Friday night was the Loop de Loop criterium, just a scant mile from my house. The four-corner course was straightforward, with two exceptions: the downhill backstretch had really sketchy pavement, and turn #3 off of the backstretch traversed a raised sidewalk (so there were 5 different pitches mid-turn).
I had two teammates in the Cat 4 race, Grant (who already has several wins this year) and Jason. We started near the front. Just as soon as the race started I was swarmed and ended up at the back of the field. The first trip down the backstretch I couldn’t see anything and it was utterly terrifying. The first time around the sketchy corner #3 was just as bad. Fortunately, it got much better after that. The race started fast and I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t be able to hang on. Fortunately, everyone else seemed to tire faster than I did and before long I was near the front of the race, where I stayed until the finish.
With three laps to go I found myself at the very front as Jason passed me to set the pace. I grabbed his wheel. On the backstretch I heard Grant call up to us that he was on my wheel. So we were 1-2-3 in the field with Grant in great position. I feared we might not be able to keep it up for 2.5 more laps, but I felt strong and Jason was strong. Then disaster struck. Jason overcooked turn #4 and slid out. I narrowly avoided him, but Grant hit him and went down as well. We went from ideal position to me all by myself in front, kind of freaked out and wondering what to do.
I waited for a few guys to catch up and continued on. I maintained my position near the front. On the final lap in turn #4 (200m from the finish) I was 7th wheel, hopefully ready to move up, just as the guy in front of me went down in the exact same place Jason did two laps earlier. This was harder to avoid and I had to come to a complete stop as 20 guys passed me. I soft-pedaled to the finish in 29th place. I had a good race with no results to show for it, as per usual.
Fortunately Jason and Grant were both okay, just a bit banged up. Counting these two mishaps, six times in my last five races a rider directly in front of me has crashed.
Don’t ride directly in front of me.