This is one of the most grassroots-level races in the area, which suits me because I don't train specifically for crits anymore. The 4-1/2 turn, flat course helps me too. But the field of just nine 35+3/4 riders, combined with the windy conditions, meant it would be a real challenge for me.
After they blew the whistle, Jeremy Loader, (Cycles Fanatic), immediately took a dig and went off the front. I was not ready to commit that early in this one-hour-long race, so I waited for the rest of the pack to help. Three other guys took up the chase, and soon we were hard at work and a few laps later we caught Jeremy.
The other four guys were dropped, I think after the first lap, so it quickly became a race between just five guys.Soon we were taking turns pace-lining to maintain a high speed that would prevent the other guys from catching back on. This worked so well that we started to lap them. We even lapped some of them twice. I was very surprised to find that I was one of the guys doing the lapping and not being lapped! It was hard work for me, though, so I tried to save energy where I could.
As the race progressed I noticed that the only two guys making attacks out of our lead group were Dave Porter (Bicycle Blue Book) and Jeremy. I know Dave from other races so I knew to respect him. Jeremy I don't really know, but clearly he has a very strong aerobic engine. About halfway into the race Dave put in a very hard jump coming out of turn 4 that opened up a gap behind me which cut out two of our group. They were soon well off the pace and in about a lap or two we had almost a full straight-away lead on them.
We started to drop our pace a little bit after that and that is when Dave and Jeremy started to increase their attacks. I was weakest of the three of us so I am pretty sure they were doing their best to drop me. I will not say it was easy but every time they tried to drop me I was able to grab onto their wheels and stay with them. I couldn't afford to take a hard pull in our little paceline without fear of going too hard and leaving myself vulnerable to another attack by them. So sometimes my pace was a bit slow.
The last two laps of this race were totally fun to me, because they were very much like a match sprint at the track, something I am intimately familiar with and plays well to my strengths. I was smiling openly and enjoying myself immensely as we played cat and mouse, attacking, swerving from one curb all the way across the course to the other, sometimes slow, sometimes all-out. I was keeping an eye on them, constantly looking under my elbows, at their shadows, over my shoulder... anything to give me warning of their next attack. Attacks that I knew I would be coming.
On the last lap, Dave jumped into the second-to-last turn, and I jumped immediately on to Jeremy's wheel. This was perfect, and I was confident that I would be able to position myself well in the sprint. And so that proved, as Dave led Jeremy and me out for the sprint, I was able to come around both of them and cross the finish line with a nice gap.
|On the top step of the Salinas Criterium podium.|
I had considered racing in the 35+1/2/3 or 45+ race and the dynamics of that race would have been very different. The fields were larger, and the talent level higher. The larger field would have helped me in the wind, but the higher talent level would have made it more challenging in that way. Interesting to consider, and I may try that next time.
I won $30 and two T-shirts. Erik Petersen does a great job of keeping the entry fee low, so I made a $5 profit!