First Friday Night Race of the season. First Friday Night Race in over a year due to my injured tendon last year. This was the course where I had my first bike race, so, it felt nice to be “home” again. The course really hadn’t changed much. Same crappy road surface, some of the cracks a bit bigger, same holes as always.
I signed up for the B race (mainly Cat 4 and 5 with some out of shape Cat 3.) It was going to be a good EECT showing with Nicos, Mike, Shane, Alistair, Tom, and Jonny. Our hopes going in was to get Nicos and Mike to place top three. Lining up, it was obvious that there was going to be a strong Mineola presence, and a few Paniagua guys, who can’t be dismissed. A few other fellas were looking like they had some fitness to them, so it was going to be an interesting first race.
I find these races more intense then some of the big city races due to less participation. This means you have less place to hide from the wind, and have to work more. Setting off at the front at the start of our fifteen laps, Shane and I set a brisk but manageable tempo. Fast enough to discourage some fast attacks from the start, but slow enough to give nervous legs time to settle down for those racing the first time this season. Once on the back stretch, Shane and I yielded control of the front since we didn’t want to burn ourselves out.
At some point, I believe in the second lap on the back stretch a Mineola guy came rolling back from the front and tried to knock Alistair off his wheel, but he was having none of that. Being on Alistair’s wheel, the fella tried to knock me off to get in. In anticipation, I spread my elbows out to claim my space, and did some elbow rubbing signaling I also was not putting up with that crap. A few elbow rubs later, and off he went somewhere else.
Shortly after that, Alistair took off the front, and when the dust settled, he had a small group with him. Some of the solo guys were upsert that Mineola and EECT were not chasing, but having teammates up the road, we were not entertaining that idea.
During the race I was trying to pay attention to what was going on around us, I always wanted to be prepared for a surge. It’s easier and less fatiguing to react right away, then after you’ve lost a wheel. A few times I noticed Mike taking on too much wind. I knew he needed to sit in if he wanted to be fresh at the finish. As a gap was opening up, I moved up and encouraged Nicos and Mike to get on my wheel to save energy and keep them in the group.
When Alistair blew up, the pack had picked up the pace and we were riding behind those mounting the chase. After the small group had been caught, Shane took a turn going off the front, and again we waited for the main group to react. Shane stayed out there for quite a bit. I noticed Mike getting impatient, and I signaled him to remain be calm and hang out. We were only halfway through the race, still much to play out.
Every so often I looked back and noticed the main group getting smaller and smaller. I think we were hemorrhaging riders in the first half of the race. Around lap eight or nine, Shane was being reeled in on the climb to the curve leading to the start finish. I knew I had to be prepared because someone was going to make a move. Around the crest or right after I saw a Mineola rider shoot up the right side, almost in front of me. I decided this was my time, so I accelerated to catch up to him.
I used the fading Shane as a sling shot, I rode hard right up to him in his draft then pulled around him. Now, being on the slight downhill approaching the finish line, I pulled up alongside the Mineola rider. I was going to see if he was going to try to stay out, and if not I would have power off to give the other guys someone to chase and kill their legs. However, I think my presence alongside caused this Mineola guy to start sprinting. Why? I don’t know. I wasn’t in there for a sprint, and it wasn’t a preme lap. In fact the bell was being rung for the preme on the next lap.
Therefore I made the decision to get on the wheel of this racer so I could recover for a few pedal strokes and formulate a plan, if to ditch and go, or work with him to open a gap on the field. I slowed up enough to pull in, and the space was there. I committed and pulled in and suddenly his rear wheel was right where my front wheel was going. It seems this guy stopped pedaling and with the bit of head wind scrubbed a good amount of speed.
In a split second at 29 mph my front wheel twisted out from under me and I went crashing to the ground. My bike bumped the curb and flew up three feet in the air before landing on the dirt sidewalk. The group rode by. After letting the adrenaline die out to see if I was okay, I picked myself up and walked back to the car to tend to my open wounds feeling quite angry and dejected. I was more upset that I could not be of use for the team’s success.
For what I can tell, I’m scraped up and a bit bruised, but nothing broken. Bike has been left at the shop for evaluation. The right shifter was bent in quite badly. Reflecting on the events, I should not have pulled up alongside the guy, I should have just gotten on his wheel, and then figure out if he was going to try to open the gap or just soft pedal.
Lesson learned. Still pissed though…