By Dennis Pedersen
I've raced this 6-corner criterium three years now and really enjoy the location in San Francisco's financial district, right next to the water front. It has a small hill on the course, which is a bonus for a small guy like me, and Margaret and I usually get together with friends afterward and have a nice dinner too, so it's a great way to end the regular season.
As in the past, the weather was gorgeous, almost too warm even, at about 80 degrees. 53 of us Masters lined up at the start line on Battery Street for the 21-lap race (16 miles, in about 35 minutes). The guy directly in front of me was standing next to his bike when the whistle blew, so I had to work a bit for the first couple of laps to get to the front of the pack.
The pace was fairly hard, but I was not in the "hurt locker." The pace went high a few times, and slowed a few times, so I was able to ride well. Hunter Ziesing (Zteam) and another guy (on the Safeway team I think) went on a breakaway but were caught later. There was another break too that was also caught. I mostly just sat in near the front and ignored the prime sprints, but watched a few key riders.
I'm happy to say the race was otherwise fairly uneventful, and only with about 3 laps remaining did a fast surge make things a bit sketchy, with one rider unclipping from his pedal and nearly going down in turn 6. Nobody crashed that I know of, and I broke my 3-race streak of flatting!
On the last couple of laps the pace got pretty slow, to the point where I could almost breath easy, but then the "1" displayed on the big digital lap counter, and off we went for the finishing sprint! Up the small hill on Vallejo Street, down Sansome into the headwind... then more hesitation as guys watched to see who'd lead the sprint out through the last two turns.
In retrospect I know I should have seized the moment to attack there, or at least moved a bit further up, but I didn't. Instead I moved up cautiously and held about 10th place on the inside with two turns to go. Then a big guy moved up even further inside, to my right, bumped me enough to make my bars wobble, and squeezed me back. I lost several places and that put me too far back to contest the sprint, though I did my best and passed a couple of guys on the finishing straight. I finished in 14th; not what I'd hoped for. My friend Chris took 5th. Our average speed was somewhere around 27 mph, but it hadn't felt that fast; I guess I'm getting more fit.
But I got a great consolation prize: Vladan and Dragitsa joined us for a great end-of-season lunch at the nearby Gordon Biersch brew-pub. I had a buffalo burger with garlic fries and a schwartzbier, at one their outdoor tables. That was so perfect!