Also known as the THUNDERBAR Criterium Championships and Fresca National Cycling Championships, featuring the Evian Hairpin Turn and the Pocket Rocket King of the Mountain award.
I arrived late Friday afternoon at the lovely Renton Municipal Airport, and was duly picked up by Tom and his roomie Brad. We motored up the shore of Lake Washington a bit, to the crit course in Seward Park. That would be the Thunderbar Crit Championship Course. Luckily we got there with enough time left in the women's race to walk the course (about 3/4 mi) and pick an nice spot from which to watch the uphill finish. Our nice spot turned into a very poor spot indeed when on the bell lap the hairpin was closed (to direct the field across the finish line) by a line of flags held by a mob of random people who used to have poor vantage points but now took this opportunity to stand directly in front of us. Buttheads. So our view was of about the last 10 feet before the line, and we saw the women flash by as they finished. Rebecca Twigg had pulled for the next-to-last couple of laps after sitting at the back for the majority of the race, but she was OTB when it came time to sprint up the hill one more time. Tom saw a pro woman he did a race with once in Alabama, but I'll let him tell that story.
Not until after he gets around to writing about the Burley farm-toys experience, though. So there.
Then we wandered around to the other side of the announcer's trailer and watched the men stage. Before the women were quite finished being awarded, which got those boys yelled at a bit. Derek Bouchard-Hall (Manny's Shaklee buddy) was introduced to the crowd, along with about ten other guys the announcer happened to be prepared to introduce on short notice; then they were off to the races. And I promptly lost a paper-scissors-rock to get the nerf football from the car, so I missed the first several laps. But when I returned, the pack was starting to string out a bit. We took up a position at the bottom of the first decline, and proceeded to fling the nerf about with abandon while pointing and yelling to Derek whenever he went by. He was usually towards the front, so that was nice. Midway through the race, a break of four was let go and built up a 30-second lead before the pack decided to catch them, and did so by the last few laps. At which time it also started raining a bit and got decidedly chilly. We had meandered up the the finish in good time to grab the flag line and go stand in front of people, but again chose poorly in that we went to the finish end of the flags, while many people went to the middle and pushed outward. Resulting in us again seeing about the last ten feet before the line. But the pack was pretty strung out, so the finish wasn't that much to see. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway. Derek finished somewhere in the top half, I think. I was busy shivering in my tank top.
Saturday was gainfully spent manufacturing a CD rack and bunches of sawdust from a few perfectly good boards, using Tom's massive new tool. A Shopsmith combination table saw, lathe, drill press, router, post-hole digger, bread kneader, winch, wheel-builder, and pickle slicer. So we are the masters of dado-tzu, and Tom still has 24 6"x6" shelves to stick in the rack.
Sunday we went over to the road course, again near Lake Washington, and watched a few women struggle up the hill towards the Sound. The course starts in downtown and climbs over to the lake, then turns around and goes back to downtown, turns around again, etc. The men did it twelve times, for 108 miles. We ended up walking pretty much the entire course, probably more than nine miles even. Anyway, after the women went up the hill the last time we headed over to watch the men start, and got to the middle of the first major hill in time to see the pack of over 120 round a corner and come charging up. Then we leisurely strolled to near the bottom, and waited for them to come bombing back down the hill and scream around a hairpin about 20 minutes later. Then after the downtown loop they went by up the hill again, starting to string out in a big way. We saw Derek a few times, pointing and yelling as usual, and then began to walk back up the hill.
I was talking with Tom about my bike-purchase angst - as in "I'm going to have to get a Klein if Colorado Cyclist doesn't send me a catalog pretty quick" - and Tom was saying that Kleins were for posers, when lo and behold, we overheard a snippet of conversation from two guys on pink Klein road bikes. Poser #1: "You know, I ride an awful lot." Poser #2: "Blah blah blah." It was difficult to constrain our laughter until they were out of earshot. (Since they were going so _slow_. Bwah hah hah)
It was a good couple of days for bike watching, and people watching too. There were the Shaklee team on their nice Tommasinis (Manny, did you get one of those?), LA Sheriff's on Kleins (so does that make them posers?), and a bunch of OCLV Treks (Saturn, for one). Are they only riding those Treks because they are free?
And there was another pretty funny guy I'll note. He was near the bottom of the big hill, wearing nothing but biking shorts, in his mid-forties, very hairy. With a large beer gut. Smoking. That was a good one. Wonder if he has a Klein?
So while variously amusing ourselves (and me getting a nice crispy tank top tan which at least obliterated my farmer/jersey tan) we made our way back over the hill towards the lake, pausing at a ninety degree turn at the bottom of a slope and hiding behind a stop sign post (which had a two-inch foam sheet over it for safety) as a few racers came through. And about as many shiny new offical Saabs and BMW motorcycles, and the police motorcycles forming the rolling enclosure scraping their footrests just for show. After that ninety, the course went further downhill on a shady twisty road that I would have liked to see the full pack navigate; as it was, an occasional lone OTB buy would zip by to the accomaniment of many "Rider Up!" shouts and arm-waving by the official volunteers. One corner warden (at the next turn after the ninety) was very good at directing people to turn. She was standing in front of a Dead End sign, directing like mad. Police motorcycles go through - turn here, turn here! Official Saabs come wringing around the corner - turn here, turn here! Bikers and official BMW motorcycles - turn here, turn here!
Then we were back on the shore of Lake Washington, and noticed that the pack had gotten really small. After pausing for a couple laps at the home of the guy who works across the hall from Tom, we went back towards downtown and the finish. Driving this time, thankfully. There we walked the small portion of the course we hadn't yet covered (okay, only one side of the downtown loop, but the other side was like a block over) and watched the finishers come in. All fifteen of them, so the officials must have been pulling dropped riders like mad. Derek did finish on the lead lap sort of, though in a chase pack that was "allowed" to finish a lap early, half a lap behind the leaders, because the race was already running late. He wasn't pulled, anyway. Then about four guys (the lead "pack") did a little shake-and-bake just for show in the sprint. Another really exciting finish. Heck, I could have outsprinted those guys. If I were motorpaced past them about 100 yards out, they had just ridden 108 hilly miles and I hadn't. Maybe.
Then we didn't stay for the award ceremony. Oh, what a bummer. But I had to get to the airport, where we arrived only 20 minutes late; pretty good considering the race had run 50 minutes longer than advertised. As a pretty good ending to a great day, Dad and I were able to see Mounts Adams, Rainier, Baker, and Hood all lined up from about 10,000 feet, and St. Helens a little later. Pretty good visibility; it's not every day in the Rainy Pacific Northwest that you can see basically from Canada to Oregon.
Well, I probably should get to work now.