Monday, August 01, 2011

Lakewood Criterium - Master's and the free lap rule.

The Lakewood Criterium was on Saturday 7/30. A really nice course, closed to traffic. I had it just over a mile long. Events running from 1:00 until 7:00 had the area in party mode. The course is mostly flat, with a minor hill leading to the start/finish straight on Detroit. There is a head wind leading to and on Sloane. Aside from that, the races were made hard by the racers themselves.

Being on the sponsor team I did some work before lining up in the Master's field with Zak. Not a lot to tell about, being a 45 minute race, so I'll use this post and the story to describe a bit on the Free Lap Rule... as I have come to understand it.

So... this is the first time I have raced a crit with a free lap rule. The idea is that the course is so short, and bad things happen, so a rider can recover from a flat, mechanical or crash, taking one lap out and rejoin the field without penalty. The eloquent Charles Howe has a nice section on the free lap discretion. It's all up to the officials.

And the race: At the whistle, John Sell (Cleveland Clinic/RGF) goes hard... like a cyclocross race start. For the first five laps, we average about 26. During the fifth lap, a group of three gets away. Chris Riccardi from Lake Effect, Rick Parr from StarkVelo, and my team mate Zak from Team Spin. Then Lake Effect takes the front with a Stark and myself sitting just behind to let the gap grow. John Sell jumps across on Sloan and in 15 minutes the winning break is gone.

A few guys try to bring the break back, but it's not happening with the numbers protecting team mates up the road. There are still 30minutes to go though... so the pace drops to about 24.5 while the break is established.

Now for the free lap rule. Somewhere near lap 10, the field (now down to about 10-15) comes through the start/finish and John Sell rejoins. He flatted out of the break, grabbed a wheel from the wheel pit and rejoined the race. He was allowed to rejoin the break, but I guess didn't make the timing. So the official had him rejoin the field.

Now I'm thinking there is a break of three, and John will ride with the field. So I continually wait for him  or his team mate to either attack the field... and my plan is to follow that move, or (unlikely) for them to pull the break back. Neither happens. We continue along, and at some point, I realize John is not with us anymore. K, I still think there is a break of three up the road.

Meanwhile, Nate and Joe from Lake Effect are on the front about ALL the time. OK by me, since it's work I don't have to do. I sit in the top 5 or so, and wait. We're going slower and guys that were dropped keep coming back to the field.

Timing get a little weird here, but I think with 6 to go, Nate has a mechanical of some sort at the turn onto Sloane. We go through the start/finish and they announce 5 to go... and the end of the free lap rule.

At this point, I figure the break is long gone, so we can start racing bikes again. I hoped with RGF or Lake Effect would start the fun, but they didn't. So, I attack on Sloane and get a gap. It takes about a lap for Joe from Lake Effect to bridge up, and I think we have a chance to make up the next two spots. With three to go we lap Nate. Though it's a bit confusing. First, we caught him after the first turn... so he wasn't entering the course at the "right" spot for the free lap. So when he came up on me, I asked him to work... thinking it was now two against one in the second group. I got some complaints, and some talk from Joe as well. Either way, with the confusion and chase effort we were brought back by the remaining field with two to go.

I had a lap or so of "recovery", and tried another attack on Sloane on the last lap. Lead the field into the final straight, got passed by a couple and sat up figuring all the paying spots were taken... we had someone in the top three... and I might jump into another race. Lots of thoughts to have during the final 500m.

So, what did happen on the free lap?

John Sell dropped off the main field and rejoined the break, effectively taking a free two laps. He handled everything well, probably drove the break more and won the sprint but was relegated to fourth for the extra lap.

Nate's magnet slipped into his spokes. He stopped on the spot and fixed it, and did a rolling free lap. He did not stop at the wheel pit to request a free lap. Which I now know is required. He would not have been given one by the rules anyway, so he was a lap down. He could work for the team, but is not allowed to contest sprints or primes, if I understand this all now.

I don't know if Nate's handling of the rule would have made a difference on my race. I don't really know how close the field was, or if we were getting anywhere. It didn't feel like Joe and I were working all that well together, so I'm guess the result would have been the same. I'm using it to learn about what to do if I need to use the rule.

Zak ended up third after John's relegation. So a good result for the team. For the data nerds (like me), my Master's race ended up at 21 miles in 50 minutes for an average of 25.2mph. I ended up 11th, which is a bit frustrating only because I sat up. The payout was 8 deep. Second lesson... sprint for placing, and think later.