Based on the ride home, which took a 30-minute hot shower to recover from, I decided to drive to my second crit in two days. Calumet Park at rush hour took a little while, but traffic wasn’t too bad. Same drill as yesterday…arrive, check in, pin on number, warm up, race.
Warming up by myself this time, I repeated the 20-30 second max effort intervals that I’d done the day before. Ted and Russ’ insight proved to be accurate: that the first time you go all out, your legs take longer to recover and it’s good to get this out of the way in warmups.
Since I achieved my goals not to crash or get dropped on day one, this time I wanted to make a point of riding up in the front few riders as much as possible on day two.
The race started essentially the same the day before, with a quick jump off the line to get into a pack. I drilled it a bit to get up front before the first turn left, into the headwinds whipping in from Lake Michigan. After a couple laps, I saw Russ up in the front 3 riders…I was a few wheels back of him. I pushed myself up fourth wheel – two behind Russ – right after we made the same left into the winds.
And just then a guy up just off to my right jumped! I could hear guys behind me yelling “flier off the right” as this guy accelerated into the headwind. Russ stood on the pedals and chased him…I jumped onto Russ’ wheel and after about 10 seconds of a hard acceleration, we caught him. There was a gap on the pack but not a huge one. We ended up both passing the flier and then it was just the two of us in front. I wasn’t sure if Russ was going to try for a breakaway or sit up and let the pack pull us back, so I rode up next to him and said hi (mostly so he’d know it was me) and said “cmon Russ, I’m with you…let’s go.” He didn’t say anything back, just smiled and I pulled in front of him. I could hear his bike right behind me as we wound through the back stretch of the course, made the two lefts and turned back onto the main straightaway. We crossed the start/finish line 1-2 and I had a bit of a smile on my face — I just led the race as we finished a lap! Small victories…I was happy to take it.
I continued to push but got the feeling this wasn’t going to be a breakaway, as I shot a glance over my shoulder at Russ, to see the pack pulling us back. I eased up a bit as we turned left into the wind again, after which we were shortly overtaken. I dropped to the back third of the pack, which initially made me nervous…but then I remembered it was only about halfway through the race and to soak up the draft, which I did.
One final bit of drama was when we crossed the line for the second-to-last lap. A guy jumped on the front straight and about 4 riders followed, including me (to make five). I thought to myself, “THIS IS IT!” Though I didn’t know who to mark or follow in the race, I figured a group of five with two laps to go could hold off the pack. I really had to drill it to stay on the wheel of the racer in front of me, but I was able to do it. We pushed hard and then about halfway through that lap, as we made our way through the back stretch of the course…the guy in front of our potential breakaway just sat up.
Really? I mean…REALLY?!? Just as quickly as our 5-man group had accelerated away from the pack, we got sucked back up. In fact a racer from the pack pulled up and said to the lead guy, “Hey thanks!” Our group of five was tired briefly and the pack had pulled us right back just before the bell lap. OOPS. Lesson learned again…mark the right guy or say F it and at that point, attack when someone sits up and just see how far I can go. Second night, same result as the first night…middle of the pack finish. Again achieved no crash and no drop, not to mention spent a little more time up front. All in all, the first two crits were a blast and left me excited for the coming Burnham crits a few days later.