So today was my first race in the CAT-4s.
Very flat 2 lane, 4 turn 1 mile loop around a park. 50 minute race. Charleston, SC. 90 degrees, sunny with very little wind. Not exactly what I'd pick for an ideal crit, as I prefer tight, technical courses that allow for more field seperation. Perfect racing weather though, I always ride faster when it's hot and sunny, and this idyllic Carolina day was just the kind I'd pick if I could direct the weather.
Doing my inital warm-up, I met some guys I'd seen in previous races as a CAT-5, which was kind of cool. It's neat to see strong up and coming riders from across the southeast in one race after another. Also, in another rare event for me I had a team-mate. I haven't ridden much with him before, as he doesn't live near by or do most of the club rides, but it was a good thing if only for motivation and comraderie.
The race started off fairly fast, but not substantially faster than some CAT-5 races. My computer went on the blink *again* so I can't give a true number, but going by gearing and percieved effort I'd say we were averaging around 25-26mph for the course.
As in my last race in SC, there was pretty strong team representation from Ultimate Cycles. I have to give it to them as well, they did an excellent job of mixing up the pace. They would consistently send one rider off the front, the pack would chase, and the order of riders would be again re-shuffled. The most sound tactics I've seen so far, and logical for this race. I didn't see any breaks get away all day. The race continued on gruppo compacto with a fast slinky effect for the whole thing. A few riders dropped back on the last couple laps as the pace increased to what I'd guess was 27ish at times.
There was a fair bit of rubbing, and risky passing going on, but thankfully no crashes. That's got to be my favorite part of moving out of the 5s (at least in this race). Some people did some questionable things, but the racers were comfortable enough on the bike in a pack to not stack up after making contact with another rider. I personally had one guy move over quickly, and his hips made contact with my bars - pushing me off the road, but I was able to hop back on, as there was only grass on the side. Several others had similar close calls, but alls well that ends well.
Rounding the final corner, I was mid-pack with the main/front pack. Normally, I'm a very strong sprinter - but somehow, and I'm not even totally sure why, I just tucked and spun it out evenly, letting several riders by. Something I won't be doing again...I've got a better than average sprint, and dag-nabit, I should use it. I've got no excuse to finish mid-pack. Lesson learned though. Good workout, and good learning experience (guessing I came in 25th of 45ish riders). Next weekend I've got a very hilly 3/4 road race and a technical 4 crit...after which I'll be reporting a dang strong sprint finish on here