Ok here comes the race report. Menlo Park crit, a 1.4 mile course with six turns, one pretty treacherous bit with first a sharp left turn, then a sharp right just after. This was my first race, so women's cat4. I would guess there were maybe 60 participants in the race.
I was pulled from the race 26 minutes into it. :( I got a bad start standing at the back already at the start line, and soon found myself being the last person in the pack with the mentor, with a few people already dropped behind us. Damnit! It was cool to see that even though I usually struggle to hang on to someone's wheel at 26 mph, it was a lot easier in a pack even though I wasn't even close to anyone's wheel! But, the corners got me, and after a couple of laps I was falling behind. A couple of other women were falling behind at the same time and we took up the chase together. I was convinced we'd make it and we were getting closer, but after a lap or two the pack wasn't visible at the corners anymore. Damnit!
The three of us pedaled on though, working hard together, and I admit that I was kind of relieved that I only had two people to worry about in the corners (in addition to myself, a big worry indeed ;). I learned a whole lot during the race though and was doing significantly better at them towards the end (and it's FUN to take corners at a speed where you're pushing your mental boundaries ;). We had a mentor going alongside us for quite some time, encouraging us to continue and collaborate. Every time we went past the audience we got lots of encouraging cheers. :D We must have been high on the list of cheers per capita. I was so disappointed when we got pulled! The three of us hung around for a bit and talked. We definitely could have been more organized in our chase, we took way too long pulls each time, often half of the lap. It somewhat broke down in the corners too, whenever I tried to take a pull close to a corner it always broke down because the other women would get out of it faster than me so I tried to take many of my pulls on the long straight bit with headwind (fuck conserving energy! we just need to catch up no matter how!) since that seemed more efficient for the group.
I didn't really know what to expect from my first race but when we got pulled my average speed was 21.6, not a speed I had expected to be pulled out of the race for... But, apparently this happens a lot, and I'm going to try to work on my cornering and being comfortable riding in a pack 'til the next race. I've signed up for a circuit race in Brisbane at the end of the month, and am on the waitlist for the Bariani road race in a couple of weeks (not that I know how to get there - is anyone with a car an extra space going? :D).
Despite the disappointment at being pulled, it was a lot of fun and I can't really dwell over the disappointment too much since I'm busy thinking about how to improve and hopefully I'll do better next time. And thanks to SF2G for being awesome and getting me into biking! :)-Lina
You didn't crash. That's step 1. Next is finishing with the pack.
Here is the turn from Lagoon to Oyster Point.
When you make that turn you should be riding on the white line as you approach - the white line between the two turn lanes! Not the shoulder! (this assumes we are taking it at speed without pesky cars/etc...). Stay on that line, at speed, all the way to pretty much the stop line, then turn very hard to the right, aiming at just to the left of the stop sign. This drives your line right into the roadway you want to be in.
Sounds like I am recommending a really sharp turn, but if you are on the shoulder at speed, you try to make the same sharp turn except you are in the wrong spot, and the same angle shoots you into the opposite travel lane on Oyster Point. Since you don't want to do that, your only alternative is to make an even sharper turn (not possible) or to reduce speed before your turn - at a lower speed you can make a turn with a shorter radius.
There are several right handers on bayway you can practice on that don't have disastrous consequences if you screw up. The last right hander before we get to Coyote Point (we turn right then go about 150 yards to the rotary-ish left hander) is pretty good. I'd wait a while before really testing your chops on the left hander on the bike path just after we go under the San Mateo Bridge - ask Scott :)
In a crit it's a little different because you can't dive inside into the line of the person inside you, but the whole pack needs to take the turn wide - set up the line and then hold it through the turn. It turns out to not be that hard at the non-expert levels and most of the crashes aren't actually in the corners - they are in the sprint when someone doesn't hold their line there. Really good riders can corner at a level I cannot comprehend - there is a group ride Tues/Thurs at lunch at Great America, that runs as a parking lot criterium. I never make it past 2-3 quarter mile laps because I just can't accellerate into and through the corners like those guys (mostly Cat 1/2) do. Amazing.
Learning this on fast flat corners will eventually filter into your descending skills as well.
On turning, when you get your line right as Murph prescribed you'll end up describing a perfect, constant-radius arc. This means that once you start the corner you don't adjust your line at all which is why he took such pains to describe the setup. Your upper body should remain relatively still (but not stiff!) with your weight subtly shifted to the arm on the inside of the corner. Keep pedaling if at all possible. I've clipped my pedals on the ground more times than I care to remember but I don't think I've ever crashed because of it (well, not in a race anyway). Usually it'll just scare the crap out of you and remind you where the limits are. Having to sprint out of every corner to catch the rider ahead of you who doesn't coast will very rapidly wear you down.
Keep it upright,
to find as many corners as possible to practice on, and building
confidence is at least as important as the technique for me right now.
Feel free to give me hints as we ride - I want to get better at this.
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