Big race for the DC Baltimore area. Pro teams are here for the NRC points and everyone else is there for the festival and fast fast racing.
The course for Bike Jam is a big circle with only 2 real turns. The first is just after the start finish after you go around a traffic circle; you make a 90 degree right hander which is very basic since the speed is not super high. From this right hander you go into a downhill sweeping section that is likely the fastest part of the course. Pay attention here. Gaps can open up and at high speeds, closing gaps is not any easier and may actually be harder than when you are going slower. The downhill leads to a flat-ish section past the second wheel pit and leading into the second turn. This second corner has had a few configurations. The last couple of years, it consisted of a hard right followed immediately by a hard left that led to the finishing stretch. The finishing stretch is a long curve that is not flat at all so you will need to be working to get up to the start/finish area.
Get to the start early. There is limited access to the course so if you are late, you will likely end up at the back. Depending on how big your field is, this could be really bad. At the gun the field will funnel into the first traffic circle and loop around to the right. This will bunch things up going into the first turn. The riders at the front will be rolling through without braking while the back markers will be waiting their turn. After the turn is the downhill fast section. The best strategy if you are not near the front is to just pass as many people as you can. Don’t rely on someone else to keep you in the race. The sooner you can get up toward the front the better. The reason for this is simple. At the front, the riders are taking the turns without braking and then carrying their speed down the hill and onto the flat section where they can draft along without really working. If you are near the back, you are braking and re-accelerating out of the turns, pedaling to catch up on the downhill and then chasing to get back on on the flat section. This leads to the final turn. This turn was hard to take when I was driving the lead car a couple of years ago. It is fast and sharp and the field will be 2 -3 across at most so again the back will be braking while the front is accelerating.
Get in a good warm-up and be ready to go from the gun. If you are at the front, you will need to keep your race face on the whole time to defend and preserve your position. If you are further back, you will be working hard all day. Ride the course before you start your warm-up so you know what to expect, and even if you have done this race before, you want to check out any new potholes that might have sprouted.
I hate to talk about this, but it is a fact of life for the BikeJam course. Last year there were crashes in every race I think. The reason for this is usually rider error. The course is fast so that means you have to be thinking 2 – 3 seconds up the road, not 2 or 3 feet. Keep your head up and be smart. There is no reason for crazy moves or zig zagging around the road. It is better to have the stronger riders win than it is to allow a crash to determine the results. Keep in mind that you need to get up and go to work on Monday and there are very few prize lists that are worth a trip to the emergency room. Too often adrenaline and excitement will make perfectly sane people become hyper competitive for even the minor placing in a race. Keep things safe and in perspective and you will have a great day no matter what the results.