Serves me right for being so aggressive during the first five laps. I had never raced here before, but everyone I spoke to before the start was falling over themselves telling me how tough of a course it was. (Who needs to hear that shit?) We didn't get to do any warm-up laps, my first time around was in a race.. The course is a mile long with a hill after the 2nd corner, which continues after the 3rd corner, cresting at the 4th and final corner. Should have suited me perfectly- I am very good at powering over small inclines. So what the hell happened?
A break of 10 or 12 guys got clear by lap 3 and I knew I either needed to be in it, or pull it back. Having no legs to do a solo bridge, I accelerated up the hill and through the start/finish, finding two other riders in tow- we had a small gap. They were either cooked from the effort or lazy, I don't know. What they did do is finally accellerate and leave me behind, ALMOST making it to the tail of the break, and then fading back (I laughed my ass off). So the break is still up the road by about 15 seconds and gathering steam...
We have Rick Kotch in the break, my team mate who last week won the 30+ Attleboro Criterium. These 12+ guys are going to sprint for six places?? Either this break was going to fracture a couple more times before the end, or it was going to be absorbed and some new blood was going to break clear later.
All this stuff going through my mind after just five laps.. I am red-lining it with a HR in the 180s, it's 90+ degrees out. I can't seem to get back down under 170 bpm... So at turn two I go to the front and put the after-burners on. I can see the break isn't working well, some of the guys are looking spent. I lead the field through turn two into the hill, then into turn three up the rest of it I get out of the saddle and sprint to the top. Behind me people are gagging on their own puke -I like to think so anyway :) As I round the 4th corner, we are about 40 meters from catching the break. No one comes around me to help, at which point I yelled at everyone: "COME ON! They're sitting up!!!!!"
Finally someone with fresh legs pulls through and says "Good job", which was nice to hear and made the sting in my legs seem worth it. By the 1st corner at the bottom of the hill, the field was all back together, with me at the back, in the nose bleed section, trying to calm my heart down from the mid 180's. The next two laps saw me hanging on for dear life as fresh new attacks were launched from the field.
Did I mention how damned hot it was? As I left the house this morning, I had this weird feeling. Shutting the door behind me, I almost went back inside to kiss my son goodbye again... "I could die today", I thought to myself. The heat was hard to deal with. The race started at 11:00, the sun was just about vertical, bearing down on us at every part of the course, no shade whatsoever. After eight laps, with 12 laps left to race, I threw in the towel. It just didn't seem worth it...
I had trouble recovering from the few good efforts I put in. The heat was definitely a factor, but I think my heart just wasn't into it. Doing a criterium for the first time can either go great or terrible. An unfamiliar venue can sometimes spook you. So I'm feeling a little bit of self-hate and a little bit like a failure for not grinding out those last 12 laps, but it'll pass. Thanks for reading.