On Saturday I entered the Land Park Criterium, Cat 5 men's race. This race is right in my back yard, a mile oval in the middle of a city park where I run my dog. In last year's race, I did pretty well. It was my first ever crit and I was right up there in front and had a top 10 finish. This year I knew my overall fitness was a bit lower but my sprinting has improved so I thought that if I hung around the front I might have a good shot at making the top 5.
This year the organizers added a couple of sharp turns to break up the field a bit: at the end of the back straight there was a sharp 110 degree left, then 45 degree rights around a traffic triangle, and another 90 or 100 degree right onto the home straight. Oh, and the weather was terrible: 10-15 mph wind from the south and a downpour.
There are a few teams with 4 or 5 guys, a whole bunch of unattached guys. I am unattached. I figure I can use the teams to my advantage if they're organized enough to run down any breaks. My strategy is to be near the front and maybe even push the pace a little to string things out.
It starts off pretty well and the pace isn't super fast, maybe 26mph with the tailwind and 20mph into the wind. On lap three I get near the front and I'm feeling pretty strong so I think I'll attack and see what happens. So I go as soon as it swings around into a tailwind and get about 100m off the front, so far so good, go through the sharp corners no problem and as we get into the headwind, I let off and allow myself to get caught. Okay, looks pretty good, I think I'm one of the stronger guys out here, no problem, I'll stay in the front 10 and see how it goes.
So now we're on lap four and into the sharp corners I'm near the front and all of a sudden the guy whose wheel I'm on takes a really sharp line and goes down right in front of me. I hit the brakes, lock up the wheels, and amazingly I'm still upright, except that now I'm 90 degrees to the road and I think I'm about to get T-boned. One guy slides into my leg, another bumps my fork, and I have to unclip.
I spin my front wheel and it won't turn but it's just that the brake is skewed. The wheel is still true so I open the brake lever and reclip in and go. Except now I'm 100m back and I have to chase. So I chase and I chase. I managed to catch individual riders here and there and finally after about 7 laps, I catch a group of about 7 or 8 guys and I think this is the second group. So I latch on, catch my breath and attack again, hoping I have enough legs and time to catch the lead group.
It never happens. As I come down the home straight with 4 laps to go, the ref points at me and says "You're done. Pull off, please!"
What a day. Got soaked, nearly in a wreck, and spent a half hour riding an individual TT, and I'm not even allowed to finish. Later, I tell my buddy who's a Cat 3, and he says, "Well, that sucked, but that's racing."