Why I will be racing C grade next week

I have been suffering from one of those pesky viral infections for more than 10 days now. The symptoms pretty nondescript: constantly tired, stiffness in muscles, sore throat and stomach cramps. I have backed off my training, last week consisted of 4 days of 3.5km. Riding to and from the train station, even then my legs hurt with the short climb at either end.

So after a bout of stomach cramps delayed my arrival at the race to the last possible minute and found out the course had changed to roadworks left a covering of loose stones over one corner. What was my favourite “criterium” course over 4km with a sharp climb became a 6km course with two hotdog (180 degree) corners and two climbs. The race start time had also changed so I had 20 minutes to register and get ready, so no warmup. I seriously expected to be off the back fairly early.

I was surprised how much changed when we started racing. I settled down the back as ticket collector when I saw the best sprinter in difficultly on the first climb. Went straight to the front drove hard to the crest and over it, to make sure he did not get back on, it worked. Next lap, same climb, two more riders in difficultly, same tactics, different result they got back on, but I was feeling good.

Next lap, I drove hard into the first climb hoping to cause more damage, when another rider came round me and eased the pace back slightly, then started struggling. Halfway up the climb another rider came passed, I swung onto his wheel easily. Half a dozen pedal strokes later, an object struck my knee and I realise my Garmin had come loose.

I stopped to pick it up, because it was on the steepest part of the climb, it took an effort to get going again. I did not realise at the time but I lost about thirty seconds. I chased pretty hard to get back on. As I approached the hotdog turn, I could see the rider who attacked on the climb had a gap, one rider was struggling to go across and the rest did not seem capable of catching.

I should of stopped at the finish line, got a mechanical time out and jumped on the back of the group. It would of saved me a few hundred metres and a lot of wasted effort. But I didn’t, blame brain fade and the belief I could catch the bunch in front. I don’t know if was the lack of feedback from the Garmin or the fact I was not 100%, but I found was riding hard for a few minutes, hitting the wall, recovering for a couple minutes. I was tiring, I had to use the small ring on the climb for the first time I can remember. However, I was slowly catching the bunch and the lone rider off front was tiring, but maintaining his gap.

Next lap, I was going to ask for my mechanical time out, but the bell rang. Approaching the hotdog, one of the rider who on the race committee, yelled take a mechanical timeout and jump on the back of the bunch. So I did, which in retrospect was a bad tactical move. Not wanting to race for second I went to the front and starting driving hard. I actually had to slow to keep the bunch on my wheel. Still in less than 2km I had halved the distance to the lone leader. I swung off on the climb and the bunch slowed dramatically. I struggled over the top, caught back on the descent, recovered by the time with hit the turn.

I knew we were not going to catch the leader, and I did not want second place after my mechanical time out, so I went to the front and drove hard. Got to the climb, hit the wall, struggled over the climb and started the chase back on. Passed a few riders on the way to the finish for 5th.

I am sure that if did not lose my Garmin, I would of stayed on the attacker’s wheel and the two of us would of ridden away. I would of been confident of my attack on the final climb and picked up the win.

If I did not take the mechanical time out, I am pretty confident I could of chased down the bunch by the second last climb. I then should of recovered at the back, attacked as we crested the last climb and riden away for second place.

But that is a bunch of could of beens. What was obvious, I was the strongest rider in the grade. I could hang round in D grade until I earn promotion, waiting until the last race of the season the club championship for the prize money and medal. OR go to C grade now for the challenge.

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