The rainy season has finally ended here in San Francisco and the weather is unbelievable. Sorry Mom, enjoy the 9" of snow in the backyard as I'm running in shorts and a t-shirt in beautiful 60 degree temperatures. With the weather making it far more welcoming to exercise outside at this time of year I'm able to log some incredible base miles for the up comming tri season. It also makes attending the Early Bird Crit series that much more easy.
Sunday was the 2nd EBC clinic/ race but the tone was much different than the first. The second I arrived I saw a racer from the under 25 crew who was bandaged like a Vietnam War vet. The young rider apparently had his front wheel clipped going around a turn, causing him to tumble face first onto the pavement, he was pretty banged up but hopefully only had cosmetic damage. The women's race had 4 crashes which sent a couple riders to the hospital and right before the men 30+ cat 5 race one of the instructors fell over (we've all done it, but not fun to see before a race!)
This week's clinic was on cornering. Apparently you're supposed to exit and enter wide so you don't get caught in the corners with other riders, can use the apex of the turn to your advantage and get more of a draft. In week 1 my cornering skills were atrocious and I basically had to do a speed interval after each turn to even come close to the pack. This week, I was able to stay right in the thick of things and maintain contact with the pack the entire time.
With 4 laps to go I was really happy with my position, I was right in the front of the middle of the pack, felt fresh and began moving up the field slowly. My goal for this crit was to work on maintaining contact with the pack, corner well and then have enough left in the tank on the final lap to give the sprint a go. All seemed to be working as I had hoped until we exited turn 2 of the 4th lap.
After turn 2 the pack began to bunch a bit and one rider along the narrower straight away came off his line and locked handle bars with a rider to his right. Both riders tensed up, lost control of their bikes and went down hard; all in about 10 riders hit the deck, I was maybe 8 riders behind the crash and was lucky enough to see what was going on, squeezed my brakes and wrenched my handle bars. Thankfully I was able to stop just before slamming into one of the riders who had hit the pavement.
In all my years of playing football I had never seen such a scene. Wheels were broken, bikes were smashed and riders were down on the pavement or laying in the grass in obvious pain. The entire field was neutralized after this and I realized that I was riding on a bike whose handle bars were perpendicular to the front wheel. Apparently I had wrenched my handle bars so hard to make my bike stop that I turned the stem sideways.
The great thing about crits is that it forces you to focus on form, concentration and riding well. It's just a matter of time before a crash happens but this one was pretty bad. Thankfully I was able to escape without going down and my heart felt get wells go out to the riders who weren't so fortunate. More to come on blood sugar analysis, signing up for the Napa Valley Vintage Triathlon and other tid-bits from the West Coast.