Went to watch Nik in his final road race with the Cal Poly team.
Since he'll graduate in the Fall, he'll be able to race the Fall Mountain Bike season but
won't be around for next year's Spring RoadRace season.
This one was a criterium--a fast, multi-lap race around a short, flat course on paved city streets. Although hosted by Stanford University, the course was a five-cornered, half-mile loop
in Morgan Hill, adjacent to the headquarters of Specialized Bicycle Components
(who just happen to be one of the most popular makers of racing bicycles in the world).
Nik, in Cal Poly green, racing in the Stanford Criterium, the final race of the RoadRace season.
Racing in the Men's B Division, Nik's plan was to bide his time near the back of the peloton
for most of the 40-minute high-speed race, then make a strong push in the final laps.
Everything was going according to plan, and with about 5 minutes (4 laps) remaining he began his move, blowing by half the pack in one lap, another quarter of the group in the next lap,
and on the second-to-last lap was moving into position for a last-lap sprint and top-5 finish.
Then another rider suddenly swung wide-right and clipped Nik's wheel, breaking spokes and knocking him out of the race!
Having watched a handful of these "crits", it's striking how different they are from a regular road race.
They're very fast, the course is short, with tight corners and without any long straightaways.
It's more difficult to break away from the peloton, so the racing is wheel-to-wheel at high speed--unlike longer road races where the field can get stretched out a bit.
In such tight quarters you also need a bit of luck because you can't forsee catastrophes from sudden crashes or bike malfunctions in front of you.
One rider going down can take out a dozen riders behind him.
Despite the disappointment of being knocked out of the race so near the end, Nik's race was nevertheless an exciting race to watch. Unlike the poorly organized Berkeley crit a month earlier . . .
The crit hosted by Cal-Berkeley was full of tire-eating potholes and rough pavement, and race organizers didn't even bother to keep boneheaded pedestrians from walking through the middle of the course!
You'd think an institution of Cal-Berkeley's stature would attract a more intelligent subset of the human species, but you'd never know it from the constant stream of clueless students
wandering into the street in front of cyclists bearing down on them at high speed.
With their heads buried in their cell phones, most of these idiots never even realized they
had just crawled under a barricade or squeezed between pylons--without knowing it!
Pedestrians paying attention were skirting the barricades and staying on the sidewalk.
While there appeared to be race marshals stationed around the course, they weren't making any
attempt to keep pedestrians off the course.
Not surprisingly, there were numerous pileups and crashes during the day.
It became a matter of just trying to survive the race instead of trying to win it.
Fortunately, today's race and the other races this season were better organized.