Hey Team,

It was an exciting day on Sunday at the Auburn Criterium for me. I didn't think I would do crits but I made the decision that I want to upgrade from cat 5 to 4. As everyone says riding crits can get you the mass starts for upgrading. So this was my first crit ever and I believe it was the first running of this particular crit. I think the course was ideally suited for me and actually a good first crit if one can handle a fast descent into a left hand turn. I decided to get two starts, riding the elite 5 and the 35+ 4/5.

The elite 5 was early, only the third race to go out. I got there early and it was a good decision for this technical crit. I had the chance to warm up on the course and getting to know all the corners and the descent. The course started on the steep uphill, at the top the road narrowed and went into two quick tight right hand turns. There was a long stretch in the wind on the backside followed by two quick turns right into the downhill. The downhill swept left and at the bottom there was a nearly 90 degree left hand turn into a wide road (you could go light on the breaks towards the bottom and then let it go through the turn keeping your moment). A short straightaway into two quick right hand turns. Then it was a flat straightaway with a slight turn upwards to the start/finish. Due to the uphill, the wind and the descent, all races pretty much stayed strung out single file. This is why it was a good first crit. I didn't have to worry so much about a tight pack through the turns.

Elite 5 race. We started with a neutral lap behind the mentor and I stayed somewhere in the middle of the pack. When we came back around for the rolling start I moved up towards the front as I started to see some gaps forming on the uphill. For the rest of the race I stayed in the front five only taking the lead once on the back stretch. I was just trying to conserve energy. At one point I was second and the lead guy wanted us to come around but I just stuck on his wheel as I did not want to be leading in the wind, I think he was pissed about this but I didn't want to lead it and no one else wanted to take it up. Each time on the uphill I felt good against the other riders. Based on Zack's race before ours (congrats for winning), I knew that you had to be in the top three in the last lap to be able to go for the win. I wasn't prepared for what happened the last time up the hill. It was a bit psychological and my legs were a little cooked, I saw about 10-15 guys blow by me and I couldn't respond. I slipped back to about 15th position. One the back side I made up a few positions and going downhill through the rest of the course I couldn't pass anyone else. I sprinted for the finish and came in tenth place. I was still very happy to get a tenth place in a field of 50 for my first crit. Congrats to Jeff Weaver, he finished in the top 20.

Lessons learned: 1. I can ride a technical crit course and it was fun.
2. HTFU it the last time up the hill to stay in position (something I got a chance to apply in the second race).
3. Speedskating techniques actually help on crit courses (looking through the corners help to guide you through) and the feel of cornering and pack riding is the same.

35+ 4/5 - I had a little over two hours to recover for this race and that was just right. There was another neutral start behind the moto and Eric Zeigler and I went to the front of the group. On the descent I was the front man out and it was great going down hill right behind the moto. As we started the second lap I let a few people by so I could set myself up with a good draft on the back side. I sat in for a few laps moving around in the first 5-8 riders. On lap 4 or 5 I followed another rider out and we had a bit of a gap on the field. On the backside I thought we would try and make a go of it. He came around wanting to give me a draft and some rest. I looked back and knew we weren't going to make it stick. The next uphill it was gruppo compacto. I was pleasantly surprised on the uphill portion that my legs felt fresh. I felt that at any moment I could sprint ahead of the group. I just chose to sit in, ease up the hill and be in position to draft (conserve energy for the last lap). On the second to last lap I positioned myself in the top 5 or so making sure that if anyone was coming around I would chase to keep in the top positions. We came into the straight away to start the last lap. As soon as we hit the hill, I hammered it up to the top taking first position to lead out the last lap. I was trying to drive it hard on the back side in the wind and just wanted to make it to the last two turns before the downhill in a good position. Only one guy made it around me before those turns. I was in second place going into the downhill section. We jammed it in the downhill and he got a small gap on me. Through the last two turns into the finishing straightaway. I was hammering it home and made up a little ground on the guy. I just couldn't close the gap but I also didn't want anyone coming around. As I made it to the line I could feel someone coming up on the right and I made the final push for the line. I finished 2nd in my 2nd crit. Awesome. Congrats to Rod who finished 11th and Eric who wasn't to much further back.

Lessons learned: 1. Apply what you learn in the first race and you can end up with a good result in the next.
2. Don't start pedalling hard before your bike is close to upright out of a corner. I almost went down from jumping my bike off the ground.

So it was a great day and I look forward to upgrading. It was also fun matching Rod's 10th and 2nd place finishes from the day before at the Folsom crit.

Later all. Doug

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