Sunday, August 9, 2009

2009 Attleboro Criterium Cat. 4

This was my first crit since doing the Harpoon B2B and my first race since upgrading to Cat. 4. Definitely an adjustment!

The course started with a short incline—not a bona fide hill but pretty notable for a crit. At the top there was a sharp turn (turn 2) which put us onto a pretty flat backstretch. There was a nasty right-handed crosswind up there, making it very difficult to hold position if you happened to be riding on the right side of the peloton. Another sharp turn (3) put us directly into a stiff headwind through a gradual descent. Then, there were two sweeping turns at the bottom of the slope which put us onto the final straightaway. There was some tree cover down there which blocked the wind. The course was 7/10 mile and we were racing 30 laps.

We started at what felt to me like a blistering pace and basically I began fading right away. I was mostly taking an inside line up the incline and through turn 2. I was gaining some ground this way, but I was getting hammered by the crosswind on the backstretch. I was losing all the ground I gained going up that small hill and by the time I got to the sharp right at turn 3, I was so far back in the pack I was getting completely whipsawed.

After turn 3 the peloton was stringing out on the descent, providing little shelter from the headwind. After a few laps of this, I looked back (ok I know you're not supposed to look back in a race) and realized I was the last rider in the peloton. First I thought it was a mistake but alas, it was no mistake. I was last, hanging off the back by a thread for about the next twelve laps. There were a few times when gaps opened ahead of me and I was really dangling. I closed those gaps but I didn’t think I was going to be able to hang on much longer.

Then, at about the halfway point I suddenly started feeling much better--the feeling of actually being warmed up and ready to race. I should have known when I saw the whole Cambridge Bike team riding trainers before the race that riding up and down the street a few times wasn't going to cut it. Next time before getting myself into a crit I vowed to make sure I dusted off the old Kreitler rollers. Dumb mistake, and I paid for it.

Once I was warmed up I began filling some gaps and positioning myself better for the windy areas of the course. Having spent so much time at the rear I had no idea what was going on in the race. For all I knew the pack was about to get lapped by a breakaway. I was just happy to no longer feel like I was on the verge of coughing up a lung.

The bell rang for the final lap and my positioning for a field sprint was actually not too shabby. I was in the front third and I gained some ground up the incline. I knew I could pick up more ground through the last two sweeping turns before the final straightaway. At the top of the incline I rounded turn 2 and was planning to tuck myself in nicely on the backstretch, saving myself for those turns and then the sprint. After entering the backstretch, one guy just ahead of me caught a pedal on the pavement and went down. The guys who were ahead of the crash hit the gas and were gone. I was behind it and got a bit interrupted. Those of us who got through without too much trouble charged down the backstretch, rounded the final turn and churned over the line with everybody pretty much holding their position. I had no idea how I finished, and since I had to get home for dinner I could not wait for my result. Later I learned I was 16th. Same as in the 2008 Norwell Circuit Race.

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