Sunday’s finale of the annual USA Crits Speedweek racing series was the traditional Sandy Springs wrap-up race. The six corner course is wide and fast with lots of elevation change throughout the course. The big factor for the race was the wind — very gusty winds — helping to contribute to many crashes. Even with all the crashes and disappointing performances this year, the USA crits series is one of the highlights of my year as it is a chance to race against a lot of the non-regional pros who don’t normally venture into the South. I’ll just look towards this year as a great learning experience, great training, and motivation to train and race harder and smarter next year!
The tricky part of Sandy Springs is finding the right places to pass people using the least amount of energy. The outside line is the place to do this — but crashes all head to the outside. I was lucky to avoid all the crashes throughout the race, but on the last lap going through the start/finish line on a straight section of the course two riders collided with each other and went down hard taking a number of other riders down with them. I was right behind the wreck, skidded to nearly a stop before realizing that I could squeeze through the wreck between a rider on the ground and his bike which had flown off to the right. Unfortunately a large gap had opened up to the field and about 10 of us made it through the wreck into a small chase group with the rest of the field completely out of it because of the wreck. With only one lap to go in the race, the pace in the field of about 30 riders (keep in mind we started with 150 riders) was too fast for us to catch them but we started to pick off riders who had done their leadout and sat up. When we came to the finish, we were sprinting for 27th place and unfortunately I placed 6th in the sprint putting me 3 spots out of the money. Still, it was a great hard workout — see my heartrate data below … no annotations but I will point out the speed and hr high points just before mile 16.5 — a small group of riders had gotten away into a break without one of the major pro teams. The resulting chase was “hard” to say the least!!! We were strung out single file for two complete laps with none of the traditional bunching up in Turns 1, 2, and 5.