Vlada and I had lots of time to discuss tactics and stuff after we left his home in Scotts Valley. He had raced Brisbane Marina before and stressed the importance of being near the front all of the time, watching for breakaway groups. This was more important than in most crits because the course is very narrow and twisty in several places, with a tight U-turn and wind thrown in. We agreed to take turns going with any breaks that formed, and I would try to lead him out if the peloton stayed together for a sprint finish, as he had done for me at Menlo Park.
By the time we got to Los Gatos the roads were dry and they stayed that way, thankfully. But it was only in the 50s and cloudy, with winds at 10 MPH. We got to Brisbane's marina about an hour before our start, and watched Robbie race... until the wind created big gaps in the peloton, with him on the wrong side, that forced him to abandon. Oh well. But he did volunteer to stay and take some photos of us (thanks Robbie!). Vlada was well prepared, dressed warmly and warmed up on his rollers, while I shivered into my skinsuit and made a very feeble attempt at warmup; even shorter than my usual 10-15 minutes. I think I rode for about 3 minutes!
The course was only about 0.6 mile per lap, 50 minutes long, and I knew and respected a lot of the entrants. The race would be pretty fast. But some of the usual big names were absent so I was also optimistic about our chances. This crit was actually Stage 1 of a 2-day "Omnium" stage race. I was signed up for both days so I could also have a shot at standing on the Omnium podium on Sunday afternoon. But the Sunday stage was the Brisbane Highlands Circuit Race and the climbs on that course would be tough; I had to ride conservatively to save some energy for helping out the team on Sunday!
The race started off pretty fast for the first 13 minutes or so, probably because a break formed that people up front worked hard to catch. I was again near the back as I had trouble, again, clipping in at the start and wanted to ride easy at first anyway. But instead I had to put my nose down and work my way through the pack to get to the front which I did right before the break was caught. Vlada had been up there the whole time... he's good at this!
We raced pretty clean, though the U-turn was tricky and apparently one guy crashed over the curb on the exit. I noticed lots of guys, including Mark Patten (who ended up dropping out), would stand and pedal hard out of the tight turns while I stayed seated all the time to save my legs, and stayed in my 42-tooth ring almost the entire race.
For a while we stayed together but then another break formed, this time it was just two guys; one was Jess Raphael (of VOS Racing), the other Darryl Smith (ICCC). I didn't know that, but I could see them by the U-turn and knew they were working together well to stay away so I kept an eye on things to see if a chase would form, and even took a few pulls at the front myself like I did at Menlo Park and Snelling. Am I too impatient? Well, I wanted to make sure Vlada had a chance too, and if I had to wait for others to do the hard work...
The announcer mercilessly counted down our few remaining laps. I was hyper-alert to any opportunities. With 3 laps to go we all slowed down, the gap to the break getting even bigger.
Out of turn 2 I got bored with the zig-zagging of the big guy from Summit (Bernie Silviera) as he watched for others to pull... I just punched it smoothly and went around them all into the left-hand turn before the U-turn and kept going. This spot was perfect because the tight turns made it easier for a solo rider to carry speed. In just a couple of turns I had a huge gap! I'd kind of hoped that Vlada would grab my wheel and I could bridge him to the break, but perhaps the time gap was too big by then anyway.
Alone in no-man's land -- I was doubtful of my chances at staying away, but was at least hoping to either tire out some of the big sprinters behind me or help catch Jess and Darryl. Either outcome improved my and Vlada's odds, so I stayed in my zone and kept at it. I noticed Patten had dropped out, with many others, and they were now watching the finish from the sidelines. Before the last turn I looked back and saw nobody chasing... would I really get 3rd place so easily?
Coming around the last turn I heard the announcer excitedly calling out my name while the spectators screamed at me. Wow, what's all the fuss? Well, I guess the gutsiness of my solo effort for nearly 3 laps inspired them to root for me, and then... wooooosh!
Two guys flew by me just before the finish line! Argh! I didn't even see that coming; the spectators had been trying to warn me! At least the guy who threw his bike at the line didn't get me and I finished in 5th, the last podium spot!
Vlada and I rode a couple of cool-down laps and waited around for the official results. I stood proudly, with sore legs, on the 5th step for the podium photo, albeit somewhat dejected too, and happily accepted the $10 payout and nifty cycling cap.
Tomorrow we do it all over again, but with a big hill thrown in! Until then,