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Last Monday I finally got to race in my first criterium at my local club up here on the Mid North Coast of NSW. It's been a while coming - I was ready top have a try about a 6 weeks ago, but cracked my top tube (while i wasn't even on the bike!) 2 days before, so had to postpone until it got fixed. I bought a fixie to commute to work in the meantime to keep some sort of fitness.
Some background first. I'm 42, & haven't cycled since i was a kid. I had to stop playing soccer after last season due to 2 dodgy knees, & a friend suggested cycling as something i could do to keep fit but not hurt my knees. I bought a 2nd hand racing bike at Easter & have been putting in as many km's as owning a small business & having a young family allows. I've cycled with a few groups & most recently with a "recovery" ride organised by a LBS that has a lot of guys from the local club. A few suggested i join & have a go at the crits & road racing they hold, & here i am!
I'd been going & watching the last few weeks, so i had some sort of idea what was going on, though i was nowhere near prepared for how hard it was, both physically & mentally.
I turned up pretty early compared to others, though i had to drive to get there on time after work - which unfortunately meant virtually no warmup. I nominated for C-Grade (I knew a few guys in that grade, & D-Grade looked virtually empty). It looked like there was not going to be many in the race, but 6 or so guys turned up just before the start. I think there was around 12 or so in my race.
We started & i overcame my 1st worry - clipping in! I had just bought new pedals (my old ones went onto the fixie) & this was the 1st time i'd ridden on them. The pace was immediately quicker than i expected. I quickly realised how important a warmup is. Although a lot of the others on my race hadn't appeared to warm up, most had ridden to the venue. I struggled to hold the wheel in front, but i was determined to stay near to the front of the field if i could. My next issue was the cornering. There was one corner in particular that was very tight. I just wasn't being brave enough to take it at speed, which resulted in a gap of a few bike lengths appearing between me & the guy in front at the same point every lap.
The race continued & i held on, & gradually i started to find my feet. About half way through we had the whistle for our prime lap. I found myself still towards the front & hit the tight corner faster than i'd dared before. We came around the last corner & i just went for it. I think i got lucky as the only seemed to be one other guy going for it & i just beat him to the line.
I soon realised that i'd probably put too much into that sprint as once the main bunch had caught us, i was soon towards the back & really struggling. Luckily the pace appeared to slow a little & i got my breath. Slowly i worked my way back up towards the front & was in a position i thought gave me a chance going into the last few laps. I had a minor scare with a couple of laps to go, i was getting tired & losing concentration & managed to rub the rear tyre of the guy in front with my front tyre. No harm done, but it really got me focused again.
We got the bell & almost immediately the pace quickened & i was shuffled back behind a rider who wasn't going with the pace & found myself in 9th or 10th. Half a lap to go & still no chance to improve my position. Just as i was about to give up any ideas of being in the finish, a hole opened a few places in front & a guy jumped out & i got myself slotted in behind. We managed to be in a faster line & although i had to take the tight corner faster than ever, i was in a bout 4th position at the last corner. As soon as we rounded it i went as hard as i could & started my sprint. I hit the front & just tried to hold on. I could see the shadows gaining on me from behind, but just about held on.
Next race is tomorrow night. I'm not expecting a similar result. I'm sure it was beginner's luck!
No such thing as beginers luck. You put in the effort and got the reward.
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I don't suffer fools easily and so long as you have done your best,you should have no regrets.
Just got home from my 2nd go around…we went the reverse direction tonight. I went hard on the prime again & won it easily, but again left myself dry for the rest of the race. I just about held onto the group & then moved up as we entered the final lap….only to find everyone slowing so i ended up leading the whole last lap (there was a mean headwind). Someone jumped me & got the inside line round the final sweeping corner & i just couldn't quite catch him, losing by half a bike length. Lesson learned there. Great fun again, & i don't seem to be quite as tired tonight.
The sprinters creed: Winning by more than half a wheel is wasted energy.
There is no reason to lead for the whole of the last lap, unless you are breaking away.
Just had my 3rd go round a few days ago. I've concluded that no 2 crits are the same. Things always go differently & my race always seems to throw up the unexpected. This week i got boxed in in our prime lap which came earlier in the race than i expected so i had to take the scenic route off the side of the track. I also tried to attack 5 minutes or so from the end. Nobody joined me so i had to go it alone. I got out to around 15 seconds but couldn't get any further so i decided to pull the pin & try & get a bit of rest for the sprint at the end while everyone caught me. Then on our final lap i won what felt like a softish sprint to the line…..only to be greeted by the bell! Apprarently the bell i'd heard the previous lap was for D grade not us. Doh!!
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