*Ok, so really I'm still an Expert off-road, but with USAC changing the categories for mountian biking in 2009, I'll be a legit Cat 1! Truth be told I haven't done a MTB race since probably 2000 or 2001, but the license still says EXPERT, err CAT 1 come January 1st!
Of course this brings me to another point - Crits. Love 'em! Went up to the city and snookered my way into the SF Twilight race on Saturday so I could ride around with some fast guys, feel cool, and try to look competent. Race started and I was pretty far back...far enough that I couldn't see, much less get to, the front for the first 15minutes or so (I actually almost threw up - which has NEVER happened in a race..gotta be the coffee 30minutes before the start). Anyway, after those first arduous minutes I kinda settled in and started picking off guys on my way to the front. 3 or 4 each lap, maybe 10 on a good one (there were 118 at the start) and slowly but surely I was into the top 20 with about 30minutes left. It was fun! It also pointed out something that seems both odd and strangely euphoric - cornering. You'd think that Pro/1/2 riders would be very adept at handling high speed corners in tight quarters - and they are for the most part. The interesting thing on Saturday was the willingness to simply follow the wheel in front, even if it meant slowing down precipitously, then having to jump hard out of the corner - every time. Now, I'm not very fit so I can't afford to be surging too much - I gotta keep as much momentum into corners as I can! Don't think I 'dive' corners - I'm old and have a family so that sort of reckless riding is in my past. But, and here's where the strange euphoria came in, it seemed that every time I came into a corner a natural lane would open up. Didn't matter if I was outside, inside, or stuck in the middle - a couple of inches (or feet) would suddenly appear between the riders in front of me and I'd have room to maneuver. It was great! Especially the uphill-into-turn-4...I rolled through in an easy gear (53x19 or 21) with lots of momentum and a lane to exploit - that's where and how I picked up those 3-10 spots each lap. For whatever reason it just seemed that everyone else was over-geared and riding slow. As evidence I'll point to Fred Rodriguez - for the last five laps or so I followed him around. Time and again he'd shoot up the outside of the road into turn 4 and it was wide open each time...easy path forward. Which is the point late in fast crits - defending your position and rotating forward!! Anyway, I finished 27th....but was happy with that considering my relative lack of riding, fitness, or muscle endurance. A few numbers for those that care - 1h15min, 26.4mph avg (yea, slow eh?!), but my Normalized Power was 313 for the whole race - pretty high considering the speed. Interestingly the race was more 'surgy' than normal - I was either at 0 watts or over 400....like each lap.