3 races 2 days 1 upgrade

That about sums my weekend up. This post is going to be long, so grab a beverage and relax.

Race 1 - Criterium

Saturday morning started out with a 35 minute flat criterium. This would be my first crit since August and was shocking. The few road races and most of the riding I had done thus far had completely not prepared me for a criterium.

It was hard and fast and by the halfway point the field had been whittled down from roughly 35 starters to a group of fifteen. Other attacks went out of this group but with 15 minutes to go it was pretty clear that this was going to be the group for the finale.

Of note, the final corner into the finishing 'straight' (which was actually a gentle S curve), was tight, off camber and roughly 100m from the line. So hitting that corner in first or second was going to be critical.

With 5 laps to go, another hard acceleration shed the last couple of riders who were hanging on. With 4 laps to go, the pace slowed down a bit and I could recover. Since I had no desire to jockey with the field on that last corner, my plan was an 800m or so attack, right after corner 2, which was the first of 3 on the circuit that required some speed control.

Last lap, I was feeling pretty good and when the pace inevitably slowed around the start/finish, I accelerated to put myself in the top 5 for corner #2. A car on the course which I hadn't seen due to my tailgunning position slowed the field further and I shot to nearly the front. Kind of unsporting, but I had committed before I saw the car, so whatever.

I came around the corner in about 4th position and when the three in front of me eased after the usual acceleration out of the corner I accelerated hard while staying seated. Quick look back several seconds later to see if there was an immediate reaction. Nope.

Coasted the next corner to get a few seconds of breather and sprinted hard again out of it. Ditto coming into the final straight. I heard yelling behind me as I rounded that last corner so I assumed the field was close. I stood and sprinted and no one came around me. 1 minute attack FTW.

Race 2 - Time Trial

Uneventful. 7th overall. Of note, the official results had everyone down as 1 minute faster than they actually were. Not sure what happened there, but from the dozen or so that I sampled it was consistent so if the timing is wrong for everyone by the same amount? Meh.

Race 3 - Murchie Road Race

64km, the furthest race for us 'C' guys so far. Somewhere between 40 and 50 starters, with at least a couple of dozen who were not a part of the stage race. They would be a bit fresher and thus had implications for the GC, which I was now 2nd in. 1st in the GC was right behind me in the crit and over a minute up on me in the TT where he took second.

The race started out fairly sedate with the first lap being fairly uneventful. By the second lap, attacks were going fairly consistently with solo flyers and groups of two getting decent gaps from time to time. I participated in one, but with 50+km to go, it was too far for a two man break as far as I was concerned.

The field wasn't reacting to these breaks as there were still several strong guys in the field so tiny groups weren't worrisome.

Then, just before the halfway point it changed. Two guys, one of whom I knew to be strong, had a relatively serious gap. Then, three guys, including two from the same team* flew past the front of the field where I had been monitoring the situation. Two of the three I knew to be strong.

That meant potentially 5 guys off the front where three were capable of going the distance. Crap. I need to be in that break.

I jumped hard and 30 seconds later was at least holding steady with the group ahead and took a peak back to survey the damage. Moderate gap to the field and #1 on GC right behind me. Crap. Decision time here, I could sit up and attempt to drop the GC leader at some later point or I could work to try to get into the break and pretty much settle for 2nd. I took the latter option.

The bridge was hard and took us several minutes as the other 3 were also bridging and working on establishing the gap at that point. We did eventually hook up and at that point, seven of us were off the front. We would not see the main field again.

With two laps to go, I was pretty cooked. With a lap to go, I knew the next acceleration would be throwing me off the back. With a half lap to go, the acceleration came and I was the first to pop from the break. I probably could have hung on for another km or so, but there was no way I would go to the finish with the break. That said, our gap over the field was somewhere between two and three minutes so I figured I could limp in without falling through the field.

I did, 7th on the day and 2nd in the GC. That's it for cat 4 for me, I've got the required upgrade points.

The wins and high placings were great, but what I think I'm most happy with is my reading of races this year. I correctly predicted good places to attack and recognized a winning break when it went up the road and buried myself to get into it. That's experience I suppose, but it's nice confirmation that I've got a solid base on the smarts of bike racing.

*Two from Escape Velocity, of note, NOT the guy in 3rd on the GC. This effectively meant that two teammates of a potential podium on the GC just guaranteed his top position would be 3rd. Not smart racing on their part. Bluntly, if they had worked with him to shatter the field, I probably would have been off the back.