RCR just can’t stop winning! AJ gives us the race report:
Last Sunday saw temps around 80 degrees down here in St. Louis, and despite riding myself into oblivion the day before on a road course hammered by wind and with a 1k stretch of brick preceded by a short steep climb and speedy downhill, I had to race the Tilles Park Crit. IT WAS IN THE 80S! AND I COULD RIDE TO THE COURSE!
Turned out to be a good choice, as the race was super safe and on a great course. It was basically a big circle with no tight turns or even tight corners (ahem, as circles don’t usually have corners.) Think Seward without that turn at the top. It also gave me an opportunity to check my latest hypothesis: Wearing white makes you fast.
The racing was very tactical. The wind provided the stiffest challenge on the course, and through the first half of the race small groups took their chances, looking for that spot that would maximize the tail wind slingshot. I resolved to let others do almost all the work since I was on my own, and quickly found my spot in the group: right next to or behind pro cyclocrosser Carrie Cash. Pros are hella smooth (I doubt her cadence ever dropped below 100,) and somehow she managed to sit right in the middle of the group, never hit the wind, and still have about two feet of extra space in all directions. She was always in that perfect little pocket that everyone else is looking for.
I let the toolbox and golf pass primes go by and waited for the 6-to-go lap countdown to start. There was a break of four about 20 seconds up the road at that point, so I was thinking about the counter attack. The break had representation from four different teams, all with guys back in the pack, so I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t get chased if I went after them. So I did.
It took me three laps, and I dragged another rider across with me, but I made contact with three to go. At the crit two weeks prior, I’d tried the same move, but failed to get across and I was super motivated no to let that happen again. As luck had it, the group hadn’t responded at all, and the original four up front were still committed and working hard. I felt bad (well, only a little) for sitting on at that point, but I had to look out for old Number One.
I sized up the competition: By the end the original four would finish with probably 20 minutes off the front. They were pulling at a good speed, but I thought they’d have less acceleration in a sprint. The rider I pulled across worried me. A big Nettles-looking dude, calves like WHOA, definitely a sprinter. And he’d only taken one short pull during the bridging. Time to look for the long sprint.
One of the original four took of right as we caught the tailwind, about halfway around. That’s too far, I thought, but don’t let him get too far ahead. I waited a few seconds for the leader to come back into the headwind and then made a break for it from third wheel. At that point, I almost ate it. Sprinting through a turn out of the saddle is dicey. I ran over some pine cone/dirt/tree debris and my rear wheel skipped and bounced about four times, but I kept on it. As I caught the leader I looked between my legs and saw someone else, but decided just to take the shortest line from there, forcing any followers to pass me into the wind, and go as hard as I could.
I put my head down, dropped the gears and focused on spinning my legs faster and faster. I don’t think I took a breath for the last 10 seconds, but… JACKPOT! I made it across first, with Nettles-leg about a bike length back.
Looking back, I managed to keep my aggression in check and ride a really smart race (for once,) find a super-safe wheel and expend almost no energy until I wanted to. But since this was my first time ever racing in a white jersey, and I won, I can only conclude that it was the color of my shirt that brought it all together.