by Owen McGrath. Photo credit Alex Chiu
So much fun to race in my hometown. It was amazing to have teammates and so many friends there cheering me on as I rode by. It felt really pro. Equally nice was the 13 minute travel time to the race that doubled as a warm-up.
I was admittedly really nervous going in. A full 75 man field was going to make the race both hard and potentially dangerous. I also knew that in 5 days time, I’d be getting on a plane for a dream vacation biking in Italy and was genuinely scared about leaving this race with either a cracked bike frame or a cracked collar bone (fortunately I stayed upright).
No teammates from Dolce but a number of friendlies: Adriano from Mikes Bikes, Kyle from SFCC, Lindsey from Wheeltalk.
Most people know the course, a L shape around 5 city blocks: 1 left turn and 5 rights, with a small hill after turn 2. This race was FAST. Fastest Crit I’ve done yet at 25.8 mph average speed; they normally plan for a 45 minute race with a preset 21 laps, and we were done in 38 minutes.
I had a front row start, which was great until I missed clipping in and started the race 20-30 places back. Five laps in, I was better positioned but felt totally gassed. I could feel Sunday’s race burning in my legs and was wondering if I’d even make it. Fortunately, it calmed down a bit and I was able to sit in. Pretty much every uphill and every downhill, the pack would swarm with people trying to move up. I tried to stay up front as best I could to keep safe. It felt sketchy bing back more than 15 wheels.
5 laps to go and I needed to focus on positioning for end-game. I came around on the front leading the pack. Going into the left turn there was a wall of noise from the the SFCC. I kept close to the front, top 5 wheels for the rest of the race. I didn’t want to risk losing position. The swarming pretty much stopped in those laps because people were so gassed. I also learned later that the pack split and they pulled more than half of the field off the course. On the final lap, attacks came from everywhere on the hill and descent and I just didn’t have the legs to break through the swarm as I neared the downhill turn (2nd to last before the sprint). I finished the sprint 14th with no major moves forward or back after that 2nd to last turn. Right as I finished, Devin Koch from Dolce congratulated me and handed me a beer. I’d have a few more before the day ended.
Talking to people after the race, it seems pretty clear I made my moves too soon. A lot of people came to me and said I looked really strong towards the front, but with 5 laps left, it was too much. Had I done something similar with 3 to go, it likely would have been a different story. Still, on the flip side, getting into position when it gets so chaotic at the end is really hard. It’s something I need to work on as I get more experience.
Oh well. Next up: Passo Stelvio and a weeks worth of classics in the Dolomites. Then Oakand Grand Prix and perhaps the Henleyville Road Race to finish the season off.