How to beat the UHC

I did promise in this post a post how to beat UHC, so here’s my thesis: It can be done, but it’s very tough and you need a couple of fast people (uh duh).

Let’s first review why they’ve been unbeatable in the crit circuit. There are really three main reasons: they’re typically much stronger than most the American Crit racing field, they have great and sometimes questionable tactics, and finally because the nature of the criterium itself.

First, and easiest to understand, is the Criterium. By nature Criteriums are easy to control; ESPECIALLY for a well disciplined  team that is filled with great riders. Crit’s are tight, intense affairs where it’s difficult to move up. Realistically you’re only participating in the Crit if you’re in the top 20-30 of the field (or less if it’s a very technical crit). If you have a team with 6 guys who are all   A: Strong enough to ride at the front of a NCC crit and B: VERY technically adept at holding their position within those top 20 riders, you are already 90% there in terms of dominating the race. When UHC lines up 6 guys in the last lap of a crit, it is nearly impossible to get around all them simply because it’s hard to move around 6 guys at any point in a crit when it’s going flat out.

Now to the tactics aspect of the crit racing. Nearly all the riders on UHC are VERY good at protecting their spot at the front. Watch the last few laps of any of the NCC crit races. If there’s a good feed you’ll see the usual tactic of riding inside until just before the corner, but you’ll also see doors getting closed. What do I mean by doors getting closed? Lets say you had your team lined up behind UHC and you start trying to go around them. You foolishly chose the easiest looking path which is closer to the barriers…so someone on their team yells “Left” or “Right” and they move closer to the barriers, thus “Closing the Door”. This is a tactic as old as Criterium racing itself and UHC has a team chalk full of possibly the best bike handlers in the world, so they’re obviously really good at it.

Where they catch flack is when stuff like this happens:

Closing the door in a finishing sprint is generally frowned upon, but again falls into the Grey area of anything goes criterium racing in the US.

Finally, all the guys on UHC are really strong. Each one could probably win all these crits 50% of the time if they were just free-lancing.

So beating UHC is very difficult, but possible, and happened on a number of occasions.

US Crit championship is one example, but not a very good one. UHC had all their American riders and a few top sprinters which meant their All-Star crit squad, which is nearly completely from the Southern Hemisphere, was absent.(I guess if we wanted American’s to win more crits we should race them Clockwise instead of counter clockwise). They played things a little more conservatively to save their bullets but still lost control in the closing laps, largely thanks to Jelly Belly’s late race assault and the very long and open course at High Point….

Or I prefer to think they were super gassed from chasing the courageous solo breakaway rider that had built up a 1:30 gap over the field:

US Criteroium Breakaway

Maybe you’ve heard of him?

The other good example is from the Prairie State Series: Elmhurst crit. Now I may just be talking out of my ass from hearsay in terms of how Escuela bested UHC (I also thought there was a video at some point that I now cannot find, but I may be wrong), so take everything I say here with a complete grain of salt and consider that it could be totally made up.

As far as I recall, How Escuela got around UHC was by using their own tactics against them, intentionally or not. In the closing lap on the back side of the course the move was made to sprint around UHC. The difference this time was that more than one person was in place and fresh enough to get along side UHC. As per UHC’s normal tactics, when the first rider was seen pulling along side them, their sprinter turned into them, closing the door. While normally this fends off the single attacker pretty well, in this case it completely opened up the door for Escuela to take a clean line in the final corners for the win. So all you have to do is have two national class sprinters tag teaming the UHC sprint train at the same time…EASY!

Escuela is a super strong rider and great sprinter, but as it  goes in sprint finishes: positioning and timing trump sprinting power every time, ESPECIALLY in cirteriums.

Trust me I’m supper happy UHC is out there racing…but it’s also kinda the goal of everyone racing crits to beat them.

