Criteriums are scary
. A bunch of guys flying around tight turns at high speeds all within inches of each other is not my idea of fun. It is however, exciting. Nothing gets my heart rate up like the nerve racking nature of a crit. Despite all of that though, I thought it was time to do another one. It also happened to be my road teams home race so... I had a few motivations.
Given my focus on long steady mtb races this year, doing a 15 mile crit isn't exactly what I've trained for. There are times when I race for the sake of it. I don't intend to win, I don't race vigorously, I just go out and race for the sheer excitement of doing it. That was what I did.
The race was yesterday, a Sunday. To make things more fun, I had planned to do an annual spring mountain ride with buddies on Thursday. Simple math shows 2 days of down time between the two rides. Plenty of time to recover for a race, right? Not even slightly. The spring ride is one of my favorites of the year. Its hard, and we go fast... all day. A little over 5 hours in the saddle, 10,000 feet of climbing and lots of zone 5 efforts. Not exactly a ride I quickly recover from. But honestly, its way more fun than any race I do all year; so it takes priority.
In summary: I knew the crit would be hard and scary. I was left with only one solution. Go off the front.
Patience, is a virtue. In bike racing, patience is practically the only thing that matters. Even though I know this, I have not mastered it, and so I often make tactical errors.
I did a lap to warm up before my race immediately after the previous race ended. I was about 300m from the start line of the 1 mile lap when I heard the whistle sound for my races start. I watched the riders take off and immediately was chasing. 1 hard effort and I was on the back of the group. We paraded around the course that only had 1 tight 120 degree turn (of which I never seemed to be able to ride well).
On the second lap before the tight turn, I took off the front. The pace had slowed and I wanted to see if the group was at ease with a solo rider break. They were not. A half mile later I was caught.
Two laps later I felt good again so I took off at the start line which has a bit of an uphill pitch. This time I absolutely floored it. Up over the top I went but as soon as the road turned down, I was reeled in. Someone was VERY committed to me not getting away!
I sat in the pack and did as little as possible trying to get some snap back into my legs. At this point I was losing track of the laps and had no idea where we were in the race. Surfing around in the mid/back of the pack is nice to save energy, but it doesn't exactly give you a clear view of what is happening in the race. With 5 laps to go two guys jumped off the front, and I didn't even notice until they had about 7 seconds.
The group wasn't pushing it to catch them, as I assume they were tiring, so I launched off the front to go join the party! Bridging up was hard, but I finally got there and our gap grew. After two laps the bunch got antsy and began pulling us back. I was starting to feel the lack of preparation for the race and turned to see a strung out group on my wheel. The second I eased up, one of my breakaway companions hit it hard up the slight rise to the finish. And he was gone.
That turned out to be the winning move of the day, to which I say, chapeau Anthony (of BBC)! Perfectly timed. The field was tired from chasing and with 2 laps left, he only needed a handful of seconds to make it stick. I hung around the middle of the field and pushed the sprint a bit but was no where near the podium.
All in all, I got what I came for: fun, excitement, and some short, sweet road racing!
Looking forward to something a bit more my speed next weekend with a 55 mile road race in the mountains. Should be a blast!