Season opener. First Cat 3 race.
This weekend's race piggy-backed on the Univ. of Maryland collegiate race weekend. A sixty minute crit over this course:
All in all a pretty hairy course. You can't tell from the map, but turn one was really awkward. The curbs didn't allow for a wide, sweeping turn. I saw one wreck in each of the three races I watched or was in. The backside of the course (the road up to the S-curve) featured a pretty descent climb. The S-curve itself allowed for no mobility at all, and it was so tight that there was an awful lot of pedal scraping. The downhill section from the S-curve to the final turn was narrow and potholed.
Temps were in the mid 40s with a pretty ferocious wind—I’m guessing around 20mph, with gusts a bit stronger. The wind was blowing in the direction of the downhill.
I was parked and warming up right next to the course, so I watched the two previous fields (Cat 5 & Cat 4) get blown apart, both by the wind and hill, into unrecognizable fragments. In the Cat 5 field they didn’t pull anybody, and I didn’t see more than three riders grouped together at any time. The Cat 4 field did better for a while, but there were a lot of stragglers. The referee started pulling people and midway through less than half the starters remained. In the end the main pack was whittled down to probably less than 10 riders.
Our field started off with a crash in the first corner. I was right behind the wreck, but was fortunately able to clip out and keep from falling when someone slammed into my leg from behind. It took a couple of seconds to get around the carnage, then it was chase, chase, chase right from the get-go.
So the first three laps were spent chasing. Luckily the field was already getting pretty strung out so I could hop from wheel to wheel until I was back towards the main clump of riders in the front. I’m pretty sure we were shelling riders right from the beginning (there were 59 starters).
After a few laps at the back of the pack, having to sprint my guts out after some of the tight corners, I decided I had to move up or I was going to get all worn out just hanging on. Luckily things were starting to calm down a bit by this point, so on the hill I just swung out to the side and moved right on up to the front. I spent the next five laps or so amongst the top five riders or so, and it was SO much easier. I think the pace dipped a bit, but also not having to sprint out of all the corners was saving a lot of energy.
The attacks were coming pretty fast and furious on the backside hill. Sometimes one or two riders would get away, but they’d always get swallowed back in within a couple of laps. I attacked a few times too…hoping to get a group of five or six off the front with which to work. It was hard to see what was happening behind me, but I think we succeeded a few times, though eventually things would come back together. Through all this, though, I stayed right there amongst the race protagonists.
There were three primes. I pulled off the second. On the prime lap I attacked on the backside, let a guy pass me at the top of the hill, then just stayed on his wheel through the sketchy S-turn and down the hill. He sprinted out of the final turn and it was a simple matter to merely slip past him a few yards before the line. The prize? A little saddle bag:
On the second to last lap I attacked again on the hill hoping one or two guys would come with and we could put some distance on the rest of the group before the finish. Even though I led everyone up and over the hill at a pretty blistering pace, most were able to keep up and when the attacks came on the last lap I didn’t have quite enough to hold my position. I finished 10th.