Tour of Elk Grove preview
Here's hoping you've been doing your VO2 intervals and your brake pads are in good shape: It's time for the big-money, big-money, no-Whammy experience that is the Tour of Elk Grove.Amateurs get two days of criteriums on a flat, five-corner course. Payout is deep, and primes have historically been generous. The first corner is a tight U-turn. Expect packs to bunch up here, especially in the lower categories. My advice is to try to stay in the middle or outside: Go inside and you’ll get pinched and have to scrub a lot of speed. If you go outside, be careful not to get run into the curb. Follow a good wheel and don’t lose your cool when someone veers into your line. The upside is that the turn is taken at a modest pace, so if there is a crash, it probably won't be catastrophic. Get up, fix your chain and go take your free lap. Whatever you do, downshift several clicks before the turn and get ready to sprint. You’ll need a massive acceleration out of this corner every time, and you don’t want to be overgeared. Stay up front as much as you safely can, for the accordion effect doesn't get much bigger than here. It's a long sprint from the last corner with a slight chicane. Keep your head up, as lines tend to wander and overeager sprinters may crack before they get to the finish. Note that the Cat 5 fields all have fewer than 10 spots remaining as of Sunday. Also, note that the race is looking for volunteers. The pro men get a stage race, starting with Friday evening's 4.5 time trial, short enough that sprinters can grab a good general classification and then move up with time bonuses over the next few days. Saturday's 96-mile road race navigates more than two dozen corners on its 9.6-mile circuit, while Sunday's climactic criterium uses the same course as the amateurs. This is a fun race to watch. I like to sit about 150 meters from the finish to get a prime view as the sprinters wind up for each prime. Among the 96 pros registered is fan-favorite Chris Horner (Radio Shack), who returns to Elk Grove just one week after placing 10th at the Tour of France. He'll be riding solo, however, facing full squads from the top NRC teams, including all four previous winners: 2006's Hilton Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), 2007's Mike Friedman (Jelly Belly), 2008's David Veilleux (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and 2009's Karl Menzies (United Healthcare).