Hey hey! So I had an absolute blast this past week beginning at about 3:30 on Tuesday afternoon when I left work. The Yaletown Grand Prix was the next day (Canada Day) and it was to be the first downtown crit race of my career!
I actually slept quite well considering that I had placed some weighty goals on myself without knowing anything about how hard it would be or who would be racing. I woke with the usual blend of excitement and pre-race anticipation and decided that the best solution would be a healthy stack of pancakes; a little cyclocross trick I learned from my bro Max.
I rode over to the race at about 11:30 and arrived in time to help our team director set up the tents, trainers and other stuff for the team. I got registered and then began that annoying part of racing...waiting for the start. I must admit though, it wasn't too bad with so much going on and so many people milling around.
At about 1:30 they let us onto the course to do a few warm up laps before sending us out of the gates. I should mention that the start format was kind of cool; they had us ride one neutral lap behind the lead car before firing the gun to actually start the race with a rolling start...it felt like we were at a bonafied pro race even though we were only racing Cat.4...Cool!
From the gun the boys hit the front running whipping up a fast pace that left yours truly gasping and struggling to move up. Although caught off guard with the quick start, I made sure to move up at least 5 wheels along the back straight by shoving my nose into the wind and sprinting up the line. Within about 4 laps I was sitting in a better position in 2nd wheel coming winging through the start/finish gate. Leaning hard into the first righthander, the Escape Velocity rider in front of me took the turn too wide, ran into the curb and went down in a mess of legs, arms and bike sliding into the hand railing for the restaurant. Boom, Yaletown claims its first victim. The next two laps I traded off the front with a few others before the next calamity struck.
Coming around turn #3 into the steep punchy climb, I heard the familiar sound of carbon and metal scraping the asphalt. Not turning around to check out the action we kept riding, and that ended up producing the winning breakaway. A less than ideal way to have a winning move form but I guess that's part of bike racing. I'm not entirely sure how that 2nd crash happened but apparently someone locked bars with someone else to bring down a few racers.
As the laps ticked by, the four of us were working quite well together and after sprinting for few of the primes and collecting myself $75, we had a new joiner bridge up to us. Unfortunately Rider X didn't feel the need to contribute to the effort and ended up sitting on the back well past the time that one might reasonably give someone to recover after a bridging effort.
This is how it was to be though, and I had made up my mind that to win the race, I was going to have to win the 2nd last corner. There wasn't enough space to open a full sprint between the final turn and the finish line and I was pretty sure nobody would risk passing coming into the last corner either.
So there we were firing through the start/finish line getting the one-lap-to-go bell. I pulled through after the chicane and thought perhaps I had moved to the front a touch early but I punched it up the hill and leapt out of my saddle at the top thinking I would drill it down the back straight and try and hold the gap into the final two turns. I looked behind me and I definitely had the gap and was holding it. One more glance sure enough found Rider X with his fresh legs bridging up to me with ease and coming around me into the 2nd last corner.
Unfortunately Rider X wasn't quite preared for the speed that he was carrying into the turn and took a wrong line sending him too wide on the exit and hammering into the rental fence barrier. As this unfolded about 15 feet in front of me while we were doing probably 40 km/h, my brain started sorting through a list of items that needed to be taken care of rather quickly. Firstly don't follow his line, secondly slow it down and thirdly, don't wait for the mangled bike to come flying off the fence into my line of travel before trying to avoid it. Thankfully all 3 got sorted and just as the wrecked bike came unnervingly close to my bike I had veered far enough right to get around it and back on line for the last corner. One more corner was all I knew I needed to take this thing...I came in low and on the exit jumped to my feet and sprinted with anything I had left to realize about 3 meters from the line that noone was coming around me and I had won my first legit bike race!
There was no way I was throwing away an opportunity like this to unleash a fervish victory salute, so like Max taught me, I punched the sky with my fists and celebrated my good fortune.
Although it was a bit scary at times, it was quite an experience and will help serve to launch me into my Cat.3 racing career! I'll post up some photos from the race in a day or two.