“Riding the wave of change” could be the subheading to this post. For starters, it was hot and windy with temperatures in the mid-80s and strong winds out of the southwest. This was in stark contrast to the beginning of the series four weeks ago when the temperature struggled to stay above freezing and we were all bundled up in our winter gear. Coming into tonight’s races I was feeling fairly well having just come off of a solid weekend of riding with a 9th place in the Cat 5 Whitnall Park Spring Classic Race and a good showing at the Cheesehead Roubaix on Sunday. I deliberately took it very easy on the Belgianwerkx Recovery Ride on Monday evening to feel as fresh as possible for the crit practice.
I was unsure of any kind of strategy due to the high winds and was planning on just “feeling out” the first race to see how everyone else was going to react to it. On the previous two evening of the series the wind was out of the north, hitting us in the face on the last small incline and into the last corner before the start/finish line. Tonight was completely opposite. After the first three easy laps the pace picked up quickly on the first lap but definitely slowed when the wind hit us smack in our face on the back half of the course. Once we hit the second-to-last corner leading up the small hill the pace picked right back up with the wind at our backs again. This allowed us to carry A LOT of speed into the last 90 degree right-hand corner. Looking back at my Garmin results, it showed speeds in the 28-29 mph range. FAST! On the second lap I started to drift off the front a few meters on the windy back stretch. No one else seemed too willing to stick their nose out with me so I decided on a last second strategy. I was going to take a good, fast line into the corner leading into the last small climb and then just ride as hard as I could up the hill with the wind. After that I would take a look back and see what kind of gap, if any, I had opened up. It worked! While this may sound great it also meant I was committed to riding solo for the next 3-4 laps with a pegged out heart rate. But there was no way I was going to sit up now and let the pack catch me. 3 laps, 2 laps, 1 lap, my gap was growing and there was only one person chasing me. That person was Team Extreme’s Jim Mauck. That worried me given his multiple steps onto the podium this year. Fortunately, the gap was too big to overcome and I was able to sit up and raise a hand into the air as I crossed the finish line alone. What a feeling. This was my maiden victory in any kind of bicycling competition, maybe any kind of sporting activity. Yes, it was just a practice race, but it still felt great nonetheless.
After my effort in the first race I had to particular goals in mind for the next two 20-minute race besides just to hang on. I guess I had a little more left in the tank than I thought! The end of the second race came down to a photo finish with Jim Mauck and me sprinting and throwing our bikes across the line. That’s right folks, I sprinted. This is a complete 180 departure from a few years ago when I was a spindly climber in Colorado who shriveled in any kind of wind and avoided any kind of criterium racing like the plague. I’ll take it though, continuing with the theme of “riding the wave of change.” In the end I think we called this race a tie.
The last race finished much the same as the second. I managed to hold off Jeramey Werbelow from Team Extreme, and my winter training buddy Steve Sarver from Velocause, and Jim Mauck in the sprint up the last hill and across the line.
What a night. I never knew I had this in me. All of the changes I have made over the past 1.5 years and all of the hours spent riding the Computrainers this past winter (and unfortunately a good chunk of spring) is paying off with some nice dividends. I guess I will just keep on “riding the wave” and see what it brings for the rest of the year. All I know right now is that it’s going to be a long wait until my next race, the Wheels on Willy Criterium, on May 19. I wish it was tomorrow!
Jadon is a Cat 4/5 road racer for Belgianwerkx who is returning to competition after a few years away from the race scene with a focus on criteriums and road races. In 2013 he is learning the nuances of crit racing having previously focused most of his racing on hill climb events in his former home of Colorado.