Today I did my first race, a Cat 4/5 crit. I have been doing the group rides for about a year now, and felt pretty confident about my chances of doing well since most of the guys I have ridden with before.
Things were off to a rough start when I couldnt even get my number pinned on correctly, but eventually somebody came over and helped me out. So I checked out the scene, and eventually saw another guy I knew, and went over to say hi. We b's'ed for awhile, then discussed the race, and he basically said that if I attacked in the second half of the race, he would go with me. It was a pretty tight course, less then a mile with 8 or 9 turns, and a few potholes/grates in the middle of the turns. There were about 50+ riders too. I was more nervous about crashing and wrecking my bike then anything else, so my plan was to start at the back, see how things go, and move my way up.
We lined up at the start, I am at the back as planned, and then we are off. I have trouble clipping in, so then I am really at the back, pretty much the last person. Lap 1 I am reeling people in and passing them at a fast clip, I have a pretty good sense of how far away I am from the leaders, but due to the nature of the course with all of the turns, its hard to tell. Lap 2 is the same thing, except I think the group became more spread out and I kind of lost track of where I was. After reeling a few other riders in, I came around a turn, and SH$T, nobody left in front of me except the main group 100 feet ahead. I chase them for about 3 or 4 laps, but with all of the turns I couldnt get up and maintain enough speed to catch them. Finally, the group picked it up a little bit, and after riding solo for those previous 3-4 laps I couldnt maintain the pace, slowed down a bit, and the gap became a lot larger. Eventually, when they were about half a lap ahead of me, 3 guys behind me caught up. I jumped in with them, but it was a really unorganized paceline as nobody wanted to lead, so we had no chance of catching the main pack. We rode the rest of the race together, and on the last few laps I realized that there was nobody else behind us, I guess they all dropped out, had been pulled, lapped, or something...but as far as I am concerned we were last.
So we are finishing out the final lap, and one guy attacks, and the other two guys chase after him. I was like you have got to be kidding me! I stayed with them to the end, but I was to tired and frustrated to make a go at a pointless final sprint, so I think I was officially the last person to complete the race and cross the finish line. It was really embarrasing!
And the guy who I discussed attacking with before the race, 2nd place finish for him.
When I was chasing the group, I think they were going about 25-26mph, and normally on group ride, if a gap opened up like this and at this speed, I dont think it would have been a problem to catch them. Ramp it up to 30+mph for 30 seconds and I would be right back in the mix. But, everytime I tried to pick up the pace, it didnt last very long as there was always another turn coming up. I think my top speed was only 29mph.
I guess the lesson learned is to always have your eye on the front of the pack, and in a tight crit, gaps are hard to make up. I could probably work on my cornering skills too. I wonder though, in a crit like this, if there is a breakaway, will it be easier for them to maintain there distance from the main group for the same reason!?!
Luckily, there is another race tomorrow, and i'll be back at it again!