So there's a weekly crit in Niwot, just down the street from where I work. My coworker T. went two weeks ago and raced and had a good time, and last week all my regular riding partners went and raced, and placed first, second, and fourth. They spent the entire intervening time badgering me about going, and so I went to watch and cheer them on.
Then we got there and they used peer pressure -- always a weak point for me -- and outright bribery, and the next thing I knew I had a race number and was at the starting line.
It's a pretty open course. Most criterium races have really tight turns and some climbing. This was more like a triangle with rounded corners: full speed the whole way, if we wanted.
They started the cat5 men, the cat4 women, and the juniors all together, as the first race (which is where I was) and the faster races -- cat4 men and all the upper-division women, then the 3,2,1 men, later. There were maybe 50 people lined up at our start. Very relaxed: the woman ahead of me turned around and said "I suck at starts: you should get behind someone fast." Guy said "okay, go!" and we took off.
It was easier than one of our lunchtime rides. Like, 25 km or thereabouts, and we averaged about 43 overall. We dropped most of the juniors immediately and thereafter, my friends S, T, and I were leading about 70% of the time. Nobody was willing to commit themselves. The junior who won the race last week tried a sprint-breakaway but I reeled him in immediately.
So it was mostly like, well, the ride we do every tues, wed, or fri, only with more people hanging off the rear.
Last lap, they're clanking the bell, people sped up a bit, then everyone slowed back down waiting for some poor fool to try a sprint. This is foreshadowing. I was about five people back from the lead, on the outside, very much by design -- I haven't done this in fourteen years, but it's not like I've forgotten. So I drifted even further to the outside as we went into the first turn, drifted further yet as we came out, so I was like 2m off to the side of everyone else. And then I sprinted like I meant it, and I dropped the pack like a bad habit. They were all thinking "he can't hold that: we still have like over a kilometer to go!" But I knew I could hold it because I knew how fast they'd all been going for the last 18 km and I knew I could go faster. I looked back and the kid, the one who'd won the week before, was sprinting to catch me but I knew he was all attack and no sustain so I was all "pfft."
What I didn't know is that S was right behind him, because S is so small I couldn't see him.
So the kid blew up, I held about 55k to the finish, and about 10m before I got there I heard the sound of a tire behind me. I knew it was S, I thought I could hold my lead, and the guy who was taking pictures at the finish said S was less than 15cm ahead of me when we crossed the line.
T took third, about two seconds later, and everyone else came in well back behind him.
It was hilarious.
I won a candy bar! S won a jersey, which is actually a reasonable prize.
Next time I need to start the sprint 10 seconds later, or do a second-intent sprint at the finish. Hmmmm.
Too much fun.