Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Storming Hyattsville: Route One Rampage Criterium 3/12/2016

by Matt Ampleman, with pictures by the team

The Bulldogs stormed through Maryland this weekend, landing multiple podium appearances for the team’s first criterium of the year. Despite its pleasant, arboreal residential setting, the “Route One Rampage” in Hyattsville, Maryland was not your granddad’s criterium. With a half-mile-long 80-foot hill, the course featured just enough climbing to make breakaways possible.

The Yale team used this pack-splitting ascent to its full potential. Michael Grome harnessed it to ride ahead for a premium lap win in the A race, and Michael Landry and Michael Moore-Jones attacked it to garner 1st place finishes in their C and D races, respectively. Biting at the heels of “the Michaels” were Andy Barentine, who finished 4th in the D race, and Matt Ampleman, who finished 12th in the C race.

Michael Grome pulled double duty, finishing in the pack of two high-speed races: the Pro/1/2/3 and Category A criteria. These 60-minute races clocked in at 24.7 and 24.9 mph: not too shabby for a relatively hilly crit. Seeking to gain early-season race experience, Matt Ampleman also got an early 4/5 race in before the collegiate field started.

Captain Mike Grome mixing it up in the Pro/1/2/3 field
These multiple looks at the course made it clear to Yale riders that the hill would dictate the victors and victims of each race. After climbing for half of this 4-turn course, racers stood up for a (purportedly) 14% grade at the top of the hill. The following downhill section and high-speed turn in the 4th corner made sure that any lead gained at the hill crest could be kept: riders merged single file, leaned-in for the turn, and then sprinted out on to the flat, stringing out the pack each time.

Coming back to the first turn, racers began the long ascent again, reshuffled, and with the tail end of the pack struggling to stay in the draft of more aggressive racers. “Stay on his wheel!” Michael Grome could be heard yelling near the alleyway to the famed Hyattsville Vigilante coffee.

Of course, uphill surges cannot be repeated indefinitely. The race director’s choice to throw in “premium” sprint laps meant that racers would have to forfeit some challenges and surge ahead for others. Michael Moore-Jones opted to forfeit a prime with two laps to go, a move that allowed him to power through for a win in his first race this season.

Teamwork and patience also paid dividends. Andy Barentine and Michael Moore-Jones worked efficiently throughout the weekend, teaming up with Johns Hopkins and Shippensburg riders to press the field in both races. Matt Ampleman and Michael Landry also worked together early in their race, nudging the C field to track down a breakaway and stay within striking range of other attacking riders. “Yale is getting this group organized!” the announcers exclaimed. 

Matt Ampleman looking tough

In the end, it was patience and power that won the race, as Michael Landry held back until less than 2 laps to go when he made his move, attacking the hill, bridging the gap to the first-place rider, and then surging ahead on the final climb to win.

Michael Landry hoping that guy from Liberty doesn't clip his pedal
Likewise, Michael Grome’s power led him to a few breakaways in his A race. They didn’t stick, but the race was still “super fun,” and the day was all-around very competitive including attacks by pro riders.

Fun was also had – as with all races – in idiosyncratic and gastronomic endeavors. One collegiate team raided the nearby yard sale of Hawaiian shirts and used the warm-up area as if a model shoot for retired high school science teachers. Uber-friendly neighborhood children sold lemonade and taunted riders with unrealistic promises that they “could still catch up and win!” Granted, such words were true for the Yale team: with two first places, cactus tacos, milkshakes, board games, skipper hats, premium wins, first crits, and a general domination of the Atlantic Conference riders, Yale can say with confidence that it won the weekend.

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