Certain decisions leave one wanting to hit the rewind button and make again at the crucial moment. 20/20 hindsight, Monday morning quarterbacking, whatever you want to call it. Saturday’s E-Center criterium was one of those races where, as a team, we’d like a do over.
RB described the E-Center course as “a little bit ghetto style with a bunch of cones all over a parking lot.” And while it was no Sugarhouse Park, it was still fun and plenty challenging (and well-organized--Marek does a great job). The turns were tight enough that I had trouble keeping my front wheel on the ground the couple times I tried taking a corner with my hands on the hoods. We dropped five, but fully half the field got shaken loose in the Cat. 4 race, if that tells you anything.
The strategy going in was pretty simple. We had enough guys to cover any breaks, so all we needed to do was make sure we had a guy up when the moves were made. Depending on who was in the break would determine how hard we worked to keep it away.
On lap two, RMCC, Ski Utah, and Canyon each sent a guy on the attack. Cam was on the front and thought “no way is a winning move going this early” and didn’t go with it. First decision we’d like to have over—we were the only team with any numbers that didn’t have anyone up, so it would be up to us to chase. Cam, Steve, and Will (who gets hard man honors for having already done the Suncrest hill climb race earlier in the day) gave the chase some effort, but by about 20 minutes in, the break was still away and it was clear it would not be caught.
Jess, Cameron, and unknown Canyon rider in the break. Photo credit: MFT
It’s hard to muster the motivation to race for fourth, so most of the race was reluctantly covering attacks and launching a few of our own, none of which went anywhere, except for Steve’s solo move to take the prime. With about 10 minutes left, the Canyon guy got dropped by the break, while Jess (RMCC) and Cameron (Ski Utah) lapped the field. The rest of us were racing for third.
Turn 2 was only slightly less tricky than turn 1. Photo credit: MFT
With two laps to go we started jostling for position in the bunch sprint. I had spent most of the race at the back half of the pack and now needed to do the work to get forward. My plan was to be in the lead 5-6 coming around the final corner and then cut inside for the sprint. The final turn was a left-hander, and the wind was coming left to right, so I figured by coming inside I’d have a cleaner line since more people would want to go wide and right to maintain speed and stay out of the wind.
Photo credit: MFT
As we exited turn 3 on the final lap, we were bounded on the right by a curb. The riders on the inside took a wide line to keep people from coming around the outside on the right. Unfortunately, Steve and I were coming outside on the right and were left with nowhere to go. Steve actually bumped the curb with his wheels but managed to stay upright. I bumped elbows, as did others, and a bit of yelling ensued. The upshot was that while I was glad not to crash, I wasn’t in the position I wanted to be.
On the final turn I was probably 10 or 12 back. Unfortunately, the inside line wasn’t as clean as I expected (but still cleaner than outside—my real problem was being too far back) and about halfway up the final straight I was boxed in with a rider in front and one on either side. I had to slow and wait for a gap to open and shoot through it.
After coming through I was able to improve a few places, but I’d positioned myself too poorly and lost too much ground getting boxed in to be anywhere near the front. Which is too bad, because I had good legs and the the sprint was pretty slow for having that much straightaway—I maxed out at about 55kph, whereas 60+ kph is more typical and certainly would have been attainable unimpeded. Good enough for eighth place, but worse than what I hoped for. Only good news is that Steve and Rob finished ahead of me in sixth and seventh, so trading spots with either of them wouldn’t have helped the team any. Though I am smarting over still not having finished ahead of Steve all year*.
*Except once at Miller, but he was on the front of the leadout train trying to set me up only for me to fall completely flat in the sprint, so that’s perhaps worse than losing to him when we’re both trying for results.
Nice to win rather than lose by half a wheel for once. Too bad it was only good for 8th. Photo credit: MFT
This is pretty much it for the flat, sprinters’ races until Sanpete Classic in August. We’ll see how things go in the mountains, starting with a nice, easy climb over Bald Mountain Pass a week from Saturday.