Red Kite #4 35+ 3/4
Results for this season have been great for our little band of Cat 3 racers (9 wins and 4 additional podiums if anyone is counting). Unfortunately, these results have been met with a growing sense of expectation. Pre-race text sessions have grown from “what can we do to put ourselves in a position to do well” to “here’s how we’re going to win”. Leading into this race, the expectation was that I WOULD win. This expectation led to quite a bit more anxiety and pre-race jitters than usual.
For the past few months, we have been chasing points and chipping away toward our upgrades and we’re all collectively on the bubble. Going into this race, I knew where I needed to finish to put my chase to bed and turn focus to getting the rest of the group over the top. I didn’t need to win, but I needed to do well. That gave me some comfort, because while some 29 racers were pre-registered for the event, we had 50+ toeing the line looking to derail my objective. Several familiar faces and many heavy hitters were in the mix. A few teams had 3 or 4 riders and there were many other paired riders. A lot of action to cover and it was unlikely that I’d be able to cover it all, so I made my usual “guys to watch list” and headed to the line.
The Red Kite crits are contested on a wide open, non-technical, 3 or 4 turned (depends on your stance on the first sweeping “turn”) business park course. It should be safe, but the races rarely end without someone hitting the deck. In an effort to avoid the inevitable melees, I usually raced this event by sitting off the back, conserving energy, picking my own lines, and giving space to get around any crashes. Picking daisies as Nate calls it. The course is wide enough that I could jump around the field to get into action if warranted, but I usually saved my legs for the last couple laps of action. With today’s elevated expectation and my anxious energy through the roof, I changed my approach and made a point to stay near the front.
The race started off in typical fashion. Solo attack after solo attack rolled off to feel out the group, but were covered by the field again and again. Not much to worry about at this point and I considered falling back to the rear of the field as the anxious energy was starting to fade. Fortunately, I stayed near the front as some 15 minutes into the race a strong duo had slipped away. I kept an eye out for a response from the pack, but the gap grew from 5 seconds to 10 and after a couple laps the two were 15 seconds clear. Knowing where I needed to finish, this move was quite enticing and I waited for an opportune moment to make a bridge attempt.
Heading into to turn 3 (really, turn 2.5) I jumped from second wheel into a head cross wind with enough kick to prevent anyone from latching on. I connected after chasing for half a lap and jumped into the rotation. A couple laps after bridging, we were joined by 4 more bringing our group total to 7. Maybe too big to succeed, but we had enough of a gap on the field to try to make it work.
Once the laps cards appeared and it was evident the group was not going to bring us back, thoughts shifted from driving the pace to winning the race. Morgan Stanley (Blaine Ashely and Charles Bunting) had two riders in the break with one sitting on and the other helping push us out of the field’s reach, needed to watch them closely. Coretech (Dennis Wall) is just hammering turn after turn and it appears that his energy supply is endless.
A Bloc (Deniz Warraich) and Pen Velo (Tom Dillon) are rotating through smoothly and don’t look to be hurting. Chris Morris of Folsom Bike is in the mix and he took a well-earned result two weeks prior at Coppertown. All strong opponents and placing well will be a challenge considering I’m not feeling great. We press on lap after lap until the final bell rings us through the finish line.
The cagey games started a bit before the last lap with riders taking fewer or shorter pulls and doing a lot of looking around to get a sense of who still looks threatening. On the last lap, I settled near the back and stuck myself on the Morgan Stanley duo while A Bloc took us to the first 90-degree turn and into the tailwind section. Coretech took to the front and drove down the backside of the course. He was clearly feeling strong and we were all reluctant to come around at this point.
Through turn 3 and into the head/cross section, Coretech hit the gas and we fell in line to get what shelter we could find. 300 meters before the final turn, Morgan Stanley jumped around Coretech and PenVelo with a nice surge while I stayed glued to their wheel. Nearing the final turn, Blaine came around Charles and they bumped a bit forcing Blaine a bit off the preferred line into the corner and to the outside line for the sprint. Once that small window between the two of them opened, I jumped through it and hard into the corner.
Head down … sprint sprint sprint … get past Blaine, check to the right for anyone coming up the inside … all clear … race won and then relief. No post up, just exhale and relief. Objective met.
After running through the podium pics and such, I pondered jumping into the 35+ 123 race since I was already kitted up and down in Livermore. In the end, I raced and it was brutal. I failed to hydrate well between the races and had to bum some extra water from Chris Morris (a lifesaver) before the start. I felt like pulling out of the race from minute 15 through 57 and did all I could to follow wheels. Eeked out a 16th place and called it a day.