First crit… first DNF
Yesterday I competed in my first criterium, the Springbank Park Crit… O-Cup #3. I’d heard and read that crits are fast and crashing is common, and it proved to be pretty true for this experience. It was fast and furious!
Once again Andy Mill joined me from Speed River Cycling Club and I had some company for the ride down to London. After an extremely busy week at work, and only 4 hours sleep the night before, I was feeling pretty worn out as we got on the road at 6am. The sun was shining and it was already 10 C, with an expected temperature of ~ 16 C during the race.
We arrived around 7:15am, signed in, picked up our numbers and got ready. We were able to ride the course before the race so we rode a bunch of laps to check it out. It was a 2.2 km loop along the road and pathway within Springbank Park. The start/finish line was situated on a wide straight, but the road narrowed to half the size after the first corner. From here it was downhill through the next corner into a fast, narrow straight along the river . Then it pitched uphill again as it curved back around towards the home-straight again. The total change in elevation was only 15m but I could tell that I would have problems on this short hill where I expected the attacks to come.
After about 6 laps of warming up we headed to the line and milled around to wait for the start. The sun was shining and there was no notable wind… it was perfect conditions for racing. Andy was in the middle of the front row, and I was on the left but I had to move over to allow the vehicles through and had no choice but to move back a couple of rows. I was hoping to stay near the front and keep to the sides to try and avoid any crashes.
The M3 and S4 men were racing together for 18 laps, 40km. The whistle blew and we set off at a pretty fast pace. It wasn’t far to the first corner, a tight left hander that everybody seemed to make it through safely. We were all in close contact and my heart was pounding as I held my line through the next corner and into the straight along the river. This section was fast and we would hit speeds up to 68 km/hr here. Kinda hairy when you’re all 6″ apart! I was riding on the inside, taking the shortest line and trying to avoid any trouble. It felt like I was on my limits to stay with the group on the first lap, but the pace seemed to back off a bit after lap 1.
The hill sent me backwards a bit but it wasn’t as bad as it was during the warm up. I was pretty much mid pack for the first couple of laps. On lap 2 or 3 I saw a guy miss his line through the tight turn on corner 1 and he seemed to fly through the air and flip over into the trees. It was a pretty surreal sight.
After a couple of laps I could feel surges and the pace seemed to pick up. I was at my limit and every time we hit the hill I would lose ground. A gap opened up on several laps and I used a lot of energy getting back on. Finally about half way through the race I had lost contact with the group. I was killing myself to get back on when a bunch of guys crashed in front of me. Fortunately I avoided it because of the gap, but had to slow down to almost a stop to get around. Everybody who was held up by the crash got a free lap to get back in the race and we pulled into the pit area to await instructions. I was struggling at this point and really appreciated the opportunity to rest.
We got rolling again as the other riders were coming back around and we waited for them to catch us on the river straight before merging back into the race. Now it was right back to riding my guts out! I was struggling on the hill more and more with every lap. I lost contact 2 more times here as the riders on the front would surge away on the crest. I had a clear view of the front of the race on this uphill section and it seemed like Andy was on the front almost the whole time. I was deep in the red, hanging on by a thread, and there was Andy, on the front pulling like a fiend… it reminded me of some painful Thursday night club rides. I actually smiled at the thought as I cursed Andy under my breath : )
Lap 15 was the end for me. In the same place as always, the group surged and I was dropped. The field seemed to be picking it up and the gap was growing. I emptied the tank but couldn’t make up any ground. It felt like everybody passed me and I was dead last. (I was not aware that several riders were further back than me) I should be used to this by now, but with each new race I keep hoping that this will be the one where I will hang on to the end. With 3 laps to go, the question was, could I make it without getting lapped? I caught up to another dropped rider to see if he wanted to ride together to finish the race but he told me he was done. Then there was some confusion. It appears that this guy had been lapped and was getting pulled and I was guilty by association. The official thought that I had been lapped also. During our discussion a couple more riders passed by who were further off the back than I was, and they were continuing. I pointed this out to the official, and after checking my number and referring to his clipboard, acknowledged that I could have stayed in. I was a little bummed about a DNF. I also may not have finished dead last either since there were other riders behind me. But it doesn’t really matter… I had got my ass kicked again.
Looking on the bright side, at least I finally got to see the finish of one of my o-Cup races… too bad it was as a spectator and not a participant : ) It seemed like Andy was on the front as they crossed the line on the next 2 laps and I was cheering him on for the win. He had really worked his ass off and he deserved it, but unfortunately he was outsprinted to the line. He finished 12th overall and 6th in M3.