside perspective to Tour de Nez crit
June 25, 2009
Two weeks ago, we defined terms youand#8217;d hear at a road-cycling race. Last week, we offered suggestions for those interested in racing. This week, weand#8217;d like to provide a window into the inside of a race: last Thursdayand#8217;s Tour de Nez criterium in downtown Truckee.
The annual Tour de Nez race visited Truckee and Reno before wrapping up at Northstar last Saturday. We are extremely lucky to have such a world-class event that brings so many people into our area and showcases Truckeeand#8217;s community.
Unlike mountain bike races or triathlons, where the strongest or most technically experienced athlete wins, in road racing, smarts and strategy are just as important as strength.
Each team forms a strategy before a race starts. As a local team with only three smaller riders who excel at longer, hilly courses, we planned to ride defensively. Other teams like Safeway and Clover had several crit-racing experts. We thought the course was technically challenging enough for one of them to stay away, so we rode near the front and marked them and the other players to make sure we were part of the winning move. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the one break we missed was the one that stayed away.
The pace varied dramatically throughout the race. It started fast with a sprint off the line, which is why starting position is so important. After about seven laps, the speed settled down as everyone caught their breath, then it was a constant cycle of surge and recovery. The surges occurred as riders came to the front, attacked, and others bridged, intermixed with a rare slow-down for recovery.
Home-court advantage was ours. The sights and sounds at each section of the course renewed our motivation to ride hard. No longer did we hear the whooshing sound made by the deep carbon-rimmed racing wheels. Instead, as we got into the rhythm of the race, we were able to focus on familiar sounds and smells: kids on the corner of Spring and Jibboom streets, fans at the Pour House, BBQ on Bridge St, punk music and jeering at the end of Church St, cowbells and local friends cheering our names everywhere.
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As the end of the race neared, the excitement and the pace picked up. If you were watching at a corner, you saw the riders diving into the corners without slowing down. Having the local advantage, we were more comfortable taking the turns at speed, and could even move up a few positions. Nerves were high; a momentand#8217;s hesitation and even the slightest touch to the brakes would mean an instant loss of position.
On previous laps, the group was single file around the corners; on the last lap, we went in five-six riders wide jockeying for position. This is when road racing gets exciting and#8212; some would call it dangerous. Riders are leaning into each other for support at 30 mph around 90-degree corners. One riderand#8217;s lack of attention or over-aggression can be disastrous. Someone cut the corner and bumped one of our riders hard enough to take him and another rider down. Amazingly, while bikes and wheels exploded into splinters of carbon fiber, they both walked away without anything worse than some minor road rash.
Everyone not involved in the crash accelerated away and continued toward the finish line. Position around the last sharp corner onto Donner Pass Road largely determined the final placing. We dove single file around the 140-degree corner, then sprinted for glory. Tired legs and mis-shifts caused some riders to slow, as others could accelerate to the line for ultimate glory (at least in our minds).
Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing team rider Conrad Snover is the author of this week’s column. Cyclepaths/Wild Cherries Racing is a Truckee-based cycling team focused on racing and local bike advocacy. For more information, results and upcoming events, visit http://www.cwcracing.org.
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