Volunteer Park Race Report

The 8AM Cat5 crit was my first sanctioned race. It was cold (35 at my house) and wet, but at least it wasn’t raining.  I got there early and did a few practice laps.  It had the feel of Seward Park but with a narrower road.  The organizers were on the course scraping off moss.  I didn’t encounter much to worry about in the warm-up, but others were complaining about the treacherous conditions.  I planned on taking it easy and making sure I finished the race.  There are no placement points in a 5-4 upgrade, just finishes.
We lined up and were off.  I was glad that I didn’t encounter any sketchy riding and was mostly enjoying the ride.  The first prime was ridiculously slow but I didn’t bother going for it.  As the race wound down there was a second prime (4 to go?).  It seem like another embarrassment to racing was about to happen.  So I cut out of the line to the left and picked up the pace.  At the same time another rider did the same on the right.  We locked eyes across the pace line and I took that to mean we were now engaged in some sort of death sprint or something.  I snapped my head forward and took off.  He apparently thought otherwise because after three or four strokes he gave up.  Hah, that was one easy prime, but as I crossed the line I wondered what if anything I had won.  They didn’t talk about primes before the race.  It turned out I won a nice pair of gloves and some chamois cream.
On the final lap I planned to take it easy up the hill, then sprint the final 200M after the last turn.  I took it easy up the hill and a few riders passed me.  On the final turn the guy to my inside slid out his rear wheel.  I was preparing to ride through the impact, but he regained traction just in time.  It was now time to sprint.  I got in front of the group I was in and could see three riders battling it out up ahead.  I never really closed on them and that was that.  Afterwards as I was congratulating the winner I noticed he looked a little young, so I asked him his age.  He was 15.  I got walloped by a kid.  Damn.
I spent the next 1.5 hours in the truck with the heater on warming up, relaxing and thinking about what I should do in the 4-5 masters race.  The plan I came up with was to sprint the final hill and be the first one around the corner (and don’t go for any primes).  I got out of the truck and rolled right to the start – I was warmed up enough already.
The masters race was smother and the hill seemed like less effort since you got sucked up half of it.  Because it was hard to pass on the narrow roads, I stayed more towards the front that I usually do.  With 10 to go I made sure not to fall back to far anymore.  With 3 to go I was fourth wheel.  Sweet. With 2 to go 10th.  With 1 to go 15th.  WTF?  Nobody was racing wide through the moss on the down hill.  It didn’t seem that bad in the warm ups so I went out there and moved up a few positions.  The curb jogs in at the bottom and I made sure to cut in early and made myself some space.  Nobody complained.  We hit the hill and I was ready to motor, but I was boxed in.  I was boxed in the whole way up.  At least I didn’t have to work too hard.
Rounding the last corner I was pissed that I was going to have to watch yet another group of riders up ahead sprinting for the win.  Oh well, this time I was at least going to sprint hard.  I let out a yell stood up and took off.  I don’t know if the yell confused people or if I had a decent jump, but I was quickly in front of the surrounding riders.  I took a quick look up and saw the two riders who were going to win with a few additional ones getting dropped.  I wasn’t going to watch that crap so I put my head down and continued with the effort.  A few seconds later when I took stock of the situation the two winners were a lot closer and approaching rather fast.  I was close to spun out and was about to kick it up one when I thought the better of it.  They didn’t know I was coming and it was better not to make a sound.  Also, it looked like I was going fast enough already.  I caught them right at the start of the paving stones in front of the Asian Museum.  By the end of pavers and at the finish line I was clear of them.  It wasn’t even close.
At this point I was a bit confused and wondered if that just actually happened.  I looked back and it sure looked like it did.  Damn.  From that point on I had a smile on my face for the rest of the day.
-Ed Praistis