I commuted yesterday.
With Page Valley out of the way, my real racing season should have been over. Bryan Park is supposed to just be an opportunity to work on skills and try new stuff. And while I had a plan for the race, it did not depend on being particularly fresh. But then came the news that we would be running clockwise tonight. Fan-friggin-tastic.
Counter-clockwise, the course is a downhill run into a hairpin, with a mostly straight and slightly uphill run to a 90-degree turn at the top, and then a run back to start/finish. It's a momentum race. Clockwise, it's a 90-degree turn with a whole lot of chop on the exit, a run downhill at breakneck speed, an uphill hairpin, and a sprint to the kink. Every lap plays out the same, and it's exhausting. And I was already exhausted.
To make matters more complicated, even though I had completed all of the PUBLISHED requirements to upgrade my racing license from CAT 5 to 4, we are apparently playing Calvinball. There are unpublished rules. There is "steward's discretion". And I think some sort of Illuminati handshake, but I got confused after the eleventy-third if-then statement. Honestly, scoring the Tour de France is less complicated. Anyway, the take-away was that if I put myself in a scoring position tonight, I would likely secure my upgrade. No pressure. Oh and they typically only score 7 positions.
The race was predictably fast, predictably hard out of the hairpin, and had the predictable bumpy run-outs from the top corner (one almost threw me). I took a few laps to move up from the back, but once I got to my preferred spot, I was able to hold it, for the most part. A few dodgy passes, a couple of corner dive-bombs. The usual.
In spite of my determination not to bridge, I still fell for one failed break, but fortunately it was on the downhill, and I was able to stack up the field with a slightly-less-aggressive run back up the other side. Several riders tried in vain to either attack solo or form a break.
But in the last lap I finally had myself exactly where I wanted to be: 2nd wheel, inside line. I knew I had the power to make the tighter turn work on exit and was on Ted's wheel setting up for the hairpin, when some jackass just swerved in front of us. Ted checked up hard, as did I, and we lost all our momentum. I watched a slew of riders go into the turn ahead of us, including some guys who had no business being that far up in the bunch.
As we came through that turn, it was like running into a parking lot. Half the guys who had crowded that turn were just grinding up the hill while the leaders sped away. I knew the race was done, but dammit: an upgrade was on the line. I buckled down and put out everything, blocking the inside line completely and reeling back a few fliers. As we rounded the kink, I counted helmets and saw 9 ahead, with one just beginning to ease up. I dropped the hammer, and realizing how close it would be, tried to thrust the bike forward, having never done so before.
As I came back around after the race, the timing & scoring guy told me I was 10th. I asked if my thrust had been for naught, and upon review, T&S confirmed that I did get 9th! I groveled and begged, and they agreed to score 9 deep. Woohoo!
So I learned a new skill tonight, and I found a little extra reserve of energy when I needed it most. Now I just hope we're running the right direction next week so I can follow my original plan...