Saturday, May 26, 2012

Racing Snake Alley

Looking at all the pictures and listening to all the lore, Snake Alley's focus is on the fabled climb of the crookedest street. The climb certainly doesn't disappoint and watching racers through the day it certainly is a difference maker.

We saw more than one instance of racers getting cut off in corners, falling over and being forced to walk the uphill cobbles in road cleats. There were several instances of racers being weighted too far onto their front wheel, slipping the rear tire, losing all momentum and pretending to have Turrets Syndrome for a few moments. All caught by someone on camera to live in infamy on the internets over the next few days. If you kept track of riders you could also track guys that nailed the start, were first up the hill, and then got lapped about 4 laps later.

One of the unseen parts of the race, everyone is up on the hill to watch, is the cyclocross start. The first time through Snake Alley is less than 1/10th of a mile from the start with a 90 degree corner along the way. In crits you always want to be toward the front, but in this crit you HAVE to be up front immediately.

Having just completed Ault Park this past week you get a false sensation of what starts are like - no one seems to ever be in a hurry to get moving right away. At Snake Alley guys are sprinting off the line to get to the hill in the front ten as if they were OJ Simpson trying to get through an airport.

The climb is the evident focus of the crit, but as they say what goes up must come down. If you step back and think through the logic and do some calculations you realize half the course is about having the kajones to descend through four corners of a crit at break neck speed.

After climbing up a 21% grade, bringing your heart to near explosion, you have to take a right turn, stare down an 8%-10% grade, turn right, descend more, turn left, descend more, turn right, carry all your speed and turn right again. Doing this alone might be fun and interesting. You could Strava your downhill speed and brag to your neighbor. But here you have to do it with all your freshly minted racing friends, whom you have never raced with, surrounding you.

The climb at Snake Alley gets all the attention, but the descent is underrated.

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