Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Snake Alley Criterium

Our first of the 4 days of racing was the Burlington-Wapello-Burlington Road Race. It's a Pro 1/2/3 event with 130+ riders and a virtually flat fast 85ish miles. Not much to tell here other than we just wanted to survive this and move on. We did, and other than picking up a really good quote, there is not much to tell.

Second race day, Snake Alley Criterium.
This was my first focus race of the year and I wanted a good result. It's a tough course in downtown Burlington, an L shaped criterium.

The challenge is a 75' rise that takes you to the lower end of Snake Alley.

Snake Alley a 276' long brick road built in 1894 has 5 switchbacks that rise 60' with an average grade of a 12.5%.

Nathan mentioned to us that we needed to get a good start and that it is a full on sprint to the Alley. In his suggested tactics he advised to ride the lead group vs. trying to attack and get away.
Upon arriving in Burlington we drove straight over to the Alley to scope it out. I was anxious to pre-ride ASAP, must be the mountain biker in me.
On Thursday we took a drive to see the RR course and had a lot of time on our hands in the afternoon before heading out to join the local Thursday evening club ride. While my teammates enjoyed a nice afternoon nap I jumped on the bike for a little scouting expedition of the Snake. I got in a couple of good runs up the Alley, but I did not know the whole course.
After the club ride we went over for a quick lap on the course. We did one as a group, but I had a hard time talking them into a second. Fortunately I was able to talk a local rider into going one more round. I needed to try a different gear selection and get a reference, without company to pace off of, it would have been just another lap.

Our big day arrived and we were ready to rock after a great pancake breakfast. We found a spot near the Start/Finish and set up the Vellum Cycles tent all pro looking. VERY COOL!

First off were Joey O and DDR in the 40+ race. Both were going strong and as much as he complained about the hill DDR looked pretty smooth going up.

Next up was all 4 of us in the 30+. The start was fast and furious and I found my self not wanting to kill it on the run up to the Alley. I found myself hypnotized by the rhythm of bricks and started moving up at a methodical pace. A little punch over the top and I was closing on the group containing Joey O and DDR. It became a cross race minus the dismount in no time. OK, I know how to do this, jump from group to group and don't let off the throttle, up hill, down hill or on the flats, just keep it pegged. By lap 2 I had come across to the leaders containing Nate and 3 or 4 others. They slipped away on the climb a little, but by gunning it on the decent and peddling through the corners I was back on. Nate was sitting cool and letting others do the work, this slowed them down a bit through the Start/Finish.

Too Slow, Let's Go! I came up even with Nate and offered a wheel and to kick up the pace. Instead Nate played it cool and made others chase me. By corner 1 I was loose with a Trek VW rider. I grabbed his wheel when he came through, but he was really flying on the Snake. Two others came up and we kept the hammer down for the rest of the race but could not pull Trek VW boy back. We battled it out for several laps, but with one to go the Merc rider let a little gap open up to the Mesa rider. I chased on the downhill, but this time the Mesa rider was loose. I put in my best decent and forced the Merc rider to chase. He caught on to my wheel, but I jumped hard with two corners to go and second kick to the line holding him off for 3rd. Nate picked up best of the rest for 5th.

Photo credit:

My third race of the day was the Cat 3 and roughly 70 starters, mostly all fresh. My legs were feeling the burn of the MTB Cobble Stone Climb and the 30+ race. Needless to say I was in almost last place going into the Snake. Same game, ride steady at full throttle and jump from group to group. I would catch small splinter cells on the flats, wait a few pedal strokes then attack. My pace on the Snake was enough to move into the money with about 8 laps to go. I managed to battle my way up to 10th by 4 to go, then my hammies decided to rebel. The heat and previous races were starting to take their toll. Once caught by a solo chaser I found respite in his draft and stretched out the legs. This managed to shake out the cramps and hold on to 11th, and an "in the money" finish after a final surge to the line to hold off a group of 3 chasers.

Stick a fork in me, I am done! Image scan of Burlington's local newspaper "The Hawk Eye", more write ups about the race and EMC/Vellum Cycles at


Blogger Chico Cyclist said...

Incredible - Oh man, that is epic! Wish I coulda been there. It's gonna be great seeing you guys at Nevada City this year!

6:03 PM  
Blogger Dr. X said...

Great report, sweet photos, nice results! Too bad about Nathan's flat...

6:29 PM  
Blogger DarknessGrows said...

I am growing, yet you are unable to see me.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Gianni said...

This is sounding like more and more fun... That pic is priceless!

4:48 PM  
Blogger Travlin June Bug said...

I agree the pic is priceless! Looks like you had maximum enjoyment to ultimate exhaustion. I'm glad you had such a great time!

9:18 AM  
Blogger diskzero said...

Cool report. Snake Alley is on my wish list of races to do.

10:05 AM  

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