Off the back

Last week was a two race week for me. My first Richmond criterium of the year and the Campbell Heights Road Race. The title of this article may be a spoiler.

Coastal Thursday Nighter - May 13

Fifteen or so starters. I arrived at 6:15 due to the website claiming a 7:00 start time for the C racers. That was incorrect, nothing like lining up to a < 30 minute criterium with no warmup. Supposedly I wasn't the only one who got mixed up and the field was a touch smaller than it should have been.

So we'll assume 15 starters. Fourteen different jerseys in the race, the only two guys who appeared to be on the same team were both in white jerseys, we will call them White1 and White2. No one else really mattered in this race.

We take off, my plan at this point is to spend the first several laps warming up, then see how it goes. Specifically, I intend on sticking with the lead group the entire race if possible and then attacking with about 1km to go and seeing if I can hold it. Two or so laps into the race, White1 takes off on a solo adventure. White2 works his way to the front and rides at a comfortable tempo. Twoish laps later, White1 takes the first preme of the race. White2 is still pulling and since he's actually going at a decent clip, no one really steps in to help out. Another lap or so later and the guy out by himself sits and up and chills at the back of the pack for a while. White2 is still pulling.

Six laps to go and the bell rings for the second preme of the race. Coming onto the the front stretch, the pace gets high and the two white jersey guys are right at the front, drilling it. The leadout pulls off and I'm pretty sure his teammate snags the second preme. I accelerate fairly hard to stay in the slipstream and am sitting in about fifth place. Tactical thoughts at this point are: White1 spent time off the front and mixed it up in the sprint. White2 pulled a long way and also mixed it up. I bet they are kind of cooked and no one else is doing much.

Screw it.

Out of corner two with just under 5 laps to go, I slide out of the line to the right and start accelerating. When I pass #2 in line, someone yells something about someone going and I stand and sprint hard. I jump somewhere a bit above 50km/h and then sit and ride hard. By the 4 to go board, I've got 10 seconds on the group. At 3.5 to go, I make the conscious decision to try to stick it out and get into my survival pace.

I get a maximum of about 15 seconds, 10 of which is eaten up on the penultimate lap and am caught with about 300m to go. Straight back through the field and off the back.

According to the computer, the first 1:40 of the attack was at an average speed of 45km/h and the entire 10 minute duration of the thing was about 39km/h, which is pretty damned good for me. Definitely wouldn't have stood up to a larger field, but with the small field it almost worked.

One thing I noticed though: Pretty much everyone hangs out at the start/finish line. The first time across alone, there was a bit of clapping. Second lap, a bit more. by the third lap that I was out in front, it seemed that there were a lot of people getting pretty vocal, which was awesome. Sort of a, "Huh, he's not giving up, I didn't expect that."

Campbell Heights Classic

A fun course. Two short climbs, one really steep and the other merely steep. Most of the rest is flat to gently downhill. This was also my first 'real' cat 4 race with, according to the results, 28 starters. For me, this race comes down to 16 climbs and how many of them I can get over while remaining attached to the front group. The number was 10. On the sixth climb up 184th Street, I blew up and probably dropped 30 seconds during that 300 metre stretch alone. I kept going and was swept up by the grupetto and finished the race with them.

Plus sides: When I did get shelled, the lead group only had 13 guys left in it, including me. So I did hang in longer than more than half the field, which is a decent sign I suppose.

Also of note, this race did include the longest sustained, "Holy Crap we're going fast" of any race I've been in thus far. After climb 1 of lap 4, we went to ludicrous speed for the better part of a lap. This reduced the field down to the mentioned 13 from whatever it was previously. In the cat 5 races I had done, this kind of acceleration happened, but it would last for a minute or two, not several. This lead to possibly the most pain I have ever felt on a bike.

Well, that or the crit, that didn't feel overly good either, but it mentally feels better if you're off the front as opposed to clinging on for dear life.

So that's three races in a row where I finished off the back for whatever reason. Not for lack of trying though.