Last night was the rescheduled start to the 2016 Bryan Park Training Series, and it was awesome, with a big asterisk. Like maybe this big:
I got to the event at my usual time: entirely too late to warm up, and with barely enough time to pin on numbers. And, as usual, I could barely satisfy the self-identification requirements at check-in. One day I'll get that stuff right, but it wasn't last night. Fortunately, because I have a season pass, I can pre-pin my numbers from now on and arrive at least another 3 minutes later.
I'd not done Bryan Park before. I'd ridden the course a couple of times with my teammates, but that was months ago, and I was suitably nervous about the quasi-hairpin and long uphill back straight. I was busy worrying about that at the back of the starting line-up when I realized the guy in front of me was in a very high and aggressive gear for starting off, so I shifted my worry to getting around him and clipping in. And with good reason, because dammit: both were tough.
But then we were rolling.
And I mean rolling. ROLLING (average speed for the race was 26.2mph). The first 4 laps were spent moving from the back of the pack to the front 15 or so. I like sitting about 10 - 12 wheels off the lead so I can respond to an attack if necessary, but not blow up. My concerns about the hairpin were perhaps a bit unfounded, as it turned out to be easy enough to roll through 2 abreast with the leaders, but the back straight felt like I was riding across a rock garden. The patches of pavement were extremely disruptive to the bike, and the pace we pulled out of that turn was staggering.
Each lap would see a run through the turn at just a tick over 20mph, then a blast up to about 32mph up to the dog-leg, then a lot of sitting up. I spent a lot of time on that back straight on my brakes.
The front straight was much the same, with a tight exit from the final turn, a blast of power, then a whole lot of nothing past the kink.
Team orders for the race were to not allow a breakaway that didn't include one of our guys, and since there weren't any of us ahead, I stayed GLUED to 10th wheel, responding to every attack, lap after lap. When I finally saw one of our guys pass me, I was ready to sit up and drop back, but then he did the same (I found out later he was going for a prime). So I stayed on the back of the lead group.
In the 10th lap, disaster struck: reaching down for my water bottle, I hit a tiny bump and heard the sharp, unmistakable "ting, ting, ting" of my wedding band bouncing down the road. I nearly stopped right then and there, but realized that there would be no better chance of finding it then than after the race, so I just shouted profanities for the next half a lap and rolled on. FWIW: you will never find a better group of people to call teammates. They helped me comb through hundreds of feet of grass & gravel after the race, but the ring is gone. Fortunately I am married to a wonderful woman who was not angry about it.
Regrouping, I realized I'd let a bit of space form in front, so I powered up and caught on to the draft again. By this time I was joined by most of the team, but no solid breakaways were happening with the blistering overall pace. Since we were collectively positioned well, I fought on.
On lap 14, the pace slowed a bit in anticipation of the bell. Tragically, the front guys dropping pace meant a bunch of riders were able to move up from the back, and the bell lap was just a hot mess. What had been 4-wide on the back straight became 8, and my plan of getting a solid run up the inside was summarily cut off, forcing me into the grass for a second before rejoining. As we rounded the last turn, I knew I'd been pinched and put out of contention.
I hammered as hard as my 15-lap, 40-year old legs would allow...seated...and managed to pick up a position or two as the leaders violently yawed their bikes to the finish.
I finished off the lead group, but still clear of the pack, and once again I think I'm about 15th or so. Next time I'll take that lap 14 lull to move forward. I may not have a solid lap of sprint in me, but I do not want to get caught behind a knot of riders who are all on the brakes again.