Joseph Mendes Masters Districts Criterium Championship M40-44 March 2nd 2010
I got the perfect warm up for a 45 min race. 20 mins on my trainer at the car then 4 laps on the course to assess conditions and was ready to go. Or so I thought. I rolled up to the line with 66 other guys and I hear “#556 your number is on wrong.” Oh no, that’s me! I went over to have it adjusted moments before the start.
Feeling a little stressed at the moment
Bam……race starts and we take off and I can’t find my left pedal. I couldn’t clip into it for the life of me. I’m now feeling like a flounder. I know it’s been 6 years since my last criterium race, but come on. First my number, then I’m looking at getting dropped from the race as we roll off the line?
Finally, “click” I’m in and sprint into a forward position as quick as possible. Instant attacks come from the pack as expected. I make sure to stay forward in the top 10 riders as much as possible. One minute I’m in 5th spot then the next I’m 15th. We go around and around and I look up at the start/finish clock and I see 30mins remaining. Plenty of time and I feel great.
Testing the legs and staying hydrated
Next time around I hear “prime lap” and instinctively I set up for the move and go for it. This gives me the opportunity to test out my final (planned) move for the end of the race. The 2nd to last turn goes from a cross head wind leading into it followed by a tailwind coming out of it, then a 250 meter straight away to the final turn, a fast right turn and 70 meters to the finish line. Coming out of the final turn doesn’t leave much room to sprint all out so it’s best to be in first or second position coming out of the corner (35-37mph) then jump to hold them off. Going for the prime I jumped with 150 meters to the final corner with 2 guys coming after me. I was first through the turn, sprinted a few pedal strokes and got it. That felt pretty easy. I backed off and waited for the group while I imagined winning $1000 cash, a new car or trip to the Tour de France. After that move I’m feeling confident in my assessment of where I need to be for the finish. My pre-race plan (as scouted weeks before from knowing the roads, talking to friends who raced the course last year and reading weather reports to know wind direction and speed based on time of day) is playing out just as planned. Now all I have to do is be attentive and go with any threatening breakaways or hold a top 5-8 position until the finish (easier said than done). I look up at the finish clock. 5 laps to go!!!
Pressure is mounting. I get a bump here and there from riders being close in the corners or trying to stay out of the wind while coming up the side. I lose my position one minute then sprint forward to get back. 2 laps to go!!! The pace increases. Attacks from non-sprinters go off the front, but aren’t going anywhere today. We suck them back in with ease. DING, DING, DING ~~~ bell lap! Final time around. The person who crosses the line first is the District Champion. I’m about 6 back with time to move forward (I think?) The pace goes faster and faster as riders come from the sides to overtake us up front. 3 turns to go…….bump to my hip, bump to my arm from guys taking power moves to get into position in front of me. Now I’m 12 riders back (euahh - its getting crazy!) I have to get forward but I’m boxed in. 2 turns to go and I have riders on both sides leaning on me trying to take my line. Think about this for a moment. 3 single file lines of riders trying to merge into 1 line in a corner at an all out pace. I’m thinking “holy shit” and at the same time I keep pedaling hard, hold my position. Phew, I made it. Now I’m around 15 back (not looking good) 250 meters to the final turn. All riders in front of me are going as fast as possible on the right side of the road. I’m thinking the corner is a tight turn and we should be to the left like most of the other times during the race especially since we are going to take this turn faster than any other lap. I also noted earlier in the race when I took the inner line I skipped my back wheel from the double yellow painted line when crossing it at a 60 degree angle. It had an ever so slight rise from all the layers of thick paint. I decided to jump out of the draft to the left starting my sprint with 150 meters to the corner just like the earlier prime move. I did this for two reasons; one, so I could move forward, and two, to take a faster/safer line in the turn. I’m flying past guys. I look at the corner then over at the pack charging on the right. This is going to be tricky. Two intersecting lines totally committed to the corner. I start my turn, crossed the double yellow line and ~ skip, skip goes my back wheel, ~ a slight hesitation but I stay on the gas pedal. Now I’m 10 back and frustrated knowing the win is not possible. I sprint to the line passing guys in an attempt to limit my loss. Half way to the line I see first and second are together with a gap then third and fourth together and me charging around them digging deep to overtake them at the line but ran out of road. 5th place.
Vladan and me discussing post race
A good day of racing!