When I worked in the city one of the things I did was do "sprints" on the main avenues. I don't know how the current bike lanes and related laws limit such antics so you'll need to consider that. I used to work across from Bond on Broadway. I'd head north on Ave of Americas. If I went hard enough I only had to stop once before getting to Central Park and I didn't run any red lights. I went with the flow of traffic and could sustain whatever the speed is that the lights work with. This meant doing a pretty hard 30-35ish mph effort, using the natural traffic draft as a big assist (I wouldn't necessarily draft a particular vehicle but the massive tailwind created by all the vehicles helps). That kind of short effort helps with the top speed thing.
If you're doing CP then do some efforts. Don't go 22 mph around the whole thing. Go 28 mph up the hill at the top of the course - try hitting it in maybe not your biggest gear but close to it. Following moves once I crested the hill in something like a 54x13 and I spent much of the hill in the 12 (a Mengoni rider went - I think it was Wilson Vasquez - and I followed with a Cat 1-2 named Paul Swinand). We crested the hill maybe 10 seconds clear but the field was hot on our tails. Work on big, big efforts, which means they need to be a bit shorter. Punch it over the hill and try and hold 30 mph for a bit, as if you attacked the group at the top of the hill. The steady stuff ("average speed") isn't what you need to do, you want to do the big speed efforts. Those are the things that help with mass start racing. Average speed doesn't help until you're able to do 25-28 mph for a bit, like 5-10 minutes or more.
If you want to get away then you need to get away hard and clean. You should literally not see a single second of wind until you make your move, and you should make your move at such a time that you can sustain, say, 27 mph to the finish. It might be that at CP you make your move at 2 miles to go. That means absolutely positively no wind whatsoever until you attack. Your heart rate should be something like 110 bpm the whole race, except the hill. At PP it would be similar. Maybe you want to go at the top of the hill on the last lap, or maybe even a little after that (I recall a slight false flat in the wooded bit just after the hill). Make a 100% move and commit. That means, once again, absolutely no work until then.
What does doing no work mean? It means that if you fall asleep on the bike because it's so boring then you're doing it wrong because you're only saving about 80% of the potential savings out there for you. If you go into a coma then you're getting close to saving the right amount of energy. It means NOT moving up on the hill, never ever, because that means you're climbing faster than someone else and you should never, ever climb faster than someone else. You should climb slower than everyone so that you are using less energy, less power (the exception being the 3 pedal stroke mini-hills). It means you need to move up before the hill, of course, else you'll shell yourself on the hill itself. However you should be moving up without making efforts. Coast past people when the group slows, soft pedal to gain the last spot or two, and repeat. Slowly reaccelerate if the group starts to filter past you. No sudden efforts. No tense muscles. No talking. No nothing. It should be an extremely conscious decision to move your hands or to reach for your bottle. That's wasted energy if you don't need to do it. When in doubt you should move back. 40 riders ahead of you? 20 behind? Ease up. The only thing you have to do is stay out of the fragmented back, where the gaps between riders start opening up and therefore you save less energy.
Tuck on the descent. Move up as much as possible. At PP I could typically descend through the group until I was near the front at the left bend. I pedaled a bit at the top to give me some momentum but the rest of it was simply coasting. At CP it's harder because of the swoopy curves and some of the false flats, but you should strive for the same effect. The only time I wouldn't drift back on the hill at PP was on the last lap.
When your reminder goes off with 5 miles left in whatever race then you should try and wake up. Ideally, and I'm actually being serious here, you should need to warm up a bit. Your legs should be so unused that you'll feel the need to warm up. This is a good sign - if it's not like that then you've been riding too hard. Your heart rate should start creeping out of the 120s-130s (assuming that when you line up it's about 100 and your max is 180 or 190 and you like racing at 160-170). Shake your legs out. Stretch a bit. Yawn. Take a sip of water. Zip up your jersey. Get ready to race.
Worried about getting caught behind a crash? Well take that gamble. At CP and PP you rarely have stack ups that actually block the road. Gaps? Let other people close them. Shift a bit or fumble with your bottle, get the others to do the work.
If you sit at the back of a Cat 3 race or an M45 race you'll see some of the smartest, strongest, and most savvy riders around you. We're talking riders that between them have dozens of national titles. Why? Because the "sit near the front" thing is a myth. Sure it applies to a technical course, maybe a tight downtown crit in the rain. But for most races, and for me I'm talking literally every single race I do each year, it's absolutely not necessary to be at the front. Sometimes I get caught behind crashes, like in the big races (Harlem, Somerville), and it actually affects my race. Much more often I don't get caught behind crashes.