Let’s have a contest of who can pout harder on the podium


Superweek Wrap-up

First day back at Superweek for the Panther team was a tough day. It was the return to the “Historic” Milwaulkee lakefront road race course. The course, which has been absent from Superweek since 2005, is by far the best road race course that I’ve ridden yet. Starting right on the lakefront drive, the course starts going south towards the city, then making a sharp right hand turn climbing up into a rich neighborhood, then descending back to the lakefront drive. After following the lakefront drive the course again took a left up and away from the lake up into a park. At the end of the second climb the course winds through the park through first a parking lot, then a bike path for a short while then another parking lot before going back onto a slight downhill on the lakefront drive to the finish.
Greg and I were the only Panther guys racing today, Derek took the day off to hand up bottles for the 130 Km race. Joey also experienced his first superweek race in what was a really tough day. Since road races are double points no one fast took today off. Being on the lake the course had a wicked wind blowing across the course. Once the race hit the flats that ran along the lake shore it was gutter city. In the second lap I tried going across to a large move that looked pretty promising, after chasing for the better part of a lap me and the ISCorp guy I was bridging with connected with what looked like the day long breakaway. It went well for a lap, then we got caught. I was pretty fried and dropped back in the field and got on the wrong side of rather small field split, so it was back to front just in case. It worked out well and I ended up in the second group of about fifty riders with fifteen up the road. It was pretty stop and go with a few more field splits along the way. The group got down to about thirty by the end. To the end of the 140 K race the group was getting pretty lax, with an unnamed pro waving and ‘holla’ing at girls running along the beach. We caught a few riders who got dropped from the lead group and ended up 21st.
I totally forgot how much a hundred mile road race will take out of you and got to Racine on tired legs. I was able to hang on pretty well through the technical course, I made it through the tough race selection, but at that point was tail gunning the pack like a pro. Not having any top end power to rely on I decided to drop out with about 20 k to to take out any risk of injury and save the legs. Derek toughed it out going solo in the last few laps to get a $40 prime

This turned out to be a good choice. Friday Joey and I drove down to Chicago to pick up Ashley who took the Amtrak to hang out at Superweek. Friday was the Kenosha kilometer. The course was right up my alley, no brakes through the corners, which were pretty much banked. Paul Martin joined our Superweek trio for Friday and the remainder of the weekend significantly strengthening our ranks. I made it into a small break with one of the Taiwanese riders after a prime, we got absorbed by a larger group with some serious firepower and stayed away for a total of maybe fifteen laps. When we got brought back I took it easy in the pack for a while, meanwhile four riders got away to lap the field, followed by another twelve breaking off the front. However once the four leaders lapped the field those who didn’t want more riders a lap up decided to bring the twelve man group back. This was about the same time it started raining. This didn’t stop the field setting some of the fastest lap times of the entire day. The group of twelve got brought back and it was down to a field sprint. Being able to be at the front of a field jockeying for position at the end of the race is one of the most fun and exhilarating part of bike racing, and Kenosha was defiantly a blast. It had stop raining and dried up by the end of the race, that didn’t stop a second to last lap crash taking down a bunch of riders. I made it around intact and finished 11th in the field sprint.

So since this blog post is getting long I’ll abbreviate the rest, that and my legs gave out for the rest of the series and I wasn’t riding all that hot.
Downers Ave.: I made it up to the front a few times, nothing came of it. Paul got in a seven man group that lapped the field. I crashed, and got a chainring to the back (not my fault)
Chicago Crit: Twelve days of racing in Sixteen days is not good preparation for an NRC crit…end of story. Plus I flatted last lap, busting a $40 tubular tire.

Superweek Part II

So with the superweek racing starting off with a pretty good result, the next two days didn’t go all that hot. Two days ago was the Ray Basso criterium taking place in Bensonville, IL which is right outside of O’Hare Int. Airport. Throughout the race we were getting buzzed by jumbo jets taking off and landing. Wednesday seemed to be the single day that everyone took off because a lot of the big teams were not here. The MTN Continental team from South Africa took the day off, as did both Jelly Belly riders, the Taiwaneese team, Hotel San Jose and the Puerto Rican Team, needless to say the field was considerably smaller than the two days before. In addition to that the entire race venue was a complete ghost town. Aside from a group of toddlers playing at the playscape there was not a single spectator insight, a drastic contrast from the year before when there was a music festival and a boat load of people. Anyway Derek and I tried to stay aggressive in the early part of the race, thinking that an early move would go away due to the technical nature of the course and tough wind. Of course this was wrong and the big ‘lap the field’ breakaway went away midway through the race right after Derek and I had both been in moves and were pretty gassed. A few laps later Derek managed to make it into a 6 man break that didn’t quite lap the field but stayed away for the finish. This left me in a greatly reduced pack that pretty much soft pedaled untill the finish. We got lapped with two to go which automatically turned our race situation into one to go. The breakaway blew past the field like they were standing still, and I tried to jump on the train to maybe net some cash with a top twenty five finish. I finished 27th getting passed by two unlapped riders in the finishing sprint. Derek did manage to get 16th place making us $55 which meant total we made $20 for our three days of racing at superweek. That’s how it goes getting into the right move is always a crap shoot with a ton of really strong guys in the field.

