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


TOAD Wrap Up

Yup it’s over, the first inaugural Tour of America’s Dairlyand is officially done. Of course, our TOAD was finished at 8:30 on Wednesday night at the end of the Fond du Lac Criterium, where we took three of the top 15 places in the race with Dan nabbing a podium of 2nd behind Frank Travesio in a two man breakaway. The race was another hot day with a relatively small field. Both of these factors lead to some pretty major pack splits in the second half of the race, I ended up on the wrong side of these from a bum knee (who knew racing on injuries leads to not getting better?) and a set of really tired legs. Anyway it was a really great result for the Panthers, as most people call our team these days, and really pulled the week of racing into the good results category after a bunch of mediocre results.

Tour de Grandview and Hyde Park Blast were also this weekend which I sat out, much to my own disappointment. Instead I helped out at my brother’s graduation party getting things ready and such. It was a lot of fun and gave me a chance to take a needed break from the bike. My own plan is to recover a bit and take the next 4th of July weekend off for some good training, that and I’m trying to save up all my traveling energy so that I’m fresh for Superweek, which is a pretty big set of races out in the Milwaukee area that I’d like to preform well in. I definitely have much more fond memories now of last year’s Superweek than I did last year. Time heals all wounds, and I’m once again ready to do 100 kilometers circling parking lots in different suburbs of Milwaukee. I’m really using this to gauge my progress this year, as this is the first year I will have been racing in the same races at the same category as I did the year before. Hopefully I pull out something better than a solitary top 20 finish. We will see, in the meantime, enjoy this extremely cheesy Superweek promotional video.

TOAD pt. 2

Yesterday was the rest day in the Tour of America’s Dairlyand. So, as most P-R-O’s would rest there legs and be boring, we drank beer. After an early morning recovery ride to the beach of lake Michigan, we decided to tour a brewery, paying homage to the great Wisconsin tradition of drinking.

The original plan was to tour the Miller factory, but after some debate and fact finding we discovered that the Miller tour was not quite as cool as it used to be, mainly because they have out less free beer. Instead we decided to follow a recommendation of one of our host families and tour the Lakefront Brewery. This turned out to be a great tour, and the best $6 I’ve ever spent. For my $6 I received the tour, a nice Lakefront Brewery Pint Glass, and Unlimited sampling of the beers offered from the brewery. Not only was our tour guide awesome, and really happy if you know what I mean, but he also knew the drink was the main reason we were all on the tour and encouraged us to sample the many brews.

Unfortunately we did have to get back to the racing action. Tuesday was the Fond du Lac Road Race. The course was fairly easy, but because of the heat, which was around 100 degrees during race time, and lack of shade, the race played out more like an extremely mountainous stage. We got Greg into an early move of eight, which was the game plan. However by the halfway point of the race any game plan went out the window. People were dropping out of the race like it was the cool thing to do. I got into, and was really struggling to stay in, a move with series leader Frank Pipp and Adam Bergman which stayed away for half a lap, but those guys were too marked and the field caught us after the feed zone. The next lap we passed Greg who had blew sky high from the breakaway. I was starting to get chills and blurry vision, so I decided to drop out, but before I got to the feed zone I tried to drill it for about a mile so Dan could get across to the leaders, I ended up dropping most the field except for a few including Dan, the blew up myself, my heart rate not leaving the 210’s. I finished the race early and sat in the shade delirious for about 10 minutes before I could muster up enough strength to get up and get changed.
Today’s our last day at TOAD so hopefully we can finally crack the top five, which has seemed to elude us the entire series. After that it’s back to Purdue, the back home to Michigan for my brother’s graduation party, then maybe Grandview?
Anyway here are some pictures I’ve snapped, and am finally able to upload now that we have the Internet figured out here at the host housing. Most of the pictures are from Thrusday’s Road Race that I sat out for the most part.
This is the Leaders coming up the big climb with two laps to go.
Dan also dropped out but was sure to recover right while returning his neutral wheel.

Greg with 300 meters to go.
For whatever weird reason the town was really into Trolls.
Derek giving Greg some motivation on the final climb to the finish, the grade here is over 12%.

The results of my crash.

Finally some pics of our recovery days in downtown Milwaukee.