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Scott Blakley Louisville Crit: Race Report
Even though this was only my second crit, I knew that is was going to be a bit unusual. It was a cat5 race, and only 20 min in length. Due to the short timeframe, I figured that some of the usual tactics that I have been picking up might have to be modified. Additionally, because it was only cat5’s racing, I felt confident that I had a chance to win the race.
I got to the course with plenty of time to spare. I got registered, and then spent some time watching the ongoing races to get a feel for the most technical corner on the course. Adam carpooled with me, and he had been going over race strategies with me, and we continued to talk about my race plans while watching the races. The course was short, and not overly technical. When we arrived at the venue there was not too much of a wind, and as the time progressed a wind started to build coming out of the south. My legs were feeling pretty good, especially since I had taken the previous weekend off of riding and summited two mountain peaks. The previous fields that had been racing were not charging around the course too quickly, and I figured that if the higher cat’s were not moving with too much determination, the 5’s would not exhibit aggressive pack skills. Adam had counseled me that if I notice a lull in the pace after the first several laps and I feel good enough to make a move, do it with 100% effort with the full intent to win. I think that I started to integrate this scenario into my race plan before I even got on the course.
After getting some stretching in, I got on my bike and rode around the course on the sidewalk three times. I got a good feel for the course, and began thinking of where possible attacks would come. Then came the time to get on the trainer and warm up. The warm up felt good, and my legs felt ready to do a quick race. As the time for our race to start neared, I got off the trainer and headed over to the start finish. I tried to keep the level of warmed up that I got on the trainer, but I did start to cool down a little. Unfortunately there was a serious enough crash in the race directly before mine that an ambulance had to come out on the course. This led to that race having a few neutralized laps, and then finally a re-start with 5 laps left to go. Because of this delay, I was cooling down more than I wanted to. Finally the prior race finished, and we pulled up to the start line. I was feeling good, and in the zone. I knew that I wanted to be near the front in order to minimize any loss of speed in the corners. I was going to let the field get their jitters out for a few laps before I would try anything. Due to the delay from the prior race, and the limited time frame of our race, the official told us we would just race 10 laps. I had secured a front line position for the start, and when the race began, I immediately pulled into first or second place.
We did not get off to a fast start, but riders began attacking in no time. None of the attacks were serious accelerations, and I made moves to get on the wheel of whoever tried to get off the front. I was riding in second or third for the first several laps. I was feeling good, and since the pack was not moving at a breakneck speed I wanted to try a breakaway and win. I was telling myself not to make my move before the fifth lap. In the third or fourth lap I was in second place, and the first place rider asked me if I felt like doing some work. We were getting into the uphill section of the course, and that is the section of the course where the jump would be most effective. I responded ‘I suppose so’, and then proceeded to jump off the front. I put in a good acceleration, and never looked back.
When I crossed the start/finish I had gained a nice gap on the field. I will admit that if felt pretty neat having the announcer say my name. I put an all out effort to keep and expend my lead. The headwind in the downhill/flat section of the course was draining me a bit more than I had anticipated. I was hoping that I would be able to gain a few seconds of drafting when I was lapping riders, but I ended up passing them quickly enough that was not an option. I knew that if I wanted to win, I had to go all out. Every time I passed the start/finish I heard the announcer say that the field was not doing anything to bring me back. This helped bolster my spirits because I was in a fair bit of discomfort. My legs and lungs were burning, but I just kept telling myself that the race was almost done, and I could win it!
I came into the last lap and still had a lead, although it had diminished a little. As I was coming up the hill on final part of the course, I heard the noise of wheels spinning, and a few riders come into my peripheral view on my left. I cursed a small storm in my head, and knew that if I wanted to be part of the race I’d had better jump. I didn’t have much left in the gas tank after my run out front, but I dumped my remaining energies and jumped again. I was able to catch up, and even pass one or two of the remaining riders in the sprint. I did one cool down lap, and then proceeded to flop on the grass. I was able to get a fourth place finish. Although I wanted the win, I am still happy with being in the top 5 because I didn’t hold anything back in the race. This was the first solo breakaway I have done, and although it didn’t get me the win, it was a learning experience. Looking back, I could have improved my chances for the win if I would have waited until the fifth or sixth lap to make my break (although how the other riders would have responded would have been different), or if I would have conserved my strength and gone for the field sprint. Either way, I am happy with my performance and I view this race as a learning experience. I think that the lesson that I took from this race was even if you feel really confident, patience is key.