My crit season ended last night on a high note, but frankly it could have gone better.
Tuesday afternoon was sporadically rainy, so instead of racing, I went and watched the B race with Alastair. While the actual race was uneventful, there was a crash during warm-up and evidently some carnage during the A race.
So I headed into Wednesday with fresher legs than most, and a plan. The plan was hatched after watching a competitor complete a season full of come-from-nowhere top-5 finishes. I'd spent all season near the front, with nothing left at the end, and he'd spent all season near the back, and is wearing the points-leader jersey. He knows something I don't.
So I was going to spend the entire race glued to his wheel, following his actions and figure out when is the time to move up from the back. But on lap 4, he dropped the hammer, and I followed, racing off the front like a couple of wild banshees. As we crossed start/finish, he sat up and looked over at me. I asked what we were doing, and he just smiled and gave a "meh, whatever" reply. No prime lap, just a random flame-out.
I dropped back to the back and circled around for a few laps, easing forward when gaps allowed. By lap 10 I was back near-ish to the front, and I was hearing some shouts to pick up the pace, which is weird, because why the hell would the guys on the front want to blow up? As we crossed start/finish, I heard the marshals say "15 seconds", which can only mean one thing: a break got away when I wasn't paying attention, and is 15 seconds up the road.
That's bullshit, and there was no way I was going to end my race off the front group. Nobody was willing to organize, so I floored it and shouted at the front guys to get on my ass and close the gap. We took away that 15 seconds in 2/3 of a lap, with about 7 guys clear of the field. And they all sat up, right as the prime bell rang. I was hanging out close to the front as we came tearing back up the hill to the line, but nobody was willing to jump. I like free things, so I figured if nothing else, I'd go win a bottle.
And nobody chased!
I even asked the marshal if it was a prime lap. Whatever: the team took at least 2 primes on the night.
I dropped back into the group and looked around to see if my rabbit was moving up, and he was! But on the complete opposite side of the road, so there was no chance of getting to his wheel. I was pinned inside, but had complete control of the inside line.
On the final lap, even as we came into the hairpin at the bottom, I was still able to control the line, and nobody tried any boneheaded dive-bombs. As we came out of the turn, I was about 10th, and we were moving (better than last week, where a bunch of guys basically stopped on the exit). I jumped and my legs felt amazing. The guy in front of me jumped, too, but got pinned right into my line, leaving me inches on the side of the road. With nowhere to go, I had to let off and roll behind him. By the time I had clear space, the front 3 were away, but for the first time I was a legitimate factor in the final sprint.
I really feel like I could have pulled off a solid 3rd place finish, but I ended up with $5 winnings and a gift card, so I can't complain.
5th place in my final crit of the season, following a 3rd place in my final road race. Can't ask for much better in a 40-year-old's rookie season!