A true week of racing - Sunday, Tuesday, then Friday. If I could do this all the time I would - maybe a Thursday race, to space things out properly before the weekend. Whatever, the fact is that I got to line up for my third race this week.
I got here as early as possible and helped with registration. When the Masters started I got to leave and prep for my own race. My one hour prep went something like this:
5:05 PM I leave registration and find the Missus. She asks if I've eaten. I haven't. She asks what I want. I want to support the vendors so I ask for a hotdog or something. She gets a steak sandwich - I inhale 3/4 of it before she reminds me that I'll be racing in what would be 45 minutes now.
5:15 I help with a victim with light road rash, a Junior that has been in the scene for much longer than you'd think. I brought my first aid supplies to the race so I could help him out with Tegaderm. The cheap stuff I forgot about, and I was out of the First Aid spray.
5:30 My socializing time quickly running out, I started getting my bike ready, my spare bike ready, pinned my number, kitted up, and got out there with less than 2 laps of the Masters race left. I took pictures of the break and chase finishing then put down the camera to go warm up (and missed the field sprint). Fortunately for me we got to do one lap of the course so that was my warm up.
FIVE Expo riders.
We lined up with a total of six Expo riders. Stan would be our default leader, the break guy. SOC and myself were sort of random guys, and Mark, Ted, and Joel would pitch in when they could. Joel was coming off of a non-racing period so he wasn't expecting much. We were all eager to support Stan who's proven to us over and over that he can make the break.
First time around the 180.
We should be 15 feet to the left.
On the first lap we almost went off the course through the cones to the right. A bit of grumbling and we were all back on track. Late apexes are great and all but it's important to turn in early enough for a 180 that dumps out to a narrow road.
When the first attack went I was near the front but feeling a bit crispy from the effort out of the 180. I started wondering if one of us should go when Joel went rocketing by. We wouldn't link up with the eventual three man group until the 180.
On Tuesday the Central Wheel women made it a point to show up and race. Like me a few of them came off at some point but they gamely got back in and gritted it out. One rider I didn't see at the back was Vicki, a former Expo rider. We're all still supportive of her and I was pleasantly surprised to see her in the midst of the field, totally holding her own. As I've only really seen her in the B races on Tuesdays it was a huge step to be active in a Cat 3 race.
Rider slides his rear tire out.
The first few times around the 180 the corner caught out the unaware, the ones pushing the limits, and the ones simply not used to turning so hard. At least two riders slid their rear tire out, one actually unclipping mid-turn. To his credit he was clipped in and riding ahead of me long before I exited that same corner.
The break opposite us.
The 180 gave us a good point of reference as far as the break went. We could see them riding the opposite direction as we approached the 180.
I usually tend to go the outside line in turns, preferring to maintain speed over doing more bike handling type stuff inside. However the 180 was tight enough that everyone ended up a bit outside at the exit and I never got to fully utilize the outside line.
Therefore I decided that if I remembered I'd try to go inside one of these laps, to see how that went.
Ted raises his hand.
I'm actually really disappointed that you can't see the smoke around his chainstay. I'm pretty sure that his tire was rubbing and it was rubbing hard enough that it started to smoke.
Finally, with a couple laps to go, I managed to go inside. It was much better overall. I could turn as hard as I wanted to turn, to the point where I could feel the front tire start to lose traction, the feel of pushing the rubber across the asphalt. With my forward oriented position I could plant the front tire however I wanted. The short chainstays kept the rear planted, and I could accelerate fine out of the turn.
Moving up the inside.
Approaching the 180 for the last time I debated going on my own. A CF Racing Junior decided for me as he made the move first. I jumped on his wheel and we both looked around, waiting for the counter-swarm. Only one other rider came by, a Bethel Cycle rider (I think a Junior as well). The two went wide, holding more of an outside line.
I went inside.
Inside line, hard.
I didn't accelerate too hard so I could get back on their wheel. I'd contemplated going from the 180, trying to go for the line, but it's over a mile and not very realistic. Instead I hoped to back-slot into the front of the field and fight it out from there.
I made one elemental error, one that decided my race for me.
The head of the field comes up the right side.
The final straight started out with a left side crosswind, turning into a pure headwind. I had to be on the right side going into the final straight. My mistake was staying left on the course at two turns to go. Instead of having the field pass me on the left they passed me on the right. This put me in the wind and therefore I was out of the sprint long before it ever started.
It didn't keep me from trying to get to the right but the guy to my right fought hard to stay on the wheel. I fought honorably, with no contact, but the fight was doomed from the beginning. Ultimately I ended up sheltering him from the wind for a couple hundred meters, giving him a lead out. I didn't have the chance to turn around or even look down so I don't know if I could have back-slotted in a few spots back. It's too late now but this is one of those things I'll file away for the next time I'll need it.
To my happy surprise SOC rocketed by the right.
While I berated myself for getting into a tactically untenable position, SOC absolutely blasted by on the right. Riding super low he jumped where he normally does on Tuesday Nights. He knew the sprint - he's won the A Race on one Tuesday - so he treated the sprint like he did on a Tuesday. Although two guys fought hard he beat them and the rest of the field to take the sprint for 7th.
When I rode up to SOC he had a big grin on his face. Last Sunday he was just behind me going into the M35+ sprint but he sat up because "all the places were up the road". He ended up 44th; I nabbed 12th. We talked about it and the takeaway was that if the field is doing a sprint you might as well sprint. It's good race practice, it's fun, you can test tactics, and you can see how you do against the others. Well tonight he did great - he went at the perfect time for his strengths, he moved up based on his experience in the this and last year's race, and he executed flawlessly. If and when it comes down to a field sprint he'll have this experience to draw from when he approaches said sprint.
Stan, it ended up, took 5th in the break. A rider went solo, two guys were close for second and third, and the rest of the break finished just behind.
I have no idea how I finished except it was "at the back".
With the light falling during the P123 race I had to leave, unable to partake in the various festivities along the finishing straight. A fun race for sure, and one I plan on doing next year.