I decided to add some interest to the intensity of my training this week with the Tiger Lane Criterium race. Given the difficulty of my upcoming races and how hard I’ve been training lately, I’d felt unsure about going. However, with all of the other women in town avoiding the race, I figured it was a pride thing and pinned my number anyway.
As many youngling roadies have discovered, criterium racing (click the link and scroll down a little if you don’t know what I’m talking about) is somewhat of a learned skill. Much like cyclocross, because of the added bike and pack handling skills required for crit success, it’s possible to have exceptional fitness but still suck at it. The physiological efforts of a fast crit is similar to cyclocross as well- most of the time, you’re close to threshold, with repetitive leg/lung searing attacks sprinkled throughout the duration of the race.
I haven’t been training for the attack-type effort, much less ridden in a crit since June of 2010, so I wasn’t sure how it was going to go. The “women’s race” was run in conjunction with the Cat 4 men- a group that can be somewhat unpredictable due to the variety of riders ranging from recently upgraded 5s, cat 4s for life, sandbaggers afraid of cat 3 racing, as well as former cat 2s (yeah, I’m serious, there was a downgraded cat 2 in my race).
The course was flat, fast, and relatively non-technical. As we lined up for roll call, I did my best to stay stone-faced despite the fact that my heart rate was already above 130bpm. When the race started, I immediately stuck like glue to the first few wheels. My strategy was to stay near the front where the pace was smooth and I could follow the important moves. It was a good one- I barely used my brakes, and, though we were often 2-3 deep through the turns, everything was smooth. Even at high speeds, the group was surprisingly calm and non-sketchy. I chased a few breaks and made a few of my own attacks. I couldn’t help myself…
About 3/4 of the way through the race, a small break formed. Noticing that it was the magical mix of 1 rider from each of the attending teams, I jumped and bridged. According to Ryan, we had a workable gap started as we rounded the home stretch. Even though we were killing it, for some reason, someone chased down the break. It was a total cat 4 move on someone’s part, because there was seriously a member of each team in the group (i.e. someone chased down their own teammate). Maybe they were mad that I was up there?
The last few laps were somewhat uneventful. A lot of riders were stuck in the back because of the breakneck pace. I sat around near the front until the former cat 2 rolled off the front on the last lap (and won). The resulting surge/sprint landed me somewhere in the top half of the field for the sprint.
Given the situation, I’m pretty stoked on the whole thing. I’ve still got the crit skills on lock, and that sort of intensity will do wonders for my upcoming racing endeavors. Unfortunately, because of said races, I don’t think I’ll make it back to the crits until the last of the 4 race series. Big thanks to the 901 Racing guys for putting on a great race AND including a women’s payout!