Monday, September 22, 2014

Oakland Grand Prix Criterium 35+ 3/4s by Matthew Sloan

This was a really fun course in downtown Oakland close to Lake Merritt. Due to a street fair the promoters changed the course for this year. They had a 180 degree turn just after the start/finish to bring you back onto the old route.

The course started slightly downhill. There was a sweeping 90 degree left hand turn into a very slight uphill straight of about 200m, into a 90 degree right hand turn, into a slightly uphill straight of about 120m, into a 270 degree hairpin turn, into a short flat straight of about 70m, into a 90 degree right hand turn, into a slightly downhill straight of about 150m, into a sweeping 90 degree left hand turn, into a slightly downhill straight of about 130m, into a 90 degree right turn that took you into the 150-200m uphill straight to the finish, and the 180 degree turn to stay on the new course.

The race started off pretty fast. There were a few attacks which were easily covered. Matt Adams of Mike Bikes, he was 2nd in the 35+ 1/2/3s at Pescadero, made an attack and got away. I let him go to see if he could establish a break. A nice gap formed. I made a move just before the 180 and unfortunately I had a group on my wheel after the turn. I sat up at the bottom of the hill where another rider attacked and slowly got onto Matt's wheel.

I was right at the front so I couldn't make a move to get onto the break. I held back to got myself in a position two or three back from the front. I was readying myself for an acceleration that would prevent anyone from following. I felt really strong, ready for a good podium. One of those feelings when you know you are one of the strongest in the field. Well, lady luck had other ideas. The rider in front of me flatted. I went to go around his left hand side but he moved in the same direction to get off the course. He forced me way outside where I had to slow for him. In the meantime the whole field and motor cyclist taking up the rear went past me. When I finally got back on the course I was at least 30m - 50m back with 3 laps to go.

Frustrated, and mentally cursing the rider who took me off the course, I hammered my away around, fighting hard to reconnect. It took just over a lap to get close to the back. That is when the attacks started happening. The whole peloton became a line of riders with me weaving in and out to make places up. With one lap to go I was about half way down. I did everything I could on the last lap and made it into the top ten - 8th place over all.

The most frustrating thing was I went faster in those last three or four laps than anyone else. I just know I would have been top three. But that is racing for you. A tough end to the season but a good one. I definitely felt fit and strong. Next year things can only get better! For now, two weeks of rest and soft pedalling before starting the hard work of winter training.

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