Since I didn’t have any teammates in this race my plan was to sit in and let others use up there energy contesting the nine primes (the most I’ve ever seen for a 30 min, cat 4 race) and work at the front. In a lot of races I tend to start my sprint too early so I was going to try and wait in the group longer before driving for the line. However, I was also open to giving a breakaway a try if the group composition was right.
I finally got a good spot at the starting line, this has been an issue for me at previous crits. I was at the front in the middle for the start, I missed clipping in so I lost a few places but made most of them up in the first lap. I spent most of the race sitting about 10 or so guys from the front. Every once in a while the pace would slow down and since I tried to stay in the middle I’d get swamped and would need to work myself back up towards the front so I wouldn’t get caught behind a split or would be ready to go with a break.
After about 20 minutes two riders ended up off the front and one of them was a strong rider that I knew personally. I don’t know that they were trying to breakaway (it may have been just after a prime) butI thought this might be a chance to get a break going so I bridged up to them. I sat in for a minute to catch my breath and then pulled through and said we had a gap and that we should keep going. When I glanced back there was a gap between me and the next guy so I eased up so he could get in my draft. By the time we got squared away the group was on the last guys wheel so I gave it up.There wasn’t much point in killing myself just to pull the whole peloton around the course.
Knowing that we were getting close to the end I got off the front and put myself back into the group so I could rest up a bit. With four laps to go the pace eased up and guys started swarming all up the sides. In no time I went from about 10th wheel to probably about 20 or more people back. I knew immediately I was in big trouble being that far back. In the last couple of laps the speed would ramp up and it would be almost impossible to sprint for much from that far back.
So with three laps to go I made a big effort to move up on the outside and get all the way up to the front. I then worked my way into 3rd position to take advantage of the little draft available to me. With two laps to go a couple of guys, including a very good time trialist, got a gap on the group. I couldn’t let a guy like that get away with someone else to help him, so I made sure to get up to them before a large gap formed. Going into the last corner of the 2nd to last lap I heard a crash happen behind me and some spectators yell. In that sort of situation there isn’t anything you can do but keep going to clear the area so that is what we did. Even with the crash just happening the pace did not let up since it was the last lap.
The pace really ramped up on the straight stretch leading into the second to last corner and I took the opportunity to move back into third position. Then I looked around to see if people were moving up and there was a gap. I don’t know how it happened but it was there. We flew through the second to last corner and I glanced back and saw that the gap was sizable, big enough that I was essentially guaranteed a podium spot. I was in the perfect position sitting behind the other two as we were about to hit the final straight stretch which had a headwind.
The second to last corner was only 100 meters from the last corner, which was only 250 meters from the finish line. As we came up to the corner spectators were screaming that there was a rider still down on the course, and all of a sudden the moto-official hits his breaks and sticks out his left arm almost close lining the first rider in our group of three. All three of us had to slam on our brakes scrubbing most of our speed as we went through the corner and suddenly the group was all around us. I had to sprint just to get back up to the speed of the peloton and with only 250 meters to go the rest of the pack was starting its sprinting. With no chance to rest I just had to keep driving all the way to the line with everything I could. In the end I got 9th place,and not one upgrade point…
What can I say, I was so close… With all the adrenaline still pumping after the finish I was really upset at how things turned out. I’m glad no one was sticking a camera in my face immediately after like pro athletes. I would have had some unkind words for the officials even though they were doing the best they could with the information they had. But that’s racing for you, even when you think you have it nailed something can still go wrong.