Thursday, June 2, 2011

Snake Alley Crit

This past weekend brought the return of road racing to my season, first time since 2009, and what a way to come back but to do the hardest race in the area. For those of you not familiar with the course it is a .8 mile lap with a climb up the second "crookedest" street in the world, with 6 switchbacks and an average grade of 12.5 percent and a max of 19 percent.

I didn't make the decision to race until just over a month ago which meant I was behind on getting a great starting spot, but was still good enough for a 4th row call up, and with as wide as we line up on the line I was in the 3rd row, looking around there were a few people I recongnized but for the most part it was out of state racers and even the ones from Iowa I wasn't familiar with. I had a game plan and that was to line up as far to the left as possible as the start is a downhill roll out to a 90 degree right turn which then starts you with a one block straight up climb before entering the narrow street know as Snake Alley. My reasoning for this was I figured everyone would be fighting for a position on the inside line of the corner and I would be able to carry more speed on the outside, so they give us the countdown and we are off.

I was able to get clipped in right away and was trying to move up as fast as possible, but got caught behind people that didn't get in right away, boy do I love my Speedplay pedals, a little bumping but was able to get where I wanted to be, and turns out that my plan worked flawlessly, I was able to get down into the little ring before climbing and not worrying about dropping a chain, shot past a good part of the field and entered the Snake up in the front, by the time we hit the top of the hill I was sitting in 3rd place, wow not where I was expecting to be, and once you get there you drop down into a technical descent with 3 downhill 90 degree turns, full of painted lines, and manhole covers, my descending skills are pretty good so I was able to retain my position until we hit the bottom where it flattens out a little bit and the guys with bigger motors then I have passed my, but still sitting up in the top 10 heading up the Snake again. The next few laps were about the same, I would try and climb the best I could, but was losing some time and places there, turns out I just ran out of gears quicker then I thought, next year I will have a 12-27 out back for that little extra climbing gear.

I would continue to ride the next few laps solo, lost some more places by now, not sure how I am doing, and we are at the halfway point now. The field was so blown apart and I see Rob McKillip at the top of the hill cheering me on, he started with me but got pulled early on, so at this point I was in survival mode and tried my best to TT the best I can to avoid getting caught and pulled, had very consistant lap times through these last few all around the 2:44 area and was hoping to stay away, come up towards the line on lap 7 or 8 and see the USCF Ref down on the street kind of waiting to pull people, and thought my time was up, but I was spared and he pulled the 2 guys that were maybe 10-15 seconds behind me, dodged that bullet, next lap saw him again and I was still allowed to continue, so figured I was doing well enough that I wasn't holding anyone up or causing a situation to where I should be pulled.

At this point the sky's opened up and it started to downpour on us, not good for this race, but knowing there was a chance of rain I was running a lower tire pressure to try and get just that little bit of extra traction. I was climbing when it started and going down the first time was borderline scary, I grabbed the brakes going into the first corner and they didn't do much for me, only slowed a little, so I sat upright and trued to avoid leaning the bike in the corner so I didn't go down. Climbing proved to be a challenge as well since you can't stand up on the bricks when they are soaking wet, and I am not a good sit down climber, with 3 to go I got caught by the solo leader, so I only had 2 more laps to go. I did the best I could to stay out of the way of riders that were lapping me, but of course they were catching me on the climb, so I would take the far outside line, was easier to climb there, but my lap times suffered pretty bad. Final lap and I had been caught by 3 guys but had another group of 6 or so charging pretty hard so I basically sat up before descending to get out of the way, was a mistake because no one was actually going downhill faster then me so I just jumped in line and would get out of the way at the bottom, I had one guy think I was on the lead lap and almost sprinted but told him I was lapped, he smiled give me the thumbs up and cruised across the line.

At this point it was still raining hard and I had no idea how I did, went and found my wife and headed back to the car to change, the rain stopped shortly after my race and I was able get changed and walked over to look at results, ended up in 23rd out of 52 finishers, 62 starters, and 5th Iowan. I was very pleased with that result. Came home and downloaded the info from my Polar power meter and compared my race to when I did Snake Alley 2 years ago and had an increase of 32 watts average for the race, I was pleased with that as that is a 10% increase in power over 2 years time, means I am still getting stronger.

Pictures from the race can be found here

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