Louisville is a great little town between Denver and Boulder. The views of the foothills, flatirons, and mountains are incredible, and the community loves bikes. It is a perfect backdrop for an early season crit.
The Louisville Crit is a fast .7 mile course with three turns and a long sweeping climb to the finish line. The climb is not steep but is just long enough to make it extremely uncomfortable. The SM5 and SM5 40+ races take off with a staggered start and lasted 20 minutes. It is a great first race to introduce beginners to the sport, and BRAC even had a mentor program for the CAT 5 group.
The VR7 squad was represented by the father son duo of Colin Rhinehart and Ryan Rhinehart. The Louisville Crit was their first race they have participated in. They are not beginners to the sport though. Colin rode his bike across the country while in college at CU, and Ryan has ridden the Triple Bypass for the past 5 or 6 years along with many other local rides. Racing is another animal entirely and they were both anxious at the start.
The pack rolled out fast and Colin was able to position himself well from the word go. We had ran through the typical racing protocol with him before the race and he followed our advice. He was able to settle in to the lead chase group and hang on for a solid 15th place finish. Not bad for his first race! Expect more from this young gun in the future.
Ryan’s race didn’t go as well, but he made the most of it. Ryan attended the BRAC Men’s clinic the weekend before and was prepared for anything. When the Masters Men rolled out he was ready. On the third turn of the course though he managed to find himself in the gutter on the outside of the turn and narrowly avoided disaster. His race was pretty much over from there. He came to a complete stop, but saved the bike and his body. However he knew that part of racing is never giving up. So he soldiered on around the course with little or no help. The best part is he was able to place 22nd in the race finishing ahead of eight guys that decided the course was too hard to continue. The lesson here for beginner racers is that you should never quit. Some races the official will state that lapped riders must exit the course, but most races you allow you to continue as a lapped rider. You can even jump back in the pack when they come around as long as you do not contest the final sprint. Riders must be courteous though and move over to the outside of the course when they are lapped to not interfere with the main pack’s progress.
Front Range Classic Road Race
The 4/5 SM group did 3 laps for a total of ~41 miles. Each lap had around 1000 ft of climbing mostly concentrated in a 3.5% grade climb (3 miles ish) at the end of the lap.
The course was characterized by a few punchy climbs followed by very fast descents. We hit 52 MPH going down, which was insane. There were no real technical sections and you could basically ride this course without brakes.
In typical 2015 fashion, the field sold out and 75 men lined up for the 4/5 race. The sun was shining in full force as we lined up for the neutral roll out onto the cold hard streets of the air force academy. We had three laps in store, up and down on an extremely rolling course with a couple of serious climbs. Oh, and it was very windy too, can’t forget that.
I was quite excited about the neutral roll out, you know, cause it is neutral and relaxed and can develop the group a bit before all hell breaks loose. Well, somehow the roll out ended up being super awkward and had a bunch of pace changes and brake checks and close calls all within the first 3 minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of guys got dropped during the roll out. Not a great start and just strange in general.
So after some bike ninja moves, I was still upright and the roll out ends at the base of the first mini climb. We are four men across, filling up the entire road and generally being a bit twitchy. It was very hard to move up through the pack. Maybe it was my inexperience, but it was like the entire race was trying to stifle my sweet moves and I kept getting stuck on some bad wheels.
I made it through the first few climbs and descents (which were scary fast) and eventually we arrived at the base of the climb up the finish area. This is about 3.5% average and lasts for 15 minutes or so. I had the brilliant idea of throwing out some mega wattage (I’m talking like 200+) right at the beginning to move up and get in position for the climb. That worked like a charm, and there I was, in the front 15 guys, feeling like the Sun Tzu of road biking. Well, the base of the climb is maybe 2% (not my forte), and we are doing 18 mph with some serious wind swirling around and I was getting absolutely hammered. Whoops.
I had some real trouble finding a good draft and for my bird bones, a good draft is the only thing that keeps me in a race. Trajectory, unfavorable.
With the diesels surging past me I was just falling back through the field in slow motion. My team-mate David Nelson (who eventually finished 21 / 75) zoomed by in good position, which made me happy despite my own desperate situation. After a few tough minutes I caught up with the middle of the race and could hang.
My other team-mate Devin Rhinehart then shows up, and if there is anything in the world of cycling that I am actually good at, it is drafting off of Devin for excessive periods of time. Trajectory, improving.
We get through the climb without riding too much above threshold (30 miles to go!) and soldier on with a rock hard crew of like 6 guys. The next 25 miles consisted of drafting, pulling poorly, getting dropped on descents, clawing back on climbs and sticking to Devin’s wheel like it was a life raft.
Devin and I actually put in a pretty epic ride, and rode a considerable amount of the course as a duo, or with one or two other guys in tow.
We finally hit the climb for the last time and being the tactical mastermind that I am, I settled in to a comfortable tempo, to wait out the last couple miles before putting in my last effort of the day. Lost in a bit of a day-dream (trying to calculate how much time is left in the race…I determined anywhere between 1 minute and 1 hour) I didn’t realize that there was about 300m left before the finish. Devin, being the nice guy that he is, shouts at me “Ben Go!” as he hears the guy on my wheel clicking up through his gears like a maniac.
Go? What? Then it hits me and I shift up, and blast the dude trying to pass me. Yeah, I thought I was going to get shelled too, but surprise! Maybe my most triumphant moment on a bike. Turns out all of my non-efforts at the front of pacelines all day paid off. If only I was sprinting for like 1st place, or 31st instead of 42nd. Oh well.
And that was it. Basically 2 hours of pain and suffering. Hitting 52 mph on the descent and 10 mph on the climbs. That was probably the hardest USAC event I have done. Memorable and pretty fun. Not a climbers course, but not a straight diesel chug either.
Big kudos to DRhinehart for pulling me around all day, we ended up 42nd and 44th of 75. I’ll take that. Props to David Nelson on his 21st place finish. There is room for improvement from all of us, but we had a fun day on the bikes, and survived to fight another day.