The weekend of racing concluded on Sunday with the Urbana Grand Prix, another criterium, this time in downtown Urbana. The course was shorter than Saturday’s course and it was actually modified at the last minute to include a 180˚ turn (the course was shaped like the letter “b”). This would be tricky to navigate.
Another situation to deal with was the heat. It was unseasonably hot at 80˚ on Saturday, while on Sunday it was even hotter at 90˚. With two hard races in my legs the day before, this race had disaster written all over it.
Fortunately, I had a few things in my favor. Despite the previous day’s efforts I felt somewhat fresh. Also, Sunday’s race was cat 4 instead of cat 3-4 like the previous day. I would not be up against many of the fastest riders from yesterday’s race. Also the field was smaller, so it wouldn’t be quite so crowded in the corners.
Despite my best effort to start a little farther up the field I ended up about 3/4 of the way back at the first turn and I gradually drifted backward from there. I wasn’t off the back yet, but I was dangling there pretty quickly. The first four turns each loop went fairly well, but the 180˚ was a killer. The group accelerated really hard out of that turn, and at the back this effort was even further exaggerated for me. I would slip off the back, chase for 2/3 lap, catch back on just before the 180˚, the slip of the back again.
I wasted a lot of energy this way, but I hadn’t completely popped yet. A dozen or so short laps into the race a guy crashed in front of me in the 180˚, forcing me to swing wide and nearly come to a stop. At that point I had no chance of catching back up, but I hammered on. I chased solo for a few laps, then I started working with another rider, then another. We would catch up to another dropped rider around the time someone from my group would slip off the back. I spent the rest of the race in a pack of 2-5 riders. I think I was taking longer pulls than the others, but I didn’t really mind. At that point I was in it for the workout and the race experience. I wasn’t going to finish high up in the standings.
Before too long we got lapped by the field. Not too long after that we got lapped a second time by the lead breakaway of two riders, including my teammate Jason (2nd in the cat 4-5 race the previous day). He looked very strong. He pulled away from the other guy and went off on his own. It was the last lap before the rest of the field lapped us the second time, apparently the other Wild Card riders did a good job at disrupting the chase, bettering Jason’s chance of staying away. He won by a sizable margin. Three other Wild Card’s finished 4, 6, & 7. I ended up 21. Of the 10 or so criteriums I’ve raced, I only managed to finish with the lead group once. This type of racing does not suit me… but I feel a lot better about it now than I did one week ago.
Later in the day was the cat 3 race, featuring Wild Cards Mark & Nick. Both were active in breakaways early on, but eventually fell off the pace and both dropped out.
The cat 3 race had a photo finish, which I captured with the high speed camera. I guess this wasn’t a great angle because I still can’t tell who won. The judges awarded the victory to the rider nearest to my camera (in the orange).
Thanks to Melissa for the photos of the cat 4 race.