It was going to be an interesting race, it was hot, (average temperature during the race 35C), windy 25kph gusting to 35kph across the eastern half of the course. Parklands is my favourite criterium circuit, 4km long with a short sharp climb in the middle and no technical corners. The group was a little different from usual, down in numbers it was missing the sprinters (using their discretion) and the triathletes (important local race). Instead it was loaded with the all the aggressive attacking riders still in D grade I had raced with this season. So my original plan of attacking early and trying to get away with another rider or two, was put on hold to a more read and react. I did feel sorry for the new guy and a couple of regulars returning after a break. This was looking like it was going to be an aggressive attacking race.
It started very steadily for the 1st kilometre, then Brett tried to slip off the front. Nobody reacted, so I launched myself across the gap, had a lot of momentum and went flying past, I had Jamie on my wheel and we opened up a small gap. Jamie did a turn, then I put in a big effort to try and open the gap. It was early in the race, but the opportunity presented itself so I went for it. As we approached the climb for the fist time, I could see Travis and another rider bridging to us, up the climb I looked back and the pack was on us.
This is where I made my fatal mistake, I eased up while still on the climb and let the bunch pass me and jumped on the back. Expecting the peleton to slow a little and for me to get my breath back, before heading back to the sharp end. Only problem the peleton did not ease up, the riders on the front where also trying to escape and the riders I slotted in behind where struggling, their race already run. I had problem getting enough energy to get past one on the climb and still had troubles driving down the other side. Down the finishing straight, I could see three riders trying to make a break, five more in hot pursuit a couple more struggling and I finished the lap less than 10 seconds adrift of the bunch of three.
I have bridged back to the bunch over similar gaps before, so I was not worried, I settled down to the long chase. The next lap was not bad, the wind was a taking it’s toll and there was still some animation in the bunch, so I down by less that 20 seconds next lap. The third time into the wind and that was it, I was struggling, I lost sight of the bunch and my race was over.
I settled down to complete the race at a steady pace, the next lap I struggled, then I starting picking up pace for the last two laps. My incentive over the last half lap was chasing down two stragglers, the first was a B grader, the second was a D grader and elevated me to 11th from 14.
Still lesson learnt, do not ease back on climbs, wait until the top and I am not ready to solo early off the front of D grade at Parklands when it is windy or at all.