Anyway two days of rest then off to Dayton for a few weekend races in Ohio that the entire Panther squad should be there for.
Enjoy this poorly shot video of some Arlington Heights criterium action (note the boat loads of spectators):

Two Days Down of Superweek

After the Tour of Champaign this weekend, we headed back to Purdue for a rest night, then drive up to Richton Park for the first day our Superweek campaign. Richton park is technically a suburb of Chicago, but it’s about 40 miles from downtown. Anyway the course looped around a community park and was a little over a kilometer long. If you’re not familiar with the Superweek Criteriums, they are some of the only criteriums in America that are still 100km long. Doing 100 km in a parking lot, or around a park, is a really really long way. The best thing to do during Superweek criteriums is to not look at the lap card. Being used to doing hour and a half long crits, you’re body will be getting ready to be finished with the race, then you look up at the lap cards and you still have forty laps to go. Any way onto Richton Park…

A Three man break went away in the first five laps, Derek got into a group of 12 off the front. I saw the big crash of the race. Curtis Gunn from Fly V Australia was off the front in an attack when a small girl, maybe five years old, rolled out onto the course on her bike. Curtis must have had his head down or something, but he T-Boned this girls bike, sending him, his bike, and broken bits of his bike flying in the air. The race got stopped for the crash, and pretty sure they didn’t quite give Derek’s group the full gap they had. They got caught right after the restart. After the lead three lapped the field it was pretty steady. Got up to top three with five to go but got muscled out of position. Ended up finishing 13th. If you’re scared of bumping shoulders and chopping fields in a sprint, Superweek is not for you. Because everyone makes the craziest moves, but since everyone is good, people don’t crash…most of the time. 13th is also by fart the best Superweek result I’ve had, so the week started pretty good.

On Tuesday we spent the day in Downtown Chicago getting Derek’s Visa to work in Korea. We took the Metra into downtown, then headed to the NBC tower, where the Korean Consulate is. When we walked into the NBC tower the guy at the front desk yelled to us “Hey, where are guys going?”. The interior of the building was pretty much solid granite, and all gold looking. Also every single person in there had suits on, so Derek and I in our shorts and our cruddy T-shirts looked like we were going to cause a ruckus. We also had to run around Union station to find our train, jumping on a few seconds before the doors closed.
The second day of superweek didn’t go to well for Derek or me. It was an eight corner crit with a set of four corners separated by one block. So after the quick four corners there was a really long finishing straight that you had to absolutely kill it to not open up a huge gap. I got into a twenty guy field split that I really hoped would stay away which would guarantee a top twenty. I even got four red jersey sprint points which actually me into 19th overall in that competition. Anyway I didn’t have much of a top end because I spent a bit of energy in the break and couldn’t get myself in position of in the sprint. Derek was sitting fifth wheel in the last lap until his skewer popped out causing him to unclip and get out of the pace line. So Derek and I pulled up the rear of the field for 41st and 42nd.


So as it is I have a bit of bloggers block going on. And I can’t fall back to the usual race reports because I have not raced in two weeks. Tour of Champaign is this weekend and Superweek also starts today, Derek and I will be heading up to do the first three weekday races in Chicagoland.

I lieu of a sweet blog post, here’s some video’s of the Soviet’s Space Shuttle. And if you ever wonder why the Soviet space program achieved so many things, more efficiently, and faster than NASA these videos give the answer: Russian disco music.

My favorite part is 2:10 of the second video. Our own Space Shuttle, who’s first flights coincided with Regan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (STARWARS), could be used as a first strike weapon. By changing the shuttle’s re-entry trajectory, it could launch Nuclear weapons at Moscow. From time of launch of the weapons it would take roughly three minutes for the bombs to reach Moscow. This time window was too small for detection and response, meaning it could take out the capital before a second retaliatory strike would be ordered. So, there’s a good reason why the Soviets rushed the development of their own space shuttle.