Once Around the Park
Well I survived the first criterium of the season. Criteriums are crash-prone races that are all about tactics, about wheel sucking until the perfect time you can pull out the sprint and win. Last night I did the opposite of that, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. I had done some reading about criterium racing and how it’s better to stay near the front (that’s near, not at) because of the increased danger at the back as well as the “accordion effect”. The accordion effect means that in the corners, the riders at the back are having to accelerate more to catch the riders at the front. The farther back you are, the worse it is and the harder you work. So when we lined up at the start, I did not bury myself in the very back as I had in the past. I placed myself right on that line to ensure I would be in the first third of the pack (of about 12 racers).
As soon as we started I found myself right on the front of the pack. Not my plan, but that was fine. I figured I’d set a nice controlled pace until someone blasted past me in the first sprint and I’d grab their wheel. I’ve been practicing this maneuver with my roadie friends and was anxious to try it out. But after almost 3 laps nothing happened and it was getting boring. So I upped the pace and after one corner hopped out of the saddle and gave a little sprint to let them know something needed to happen. Gradually over the course of the race others would do this too and it got way more interesting (and hard), but all too often I found myself at the front, in the wind, doing all the work. This kind of pissed me off, so I did my best to either slow them right down or shake them off, hoping this would eventually tire them out. Well, of course the person who got tired was me. But I didn’t care. I wanted to race, not coast around the track for 20 minutes for a 10 second sprint.