Last night we ran Bryan Park clockwise for the first time. It was an experience.
For the first time, I decided to ride to the event, since my company just moved to offices 3 miles from the park. It seemed like a decent choice, even though I knew I was going to have to change tires before riding over, and even though we'd been forewarned to get there early for administrative stuff.
Somehow it took me almost 25 minutes to change the tires, which put me waaay behind. I'd gotten a small gash in the rear tire in the first race, and it opened up a bit between the 2nd race and the team ride last weekend, so there was no chance I was going to just wing it and hope for the best.
But the 3 mile ride turned out to be just about the perfect warmup distance, and I got a quick couple of laps in to judge the course.
Then came the DARK CLOUDS OF DOOM. As we were lining up for the start, big winds were blowing and a few fat raindrops hit us. The coordinators announced that the race could be called at any lap if the weather turned super gross, and then they let us rip.
Somehow I'd found my way to the start line relatively early, and actually started from the front row. And somehow I clipped in faster than anybody else, because within 60 feet I was leading the race.
Going into the first turn I felt pretty good until SNAKE!! Right in the path of my wheels while leaned over pretty steeply for the turn. Brake and I'd likely roll the snake and give up traction, not to mention getting plowed from behind. Hold the turn and I'd likely wreck, too, so I sat up a bit, aimed right at the dangerous berm on the outside of the turn, and crushed the snake. You're welcome, everybody.
That trajectory turned out to be a boon, because not 100' past the snake a large tangle of limbs had fallen. So I went from shouting "SNAKE SNAKE SNAKE" to "DEBRIS DEBRIS DEBRIS".
And still I had the lead, so I backed it down. And then I backed it down some more. And more. I did not want to blow up pulling the crowd through the hairpin and up the hill to the kink, but nobody else wanted to, either. They let me drop the pace to 22 before pulling past, and we were on.
Several laps went by at blistering pace, but without incident. Then Eddie charged off the front, because that is what he does. I was pinned 10 deep when he jumped, but found an opening and gassed it as hard as I could. It took about half a lap to bridge, but we were clear. Waaaay clear. And then Eddie sat up, because that is also what he does.
The first rider to catch us asked why in the hell we would give up the breakaway like that, but Eddie is smart and powerful and knows how to wear out his competition. So once again that work was all thrown away, but frankly I'm not sure I could have endured another 5 or 6 laps at that pace.
A few more laps of jockeying and pacing with nearly constant shouts for dropped riders to hold their line (one swerved right into our paceline at one point), and then calamity: the guy to my immediate left over-corrected in the hairpin, and his bike leapt up in the air and stopped. How nobody hit him is a mystery, but it pulled the peloton apart and nearly allowed for a proper break at the bell lap.
By some mystical miracle, once again the lap-board wasn't updated in time, and half of the leaders saw "2" when it should have said "1", ignored the bell, and didn't push. USE ALL THE TOOLS.
Coming into the hairpin for the final surge, the wrecked rider was still slightly on the pavement on the outside, so the run through the turn was a bit dicey, and the hammers dropped too late. The first 4 were through and away, and the next group of 10 were all bunched up. I got clear of a few of them and had a real run for 5th place, but realized I was on the losing side of an argument going into the final kink and backed out just a touch, putting two riders through and out of my reach.
I ended up settling for another 7th place finish, the final scoring position.
I think I like Bryan Park clockwise. I'm not sure if I like it more or less than CCW, but there is no braking at all into the hairpin because the exit is uphill. And that uphill exit caused me to do something I'd never ever done in a race: stand up. I tried my usual seated sprint in the first lap, found it just didn't work, and resigned myself to the extra effort of the standing attack. I expected it to blow me up, but it really didn't. And doing it for 14 laps gave me the confidence to stand on the final blast to the finish line. I know I picked off 3 riders in that final surge because of my willingness to try something new (before judging me for not standing, know that ~2/3 of my miles are commuting with beefy panniers--they functionally prevent me from doing a standing sprint, so I've gotten used to just not trying).
The rest of the team did well, too, with Patrick winning a prime and nobody getting dropped. FSR rocked the frog!