Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Provincial Criterium Championships 2012

Four of us drove to Windsor Friday night for back to back criterium races on Sat and Sun. The Provincial Criterium championships was the first of these, held at the Ciociaro Club in Windsor. The Masters C/D race, for men 50 and over, was scheduled for 1:00 pm on Sat. While we could have easily made the 350 km trip on Sat. morning, arriving the night removed the added pressure that comes with racing on a travel day.

Friday night was spent consuming copious quantities of alchohol. I didn't intend to consume that much, myself, but once I lost track of that tipping point, it went all downhill from there. Not that I'm complaining; I had a great time discussing race strategy with Stan who was equally inebriated. From a race-preparation perspective, our consumption was less than optimal. But from a fun perspective... well, I had a blast.

Saturday morning, we had a quick continental breakfast in the lobby of the Howard Johnson hotel we stayed at, watched the last hour of the Vuelta a EspaƱa, and then drove to the race site, arriving with plenty of time to pick up our race numbers and get in a warmup.

Ciaciaro Crit Course

The Ciaciaro crit is run on a 1.3km course with 8 meters of climbing per lap.It is a 20+ feet (1.5 car lanes) wide track designed specifically for Bicycle Racing. The turns are gradual and safe. A small hill, approximately 8 meters high, is situated in the south-west corner of the course followed almost immediately by a downhill. The Masters C/D race was scheduled to be 50 minutes plus 3 laps.

Only 17 riders lined up for the start of the Masters C/D race, consisting of 13 Masters C (age 50-59) and 4 Masters D (age 60+). Three teams were represented with two riders each, including 2 Team Zuck (Marc Polsinelli and Bruno Grossi), two Team London (Charlie Squires and Joe Narciso), and Stan Blazek and myself riding for Kurzawinski Coach / PBNJ.ca. Charlie and Marc were 2nd and 3rd behind Stan at the Provincial Road Championships so I figured they both would be a factor in this race but Stan had told me before hand that Bruno also was a strong rider.

From the start of the race it was Bruno who did most of the attacking with Stan marking every attack. I sat at the back of the pack for the first several laps and nearly got dropped when the 2 riders in front of me got gapped on one of the pack surges. I stood on the pedals, bridged up to the pack and kept my momentum going along the Southwest stretch of the course where I noticed that Stan and Bruno were beginning to establish a gap. I blew by the pack and quickly bridged the gap to Stan and Bruno but before the three of us could even get a rotation established, the pack and reeled us in. 

A few laps later, Bruno again launched himself off the front with Charlie Squires in tow. Being close to the front this time, I was able to get in this break and we were soon joined by a London Wheelers rider. I thought that this break might have a chance to stay away but Polsinelli shut down our advantage before we got a chance to stretch it out.

A lap or two later, Polsinelli and Squires drifted off the front a bit. It didn't take long for my team mate, Stan, to jump on this one and, with Grossi and I both patrolling the front of the pack, the break got a bit of a gap. Grossi and I were soon joined by the 2nd Team London rider, Joe Narciso, and between the three of us, we managed to disorganize the pack long enough for the break to get established. For the next several laps, the gap stabilized. There were 3 or 4 riders from the pack who were willing to work to try and close the gap to the leading trio. But each time that a worked would move to the front, Grossi, Narciso, and I would jump on his wheel, effectively disrupting any organization that the pack tried to establish. With about 15 minutes left to go in the race, the break had extended its lead far enough that the pack was no longer much of a threat. 

One of the three riders in the break, Charlie Squires, was a Masters D rider, so I knew that a podium spot in the Masters C category was still up for grabs. So, on the last lap, I tried to position myself near the front for the final sprint to the finish. Since sprinting isn't one of my strong points, I wanted to try and get away early and hope to surprise the rest of the pack. But Narciso was way ahead of me and jumped before I had a chance to do so. I quickly jumped on Narciso's wheel but by the time he reached the final turn, he had run out of steam with me stuck behind him. I watched helplessly as half the pack went by on the outside and ended up crossing the line 4th or 5th out of the pack. But before I had even crossed the line, I heard Phill yell out that Stan had won which made my race effort satisfying after all.
Stan Blazek takes Provincial Championships, Marc Polsinelli (left) second.

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