Thoughts after My First Criterium

IMG_0020On the line I had to look like I had done this numerous times. No worries. Ice water in my veins. Inside? I had no clue what to expect. Sure, my training and nutrition was spot on, but the actual tactics of how to race this particular event was lost to me. A few friends dropped me a tidbit of advice here and there during group rides, last week:

  1. Stay toward the front of the pack.
  2. Hold your line.
  3. Stay toward the front of the pack.
  4. Don’t overlap wheels.
  5.  . . . and remember: stay toward the front of the pack.

During first ten or so laps, I felt pretty good. I had spied a guy that I knew was a “podium guy” and decided to keep him in check: where he goes, I go. The Sunny King Criterium is held every year in Anniston, Alabama and is one of the biggest around. Frankie Andreu was calling the race and pivoting cameras on long, boom arms were at every corner, following the action which was displayed on a huge jumbo-tron for fans at the race. Recognized professional teams, like Nordisk and I AM Cycling, are signing in with me . . . like that is not intimidating, although I definitely do not show it. Planning my start time just perfectly, I warmed up on the trainer to a good sweat, grabbed a gel, gave my wife a kiss, and rolled up.

Now, I kept the aforementioned dude in my sights for many laps. I was near the front and about three bikes back from him. I watched him come out of the turns and his power looked good and his cadence was nice. If everything worked out, I think I could be him in a sprint. Every time I pass my family, near the line, I hear them screaming for me. I was concentrating so hard. Riders were inches from me in every direction, and we were holding a 24 mph average. Five laps to go . . . four laps to go . . . then there was three. Down into turn one, two riders touch and go down hard. Both were directly in front of me. Bodies and bikes are flying around. Somehow I manage to bunny hop a guy’s leg, but his other foot flew around and cracked me in the shin while one of the men’s bikes brushed my hip as I passed. Shocked, I did not go down. Shifting gears like Marcel Kittel on Alp d’Huez, I frantically tried to build my speed back. The group was motoring away at a quick clip. The chase was on. It took almost a full lap to make it back, and now I am in the red . . . and in the back.

IMG_0074

The second to last lap was used trying to calm my breathing and move up, but so was everyone else. I made it to almost mid-pack. Now, I am into the last lap and the bell is clanging. I was not in the red, but let us just say I was in the pink. Coming into turn four, heading to the line, I launched with what I had left. It was a wad of cyclists crossing the line. No idea how I did, but I was happy that I finished it giving all I had. The end result was 6th place and missed the podium by literally ONE second. By the way, my marked man did make the podium. Oh well, I learned quite a bit. I am excited for the next one. I think I like criterium racing; something I thought I would never consider fun. Time to check the schedule for another race up the road.

Bon Vélo

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