After last Saturday's "performance" at the crit, I knew – or rather, hoped – that I would do better by some measure in today's race. Thankfully, I did.
For starters, I was able to clip in better... not perfectly, though. It took me only two times to clip my left shoe in, but even so, I was able to stay in the main pack as we left the start line. Thankfully, the pace for the first initial laps was a little bit more relaxed compared to last week, and I was able to hang on towards the back of the pack for a while. Eventually, attacks began, breaks started developing and the next thing I knew, I was in the dreaded "no man's land" – riding by myself in between the main pack and those that fell off the pace early and had since regrouped a little. I probably should have tried to speed up and latch on to the group in front of me (allowing me to draft some and recover), but didn't. At the same time, I knew slowing down to let others catch up wasn't in my best interest either, so I stayed put and kept my pace going as long as possible.
Eventually, the race organizers started pulling lapped and those-about-to-be lapped riders. I was able to avoid the first category (unlike last week) but after a couple of more circuits I could see my time on the course was numbered. I pushed along for about another lap or two and then got "the whistle" (which translates to: "you'll be lapped soon, so please exit the course.")
While I wasn't able to complete the entire 40 minutes, I do feel better about my slight improvement over last week. I had a better start, I stayed calm throughout the opening laps, and made better decisions regarding when to expend energy and when to save. Plus I feel like I'm making some improvement in my cornering skills... being able to take corners with a little bit more speed.
After the race, with a beautiful sunny-and-70 day on hand, a couple teammates and I wanted to get some extra riding in, so we headed over to Deer Creek Canyon to do some climbing. And we got a fair share... nothing crazy steep, but it was plenty long. About 13 miles to the top, with an average grade of about 5%. It felt great... I hadn't done a long climb like that in a while, and while my legs felt a little tired towards the top, it was definitely a "good tired."
I'm still not sure if crits are my thing, but will probably due a couple more in the weeks and months ahead to see. If nothing else, they do serve as good race and group riding experience, and are a very good short-and-intense interval workout! Next up (probably): a road race where approximately 50% of it is on packed dirt roads, and there's a short 17% climb.