What a great weekend of racing put on by Tim Hall (nashvillecyclist.com) at the Tennessee Titans stadium in Nashville, TN. The races were #7 and #8 of a summer long series that continues through August. The setup is not like any other parking lot crit you may have raced in – we’re talking about the Tennessee Titans, and the parking lot is enormous and perfectly paved with the potential for many different course configurations. The event was well-staffed, well-run, and HOT! The high temps for the area were approaching 100 both days, but that didn’t stop well over 100 participants each day with about 30 racing the P/1/2/3 category each day.
This was a fun family trip for us, too, as we got to see and stay with our cousins who live south of Nashville in Franklin. Saturday started out with the 2.5 hour drive from Birmingham to Franklin. I parked, unloaded, said a quick hello to my cousins before getting dressed to ride to the start (about 25 miles away). I wanted to get some extra miles in this weekend, and I’ve never really done any long rides in Nashville, so I thought riding to and from the start of the crit would be a perfect way to do both! Here is the route I took – absolutely beautiful country roads on the way up, going through a shaded, rock-walled, tree-lined stretch of Old Natchez Trace, well-timed lights and a bike lane near Vanderbilt, and a beautiful pedestrian bridge across the Cumberland River that leads pretty much straight into the Tennessee Titans parking lot.
- Initial break, unsuccessful
- Going with the winning break
- Bridging to the back of the field when lapping
- My unsuccessful attacks to get away from the field
- Attacking and staying away to win – tied all-time max heartrate
Saturday’s race went really well for me. There were about 30 guys, 8 from nashvillecyclist, 4 from sonic, and a few from cumberland univ and a few from cumberland transit. Less than halfway through the first lap, a sonic rider attacked, and a nashville cyclist rider responded. I had an opening beside me so I attacked hard and bridged across to them bringing I think one or two other riders with me. We had a good gap and rotated well, but it was so early in the race and the pack was fresh enough to bring us back a few laps later.
Then coming through the S/F line, I saw a cumberland univ rider (Patrick Harkins) pull out to attack. I was only a couple riders behind him, so I pulled out too, jumped to his wheel right as he started his attack, and we were off. A nashville cyclist rider (Andy Reardon) and a sonic rider (Sam Miller) jumped across to us and with the strong teams represented we quickly made time on the pack. In fact, I saw that after about 10 minutes, we were already closing in on the rear of the pack. I didn’t want us to lap the field b/c that would bring Sam and Andy back up to their teammates. But even with me starting to pull slowly and for longer stretches, we still caught the field about halfway into the race.
At this point, I was in trouble b/c I didn’t know who exactly was in the break with me other than Patrick. I asked him and he pointed out the Nashville Cyclist rider (Andy) and the Sonic rider (Sam) so that I could recognize them if they attacked. But I was still feeling fresh enough that I ended up initiating all the attacks. I think it may have been my third or fourth attack that finally worked b/c two groups of two riders had rolled off the front. I was able to bridge up to Greg Miller (Knox Velo) and another rider who wasn’t able to latch on when I came flying by. But Greg did, and the two of us worked to eventually catch the other group of two that was off the front. This was shortly before the finish so that by the last couple laps I was doing all the work as those three setup for the sprint to battle it out for 5th. I dropped off the back before the sprint and rolled in to take the win ahead of Sam who was chasing solo by this point. Andy outkicked Patrick in the sprint for third.
Sunday’s race went well, too, and this time Kristine and the kids were there to watch and cheer! It was super hot again on Sunday, but we parked in the shade and there was a pretty strong breeze blowing. I warmed up on a very cool road called Davisdon St that led to a greenway along the Cumberland river (see map below) –
I was having so much fun on the greenway that I almost miscalculated how long it would take to get back to the start of the race. I had to ride pretty hard to make it back to the start in time. I only had a couple minutes to refill my bottles with gatorade, grab a couple gels, and then dash over to the start line. I was tired from Saturday, so when the race started out with a series of attacks that all came back together, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could respond to attacks. Then the officials rang the bell for the prime, and since I was already very close to the front I decided to go for it. Fortunately, I was able to wait until 250 meters to start the sprint so that after winning the prime (in a photo finish) I was just barely able to hold on to the two quick counter attacks which led to the successful break of the day.
There were five of us in the break with almost all the strong teams represented — John Hart (Friends of the Smokies), Jason Guzak (Nashville Cyclist), Edward Krei (Cumberland Transit), Patrick Harkins (Cumberland U.), and me. The five of us were drilling it hard, but not making much time on the field for the first 3 or 4 laps we were away. Sonic was at the front leading the chase, but eventually we started to pull away – at which point I was hoping that we would slow down. But we kept pressing on and ended up lapping the field by about the halfway point of the race. The field had split into two parts and we went straight through the first part and then about 10 minutes later made it to the front group. I was pretty tired so I didn’t want to try any attacks today. Fortunately, none of my break-mates attacked either before we made it to 8 laps to go. At this point, Nashville Cyclist had 3 riders at the front and set a steady tempo that kept people from attacking. I waited until halfway through the last lap, and attacked into the headwind knowing that if I could just make it to the last corner first, I could probably hold on with the tailwind sprint. And that’s how it worked out! First place!
- Covering and trying to go with lots of attacks
- Winning a prime – cool local jar of honey!
- Unsuccessful counter attack
- Counter attack that led to winning break of 5
- Lapping the back half of the field
- Nashville cyclist team at the front steady pace
- Attacking with 1/2 lap to go – staying away for win