Smoketown Airport Criterium 05/1/2013 - By Tim Manzella

Tim Staying Hydrated

The forecast for the Smoketown Criterium on Saturday was not looking good the whole week with scattered thunderstorms predicted for pretty much the whole day.  This has happened for this race before and it is an interesting course in the wet.  The course is located in Lancaster County at Smoketown Airport.  The course starts out on the taxiway and then goes through a small sequence to get to the runway and then continues down to the end of the runway where you make a 180 to get back on the taxiway for the home straightaway.  There is always a wind on the course (did I mention it was an airport) and the home stretch (the runway) is a slight uphill and the finish is near the end of the runway but you can see it from the turn so people on the last lap go for the corner and blow up.  Back to the weather, it appears for the earlier races that there was definitely some rain, but luckily for the P/1/2/3 race the skies were nice and clear with some sun and it wasn't until the last lap that there were some rain drops.

There were over 40 starters in a race, with Breakaway/QCW having probably a dozen guys in the race and Shirks/Round Here Racing also having around a dozen guys in the race.  A bunch of other teams were there with a couple of teammates, so it was going to be a lively race.  Steve Wentworth and Nick Roeder lined up with me for the P/1/2/3. The past couple of years has seen this race end with a breakaway going in the first couple of laps and then lapping the field towards the end.  This year the race started in a similar fashion but the breakaway was never given more than 12 seconds.  Nick was watching the front of the field the first couple of laps and mainly Ryan Dewald, who wasn't in the break of four, encase Ryan decided to bridge up. There was a lot of attacked with Nick, Steve, and I following the moves and accelerations, especially out of the 180 degree turn.  The accelerations got to Nick and he ended up having to call it a quits part way through the race.  There was a split in the field about half way through the 35 lap (35 miles, since 1 lap was about a mile) that saw about 20 people join the break.  Steve and I were on the wrong side of the split and we both put in a big pull along with some other teams to bring the field back together.  

Steve's pull took a lot out of him and he ended up losing contact with the group a couple of laps later.  Because of the constant fight against the wind and the 180 degree turn the course isn't as easy as people think it should be on paper, and only about 30 people would end up finishing the race.

With about 15 laps to go a breakaway of 4 get away, but once again they never go more than about 10 seconds on the field.  People were constantly attacking trying to get up to the break, but Breakaway/QCW was covering everything and no one was able to bridge.  The attacks kept the pace high since there was never really a slowing down which probably contributed to the break never really getting away.  I positioned myself near the middle of the group to allow myself to move up with a couple of laps left for the sprint.  Because I was the only person left, I didn't want to put in attacks and jeopardize finishing the race.  With 4 laps left in the race there was a crash right after the finish line where the taxiway narrows a little bit.  The racer didn't want to ride in the grass for a little bit and tried to force his way in the pack and end up going down with another rider.  I end up coming to a stop since it happened right in front of me and had to wait until an opening appeared between the two fallen bikes.  Luckily, since I was in the middle of the field by the time the opening happened, the field was still decently close and I was able to rejoin with the back of the group, along with another racer who got stuck behind the crash, by the time they rolled back through (free laps were no longer allowed at this point in the race).  Though I was able to rejoin the field, the chase back on took the one match I still had left in the pocket for the sprint, but I decided to still move to the front and see if I could get some PABar points.  Unfortunately, the sprint opened up from the 180 degree turn on the last lap because the break had gotten really close and there was a chance that the field would sprint past them.  I don't have a long sprint for a course like that (I need a traditional crit sprint that is setup by a corner) so I just motored it to the line hoping to catching some people that couldn't hold the sprint.  I ended up getting 26th out of over 40 starters, not a great finish and definitely room for improvement.