Below are race reports from Sunday: Lucas Wall at the Gaslight Criterium and Rob Shoemaker at the Sylvania Cycling Classic.
I’d had the Gaslight Criterium as a major goal for the year I first planned out the racing season last winter. It’s a fast, slightly technical criterium right in the middle of Michigan’s crit season when I’m usually in the best shape of the year. I was just hoping it would be dry streets for the race.
The weather held out for race day which eased my nerves, but my schedule leading into the race wasn’t what I’d planned with a week-long trip to see family and attend a wedding which had me off the bike for a week. At least I was rested.
I’d hoped to do the Pro/1/2 and Masters 35+ race double, but my schedule only allowed for one race, so it was just the Masters 35+ for me. I got in a good warm-up on the roads around the adjacent lake. I was feeling decent, but before a big race I’m always a little anxious and nervous, and it’s hard to get a read on how the legs are feeling. After many years I know this is normal, even good since I know I’m motivated and ready to race, so I tried to keep it in perspective.
Forty riders lined up, so a decent sized masters field. I rolled up to back row for the start and saw a number of new faces, mostly riders local to the Grand Rapids area who came out. The usual fast guys and teams were there, too. Lathrup had a number of riders, CFT with Craig Newell, Louis Benton with a number of strong guys, and a fast pair from the North Star Development team.
Last year a break went early and stayed away, and I was aiming for a win so that meant being ready for anything. I focused on being more attentive to field position throughout the race so I could go with attacks rather than have to bridge. The race started quickly and we had a number of small attacks, but only with a rider or two at a time.
The pace was high but not too hard. There were some decent primes throughout the race, including a $100 cash prime. I thought about that one, but with my main goal being the finish I wasn’t going for it unless all I had to do was a sprint out of the last corner--I wasn’t making any effort to get in position for a prime.
About midway through the race the pace remained solid. A promising move of a few strong riders made an effort to get off the front but the field quickly responded and it never got more than 10 meters clear, so I sat.
Having raced Gaslight a few times, I knew that the finish of the race depended on good field position out of turn 3, then being one of the first spots through turn 4, the final corner. With long back stretch into turn 3, it was easy to move up or loose a lot of places. Knowing that field position was the most important detail at the end of the race, I chose to go to the front early and stay there, so with 5 to go, I moved to the top 5 riders and aimed to stay there the rest of the race.
Good move! With 4 to go I came through turn 1 and heard the crunching of bikes and wheels just a few riders behind me. Turns out the crash took down or stopped 12-15 riders. On the front the pace stayed steady--no big post-crash attack. Some of the riders who didn’t go down got back on, but it required a big effort and some nervousness from those riders with just a few laps left.
With 2 laps to go a big solo attack went from one of the Louis Benton riders and he got a decent gap. There wasn’t a reaction from the field but the pace stayed solid so the gap, much better than if there had been a sudden lull. I was expecting the well-organized Lathrup team would be coming to the front, but with them MIA I was thinking that they probably had a few riders in the crash and may not make an appearance. I stayed in the front and quickly moved up any time the pace slowed so that I could remain at the front. One of the North Star guys put in a solid effort keeping the pace high and the gap to the solo leader in check.
Down the back stretch on the last lap I was staying ahead of the fray and the CFT team was putting in an effort for their sprinter, Craig Newell. A rider or two slipped by me coming into turn 3 but I was still pretty well placed. Coming out of that turn, I accelerated fast knowing I needed one of the first positions through the final turn. Unfortunately, one of the other team’s riders sat up and blocked the inside line. The CFT lead out was coming up the left side quickly, and as soon as I had a clear line again I went as hard as I could up the outside toward the final corner. The CFT team had the inside and with a sketchy exit of turn 4 I chose to make sure there was room rather than fly all or nothing into the corner. I came out of the turn on Newell’s wheel and had some speed on him, but the sprint from the final corner is short and I didn’t have time to come around.
I finished second. Close but not the win I was aiming for.
Sylvania was not my best day. 21 riders showed up for a wet and rainy race. I was caught of guard by the sprint at the whistle and fell to the back of the front group. It was tough to gain ground because of the slow turns which killed all my momentum. When I finally caught the field a rider slid out in a corner. I planned to go high around him but he slid that way. I unclipped my inside foot and planted it on the ground while the bike kept me moving in a circle, I managed to unclip my outside foot and came to a stop standing in the road holding my bike off the ground! Must of been the most epic save to all who witnessed.
I came back around to the start/finish and was able to get a free lap. I rode back into the peloton in 4th which was relieving after chasing for so long. We made our way to the downhill sweeper at the back of the course and even though I loaded my front tire, it lost grip and I up-righted. That led me straight off the turn and off the course. I barely missed the hay bail covering a sign post. I saw a curb that appeared to be level with the grass and rode towards it to get back on the road. Unfortunately, it was not level and as soon as I hit it my front tire flatted then my rear tire. I then started looking for a soft spot to stop or fall over but ended up in a rocky driveway on my butt. My day ended with a curb hop double flat DNF... booo!!