I haven’t been blogging… I know. I’ve been busy riding and racing my bike.
So, I wrote a thing about it. Here it is.
HOLY SMOKES. CRITERIUM RACING IS FUN.
But, before we get into all that…
So, I hadn’t planned on jumping into criterium racing so early in my “cycling career”… I’ve heard and seen lots of dramatic events unfold during the crit races I’ve spectated that usually result in the gnashing and grinding and scraping and slashing of carbon fiber, titanium and fine italian leathers across asphalt and into curbs and buildings. Something that I wasn’t really looking to get involved in.
Then I went and did it anyway… and survived. Here’s my story.
My original schedule had me down for racing the 19th at Fouche Gap but after realizing that race had been postponed, I immediately went searching for a race around that date and I found the Macon Cycling Classic, otherwise known as #MaconCrit. I thought about it for approximately .02 seconds and said FUGGIT, LET’S DO IT! Changed up my calendar and that was all she wrote.
Mae (my lovely number one fan and best number pinning princess around) and I loaded up the tank Saturday morning and my nerves were really starting to get to me. My first race wearing the RS TECH p/b Grindstone colors. My first criterium race. My first race in Cat 4. The pressure was building and race time was inching closer and closer. We showed up, parked and went to register and familiarize ourselves with the area, the race course and usually the most important factor… the porta-potties. We headed back over to where we were parked, pumped up the tires, kitted up into the beautiful white and blue RS TECH team kit and rode out to warm-up and try and get some recon laps in between races.
I got a few laps in, got a pretty good idea of the bumps, the fast lines through the corners and the general idea of what I’d be working with. I spent the rest of the time doing laps around the city, as I’d forgotten the proper skewer for my trainer at home. Oh, well. One of these days I’ll show up to a race with everything I need.
11:55 AM. Race time. We all rolled up to the line. Oh, man. My nerves were fried. My heart rate was racing. I was just ready to get this thing over with, get it under my belt and move on to the next one. I was on the front line with 45 or so guys to my left, my right and behind me. Great. Here I was, right in the middle of the action before the starting bell had even rung. I took a couple of deep breaths, told myself that carbon was replaceable, skin heals and experiences like this only come once in a life-time. I zoned out (or got in the zone, I don’t know, something happened) and I was ready for the bell.
The bell rang and the race was under way. I was ready for my 30 minutes of fame… or is it pain? I found myself right at the front of the group, always trying to stay in the top 10 or 15 so riders but never pulling and trying to spend my energy wisely. INSIDE! INSIDE! INSIDE! I would yell when taking the apex for myself. HOLD YOUR LINE! when guys started looking panicky, looking back to make sure we wouldn’t get attacked, pacing behind the guys in front of me, searching for guys who looked fast to get on their wheel. The race clock kept ticking on and I was staying up front, I avoided one of the crashes I heard in the back and fully expecting more crashes, I made sure to keep my nose clean and up towards the front.
The laps kept clicking away and on the second to last lap, coming through turn 3, right behind me I heard that sound, yeah… THAT sound. The sounds of bodies colliding, carbon cracking, tires puncturing, extreme expletives and more. I didn’t even look back. I hunkered down on the bars, starting putting out the watts and yelled GO! GO! GO! to the guys around me. This was our chance to explode forward and drop anyone who was looking backwards or had gotten caught up the crash. I think we had about pretty good size group of guys get out of the saddle and start to take our final lap and that’s when my brain stopped working.
Somehow, between the confusion of the crash, the excitement in my head, and the fatigue in my legs, I totally beefed it and thought we had one more time across the line. I was holding a solid position behind two riders wheels coming through turn 4 when I felt the whooooooosh of air on either side of me as a couple of guys, who more than likely realized this was the last lap, came rushing by me. I hopped out of the saddle, to hold their wheel in line, for the next lap that wasn’t going to come. I looked up as I was hopping on their wheels only to notice we were coming to the line… for the finish. DOH! That’s my one rookie mistake that I’m going to allow this season. That’s it. No more mistakes. I’m on it now.
I ended up finishing P5 and didn’t even get to sprint to the line! Initially, I was full of disappointment for making such a rookie mistake but the more I started to think on it, after the adrenaline had stopped pumping, I was walking away from my first criterium with all my skin and all my bike parts with a top 5 finish and now all that I can think about is… WHEN IS THE NEXT ONE?
April 26th… Athens Twilight. I’m coming for you!