By Luke Ramseth
About 20 SDBC/Emerald Textiles teammates rode out to Poway for a quick cornering skills tune-up and practice criterium last Saturday.
It was a reminder of where we all stand as the first big weekend of racing closes in. Feb. 1 is the Boulevard Road Race, and the Red Trolley Criterium the next day. Both are in San Diego County.
We first went over several cornering basics. Here were the main points:
Positioning -- Be in the drops, and be relaxed. You’ll go faster in the drops through a turn (more aerodynamic), and you’ll also have more control, in case something goes awry. It’s stable. Ideally, the inside arm should be straighter -- more weighted -- and the outside arm should be bent. But sometimes, they might both be bent. Get low.
Your inside leg should be at the top of the pedal stroke, so as to avoid clipping a pedal (though often, you can pedal right on through). Your outside leg should be straight, and weighted.
Keep your head and eyes pointed well ahead. Don’t get too caught up with what is happening immediately around you.
Using the full road and hitting the apex -- Use as much road as possible when hitting a turn. Pick a line, and stick to it. For a right hander, enter from the far left of the road, as far as you can go.
Think of yourself as a slingshot as you head toward the apex (the tightest part of the turn) and exit out the other side, again, if possible, ending up on the far left of the road. If you don't lose any ground on the person directly in front of you, then you’re cornering quite well.
Braking -- It’s simple: Brake before you enter the turn, not in it (if you need to brake at all -- oftentimes it’s only a slight tap).
Braking beforehand allows you to carry more speed through the other side, and it’ll also prevent you from accidentally locking up your wheel in the middle of the turn and sliding, especially if there’s any loose dirt or gravel in there.
Random tidbits -- When you’re in a race, corners can be bottlenecks ripe for crashes. You’ll avoid more of the carnage if you ride on the far inside, as people will slide out in the opposite direction.
To pick up spots, however, you’re better served riding in the middle or outside when there’s a few people going through the turn at once. The inside can often clog up, despite being the shortest route.
After the cornering talk, we headed to the mostly closed-off criterium course, with three different types of corners to practice on.
Some of the team stood out in their sharp new SDBC/Emerald Textiles kits, delivered last week. Others had worn the old black and red, and some were dressed in a random assortment of other jerseys. The haphazard mix was ideal for a practice crit, as we broke up into three teams and took to the half-mile course near Scripps Poway Parkway.
There were several strong attacks, and even a few promising breaks. The pace was mostly high, and despite looking like it might splinter into a bunch of smaller groups early, everyone pulled together for a bunch gallop, Cat. 2s through Cat. 5s.
It was a good early indicator of where we all stand -- some have been putting in loads of base miles, others still have some work to do. Some are smooth bike racing veterans, others are looking at their first race in a few weeks.
We’ll come together again at training camp, slated for this weekend in Borrego Springs. Big rides, meals and meetings await.
After that, it’s off to the races.