Last year I won my first race ever, The Ballard Crit, Category 4/5's.
This year I won my second race ever, The Ballard Crit Cat 3's!!
After upgrading last year, being hit by a car in December, and getting dropped in my first races this year, it was an extremely rough start to the season.
But with determination and training the legs came back around, and I could tell that fitness was close to where it was before.
Rob & I rode down from Capitol Hill, taking our time and not wanting to waste an ounce of effort. We got to Ballard with tons of time to spare, and watched some of the earlier races and got ready for ours. Changed into my skinsuit in an alley, talked with the team, warmed up, and tried not to let the nerves take over. It is the Ballard Crit after all..
We rolled around on side streets for 10 minutes as a warm-up, pretty weak - but I felt nice and loose and ready to race! After some decent results at Seward Park lately I figured I could do something useful in this race, and had the team riding for me so I was really hoping to make their work worth it.
We (Recycled Cycles/Raleigh Racing) had five guys in the cat 3 race: me, Spoonie, Steve, Jeff, and Nick. So with four of them putting in work so that I could rest in the pack, it was great fun watching Steven win primes, Spoonie go off the front and attack for a few laps, Steve attacking at will, etc. All of that was in hopes that our competitors would then have to chase down those attacks and primes. Make them work that much harder. (and if the attacks stuck, then it was still a win for the team)
In the cat 3's the main difference is that teams try to work together, and actually get stuff done more often. Trying to organize a team in a crit is tough, but with team mates ready to sacrifice their race for yours, it does work out.
Spoonie & Steve on the front, stringing it out: (that means we're going fast)
With about 3 or 4 laps to go, I got on the front and was concerned that we'd lost control of the race; if we ever had control is of course debatable, but now was the time that it really mattered. I'd been resting up the whole race, so I had a little to spare even though I was saving most of it for the end.
Two to go, and I'm still on the front, trying to keep the pace up - but not going fast enough. Don't want anyone to come around, unless it was a team mate..
Luckily a team mate came to the rescue - Spoonie got on the front and strung it out, with me sitting 5th wheel ready to pounce! Ideally I would have been right on his wheel, but that might have been too predictable in the end.
What you can't see in any of the photos or video of the race is how I won it - we held the formation above on the back straight, which had a tailwind leading into the 3rd corner. And since it was a tailwind my plan all along was to attack in this section on the last lap, knowing that the strong tailwind would make it so that nobody had much of a draft, and that we'd all have to work the same. (meaning if someone is behind you, they aren't getting much draft from you)
As we straightened out from corner two, I was in 5th wheel and happy that Spoonie was keeping the pace up - must've been around 30 mph at least, though I didn't use any data during this race so I have no idea!
I got the feeling everyone was just waiting for the exit of corner four to start the sprint, but I decided to start it a bit earlier. I saw an opening, had speed on those in front of me, and jumped as hard as I could. It was a race-winning sprint and I put everything into it. I had to.
The tricky part is that I had to hold everyone off out of corner 4 to the line.. slightly uphill and in to a slight headwind.
Leading the pack out of corner 4 on the last lap - I felt like I had a bigger gap than what appears here, but it was just enough.
A team mate on the sidelines got a great shot of me coming out of turn 4, gunning for the line:
Eventually the guys on my wheel start to fan out to come around.. my legs are on fire.. want to give up but it's not time just yet..
But they can't come around!!
[photos from wheelsinfocus.com]
Yup. I did it again! I could only half believe it after it happened, and all I could do was let out a "FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK YEAH!!!!!"
Video of the race:
For my troubles I got $80 cash and a set of SRAM S40 wheels! And of course bragging rights for the next year..
We won the Ballard Crit!!!