For the moment, it seems the gods of ill-fortune have been sated. In the time between Miller School and the Chesapeake event, I'd managed to recover my Bryan Park Training Series finishes and put up both a 2nd and 3rd place. I was feeling good, until I wasn't.
The night after the last BP race, I changed tires and mounted the CX bike on the trainer for my wife to test. Everything was fine until I stood and turned slowly, resulting in a fire of pain down my back that lasted for days. I couldn't get out of bed at night, and walking was nearly impossible.
But I could ride, and mostly without pain.
By Saturday morning, race day, I was really concerned that I was doing permanent damage by not seeing a doctor. Alastair's racing season was on the line, though, so no matter what, we were making the 2-hour drive to the course. And if I was going at all, I was going to at least try to race.
The race itself was fairly small for a state championship event, with only 23 starters in Cat 4. At an hour, it would be my longest crit to date (didn't get to do more than 4 laps at RIR before the big crash). All of my good results for the Bryan Park season had come in races just around the 30-minute mark, so even with a good back I still would have been fairly nervous.
As it happened, this one turned out to be one of my best races, to date. Speeds were high, but power output was very manageable. With such a small group, it was really easy to move around and test different lines. The course had only two major power areas, coming onto and leaving the front straight, and the whole front straight was all upwind.
An early break gave me an opportunity to see who would work to bring it back, and try to burn up a few of my opponents. By halfway through, there was a clear group of people who would be actively competing for the finish.
When the prime bell rang, I couldn't resist: I was as patient as I could be, but I wanted to see how serious the competition would be. Coming around the final turn, I laid it out as hard as I could and crossed the line well clear of any chasers. I felt good about my chances for the end of the race.
Another break, this time by a Richmond native who typically throws away a couple of good efforts in a race, and he got help from another rider to hold it out for 4 laps.
With 6 laps to go, two riders broke off the front, including a teammate. Another two chased shortly after, and I bridged up to them. Both of them flamed out crossing the finish line with 5 laps to go, while the two front-runners had a clear margin. My teammate fell off, and it was one dude, all alone, but he was 15 seconds clear of the group.
I waited a lap and counted his gap at the same point again: still 15 seconds.
I waited another lap, and STILL 15 seconds. Nobody was moving on him, and with only 3 laps to go, he looked strong enough to have us all fighting for 2nd.
I jumped coming off the front straight, hoping to catch him unaware downwind, and pulled his gap to 7 seconds before looking back, and the group had not followed me. I was out there on my own in no-man's land with 2 laps left, gassed out and confident I'd just thrown it all away.
Apparently the group then bumped the pace up a bit, because I was caught, nearly dropped, and clawed my way back up through the group.
Rounding the back side of the course on the final lap, I locked elbows with a guy and nearly went down hard, but managed to hold it upright. The contact took his pace away, too, and I jumped on his wheel to the front of the chase group. The leader was now only a few seconds away, and I was back in action.
I set myself up for the best run through the final turn I could manage, but was still really hurting from the earlier effort, and figured it would just be whatever it was gonna be.
As it happened, the runner was caught just before the line, and I had dropped to 4th before recognizing an opportunity to snake 3rd. I made my move just as the guy ahead looked over his shoulder, and he was able to block the lane and hold me off by half a wheel.
4th and a prime, with 2 upgrade points. I definitely hurt my chances with the solo attempt to chase the guy down, but I wasn't there to fight for left-overs, and I later learned he'd done the same thing and won the race the week before, so even though it pushed me down the finishing order, the effort felt vindicated.
Alastair's race turned out to be the perfect cap to his 2017 road racing season, with his first overall win. He did it by camping on another rider's wheel (from a different racing group) while she died in the wind, then jumping and basically sprinting the entire final lap to a finish well clear of any chasers.
His effort secured the title of VA State BAR Champ, Junior Men 11-12, 2017.
All in all a great day for the family and for the team, with another teammate finishing inside the top 10.