The 2017 season started very promisingly with William & Mary and the Sharmrock Crit, but took a sharp turn for the worse afterward. My main goal for the whole year was to do well at Bryan Park. It's local, doesn't count for anything, but I wanted it. The first race felt like more of the same of my 2017: in contention, but not in the final fight.
#2 was mostly the same. The juniors weren't there, but the competition is still stiff, and the pacing has been weird so far this year. A lot of sprinting out of corners and a whole heap of braking back into them. Nothing fluid has emerged yet in the B race. I managed a 10th place finish on a sprint that just ran out of space. Almost ran over 3 guys and had to back off before the finish line because there was nowhere to go. Gotta work on timing and placing in the sprint. Sounds like an echo.
But I did manage to win the first prime and narrowly avoid a nasty wreck, both involving the same rider. As the bell was ringing, he and I both broke from opposite sides of the pack at the exact same time, with two riders off the front about 10 seconds ahead. We came off the front of the pack and merged, him in the lead, and chased down to the other two by the first turn. Each of them popped coming out of that turn, and my fellow breaker pulled me up the back straight. He'd timed it wrong, and I jumped for a quick easy sprint to the line.
A few laps later, at the 2nd prime, I tried to run off the front and drag my own teammate, but we mis-communicated and I ended up off the front without enough steam for a whole solo lap. I dropped back through the pack to regroup, and as we came back through the start/finish area, there was cursing and the crunch of carbon. Seeing as I've fallen off every bike I own this year, and broken two ribs in the process, I was uninterested in being part of the fracas. But it was right in front of me, and the only thing I could do was mash the crap out of the brakes and hope nobody would hit me from behind.
I had only about 5 bike-lengths to brake, and got most of my speed scrubbed, but I was still heading straight for them. I had to settle for a pedal-strike on one of the downed bikes, but it wasn't enough to upset me, and I got rolling again...about 20 seconds adrift of the entire group. And already gassed from the previous lap's failure.
After verifying both riders were conscious and moving, I rolled and tried to get others to help me regain the group. One by one I reeled them in and begged them to help, but nobody wanted to put out the effort. I managed to get back on, but it was all I could do to hold on until the last few laps, when I caught a lucky break and was able to move forward, breathe, and attack at the finish.
#3 was the first clockwise race of the season. I like clockwise, as it really gives the sprinters an opportunity to work. In the normal direction, we come out of a 90-degree turn and have about 15 seconds of sprinting to the finish. If you're not one of the first 5 or 6 bikes around the corner, you cannot win. Clockwise, the total sprinting time is closer to 40 seconds, with just about half of it uphill. Strenuous effort is rewarded, and you can hurt the group from 15th wheel if you time it right.
But clockwise isn't done often, so the first race is usually very dangerous. This race was no exception. Massive fistfuls of brake at both ends of the course, with ginormous herculean sprint efforts out of every corner. By the first prime lap, nobody seemed interested in going for it, so I jumped and rolled off the front. One guy staged a late attack on me, but I'd already buried it. I was already resting before the line when I heard him shift for one last gear from just behind me, and 2 more pedal-strokes kept me out of reach.
We dropped back into the pack and settled in for some really sketchy laps. There were dudes in the grass on both sides of the course, guys trying to make turns work 8-wide, and again: more braking than was prudent. Including on the straights. Lots of bitching and griping, but amazingly not one rider went down.
I knew from watching last year's season leader that the outside line is faster on the final lap, and I worked my butt off to finally get to the front of the outside line entering the final turn. But all that braking made me nervous, and I gave up too much speed in the turn, letting the center-line riders drift out over me. I was pinned, and nobody was attacking.
My teammate had taken the inside line and had drifted over with the leaders. I tucked under his wheel and, with a full head of steam already going, was about to hit him when I yelled for him to go. He obliged, and for a while we were 1 - 2 coming up the final straight, but the yelling took away from the sprinting, and 3 riders managed to pick me off before we crossed the line. I ended up 5th, he got 3rd, and we both got paid!
10th and a prime one week, 5th and a prime the next. Not enough to put me in contention for my season goals, but a good feeling, just the same.