Santa Cruz Criterium

Promoter: Velo Promo

Race Web Site: 

Course Description: After the start, the course goes slightly downhill into a ~120 degree right hairpin. It continues downhill to a left turn, then stays flat through two right turns before the final right turn heading you back uphill to the finish line.  The straight away before the final right turn up towards the finish is in a fairly narrow alley.  Also, fron the top of that final hill it is still a pretty long way to the finish into what is generally a headwind. 

Road Surface: The pavement used to be pretty rough before the earthquake, but much of the course has been since repaved and is fairly smooth.

Gearing: A 11×23 freewheel will do you just fine.

Facilities: In downtown Santa Cruz you’re close to just about anything you might need.

Weather: If it’s not raining, the weather in Santa Cruz will probably be as good or better than where ever you came from.

Feeding: N/A

Equipment advice: Velo Promo used to recommend that you not use light weight wheels due to the rough pavement.  Now, I think most riders would be happy with something like a Zipp 404.

Race Advice: There are three main obstacles on this course. The first obstacle is the hairpin turn just after the start/finish line. It is on a downhill which takes some of the sting out of sprinting out of the corner every lap. None the less you will waste a lot of precious energy if you aren’t near the front when you have to jump out of the corner each lap and catch up to the front of the pack.

The second obstacle is the back alley which leads to the finish hill. The alley is fairly narrow and it is difficult to move up before the final corner. The final corner used to be pretty rough but now it is smooth.  There is a manhole cover on the inside line though so be careful.  It is easy to avoid though so it’s not too much to worry about.

The final obstacle is the finish hill. It’s not very steep, or very long. If memory serves me, I remember using something like a 53×19, or 53×17 most of the time. It’s the kind of hill that will slowly wear on you if you’re not careful and your legs will be dead for the final sprint.

The hairpin and the final hill make this race one fabulous interval workout.  I always knew that but when I got a power meter and downloaded my data one year I was shocked.  Almost every lap out of the hairpin turn required a short 600 Watt burst and the hill to the finish was usually around 800 Watts.  Again, not too long, but that is going to take something out of you.  Especially in the 45 mile pro race.

I remember watching Chris Huber win this race back in 1986 when I had to drop out with a mechanical. While I was in the race I, like most everybody else went up the hill in the big ring. Chris got off of the front alone and instead of bashing his way up the hill, standing on a fairly big gear each lap, he smoothly spun up the hill in something like a 42×17 or 42×16. Chris would come by smoothly spinning his small gear up the hill, and about 15-20 seconds later the pack would come up bashing and heaving after him. Chris got a flat and ended up back in the pack, but he just rode away again, spinning his light gear. It was most impressive. So I guess the moral of the story is energy conservation. Though I guess it doesn’t hurt to be a world class rider either…

Lodging: There are hotels all over Santa Cruz, including at least one Motel 6.

Corrections and additions, please email me!

Kevin Metcalfe

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