Race #3 in the Ontario Criterium Series debuts the alternate courseway consisting of the classic 4 corner layout. Approximately .78 mile counter-clockwise circuit with a slight downhill (-1%) between turns 1 & 2 and a moderate incline (approx 3% max) between 3 & 4. The prevailing wind makes for a tailwind between 2 & 3 and a headwind from 4 to 1 while 2-3 and 3-4 is relatively wind sheltered. Long false flat head wind finish? Should be, uh, interesting...
First race: 30+ 4/5 (35 min, 75 riders)
Having completed 2 races in the 5 race series I am the current overall leader of the points series competition with 15 points, 2nd and 3rd place have 7 and 5 points respectively, neither of which were present. Got a shout out form the announcer at the start, which was nice even though he butchered my name but I'm used to that. There were a couple teams with a large presence of which I took note. One team came from Las Vegas with 9 riders all entered in this race and I overheard them talking attacking tactics as I rode by warming up so I knew they were here to win and I would keep careful watch. Otherwise it was many of the usual riders I had seen at this race previously.
I didn't have numbers, but I had a plan.
My plan was simple: win the overall series points prime (about half way through the race) and then go for the race win. This would be a little more difficult than normal as I was racing alone and didn't have my faithful Lieutenants McSlutty and Breaky in the field to help me stay out of the wind as they do so well whenever possible.
The start was non descript; the usual nervous flutter of ill conceived attacks all left out to suffer for a few minutes before easily being reigned in. Having showed up to the staging a little late I started near the back and used the first couple laps to find my legs and move towards the front. After a few more laps the primes began: Cool-n-fit leg embrocation to aid warm up and cool down associated with athletic activity; pair of Schwalbe tires; seat bag, etc. Small breaks were forming on a regular basis as a group of riders would go for the prime and stay out 40 to 60 meters in front of the pack for a little bit before coming back because the pack didn't want to chase into the wind which was growing stronger with each lap. I knew the point bonus prime was coming soon and there was a 3 man break about 40 meters up the road who would get the prime if I stayed in the pack so I decided to attack into the wind coming out of turn 4 on the heels of 2 other riders. I bridged to the break by staying stealth on the back of our chase trio before jumping across to the lead group once the other 2 riders flamed out - now I was in the 5 man lead group playing for the prime.
Sure enough the first time our break crossed the start/finish the 3 point bonus prime was announced. I glanced at the other riders and they didn't seem concerned with this prime but I wasn't going to count on that. We each took turns working at the front to stay away from the pack and I noted that one of the strongest riders in the race was in this break. As we came out of turn 4 into the wind I was 2nd wheel, too close to the front to set up the sprint I wanted. Just as the first rider peeled off I jumped and swerved to the right thus starting my sprint about 220m to the line - much farther than I wanted but I figured I could catch them all off guard this far out and gain a seemingly unclosable gap which would discourage any sort of attempt, especially into the brisk wind. I jumped hard (maybe too hard) all the way to the line and it worked - I won the prime by a comfy 50 meter margin. I sat up and had a few good drinks before finally being caught by the break group half way between turn 1 & 2.
The next trip across the start/finish the announcer congratulated me on a good move to extend my overall lead, which was nice. A lap later the pack caught our chase as most of us (me included) had stopped working.
Now the jostling for the finale would begin... As expected once the lap cards went up each lap was faster than the last. With 4 laps to go my rear tire was feeling a little too soft. I bounced on it and it was bulging out considerable under my weight! I have a flat and even if I had spare wheels in the pit (I didn't) it was too late to get a free lap because the lap countdown had begun. I put up my right hand to signal rear flat to the others and drifted to the back of the field as to not disrupt anyone else through turn 3. When I was at the back I asked riders next to me if my tire was flat and they said it didnt look flat. WTF? I decided to just go for it and hope for the best but also was ready for a dodgy rear wheel experience. Now I was at the back and needed to work quickly in the headwind to move up; by the end of that lap I was in the top 10 again.
3 laps to go... 2 laps to go... BELL LAP! The pace was frantic now and people were taking risks to move up or stay at the front. I was content to push wind in order to keep a strategic place at the front while others tried to tuck into a draft only to get swamped up the side and boxed in a moment later. On the tailwind straight one rider went for a solo flier and quickly had a 20m gap on the field - no one wanted to sacrifice their own results to chase him down. The pace was silly fast as there was no draft advantage in a tailwind and people were moving up all over the front when it happened - I distinctly remember hearing the telltale "zip-zip-ZIP" of rubbing tires, someone let their front wheel overlap the rear wheel in front of them which was quickly followed by the terrible noise of pedals scraping, bodies slapping the pavement, popping tires and screams of panic. Right about 12th place was where the crash started (just behind and to the left of me) and the noise continued unabated for several consecutive seconds catching at least 25 riders in the pileup. When you're doing 35mph its hard to stop within the 5 feet required to avoid the tangle of bikes that lay spread across your path. I never looked back as we set up for the penultimate turn, pedaling through I exited in 8th place and got pushed all the way out by a newb which equated to 20 additional feet on my course to the line. I had to press hard to make up ground now and the slight hill riser was perfectly suited to my strength as a power climber so I relatively easily moved up to 5th not yet breathing too hard all the while being encouraged by hearing riders gasping for oxygen as I slipped past. Exiting the final turn I slipped past one more rider for 4th and was right were I wanted to be with 350m to the line into a stiff wind.
The riders ahead jumped at 250m which was too far out and I knew it played into my positioning so I remained seated and tucked into the draft of the rider ahead of me.
Once we got up to speed I got out of the saddle and dropped 2 gears as I went around the rider immediately ahead of me for 3rd. When I got on top of that gear I then dropped one more gear to my 11, put my head down and mashed the pedals with everything. I was into his slipstream and coming hard with plenty of room to the line and I swung out around him for 2nd still mashing hard.
Now I was set on the only rider remaining (the solo flier from the tailwind section) - I was gaining on him fast and he was quickly losing drive but he didn't have far to the line, I dug deep for one more kick, stayed low to reduce wind drag and was still closing very quickly but ultimately I ran out of road as he crossed the line about 3 meters ahead of me.
All in all I nabbed the points series bonus prime, 2nd place finishing points and avoided the largest crash I have ever been near - not bad for 1/3 of a day's work! $40 for second, 8 points for the race brings me to a total of 23 points in the series. 2nd and 3rd place in the series are tied at 7 points apiece. with a maximum of 30 points still on the table (race #4 - 3 point prime and 7 point win, race #5 points are doubled for 6 point prime and 14 point win) I dont have the series wrapped up but I am pretty confident with my overall lead going into the last 2 races. Basically if I only place in the final race I lock up the title and win a custom series winner jersey + $100!
Second race: 30+ 1-4 (40 min, 60 riders)
Third race: 4/5 (40 min, 75 riders)