I couldn't finish the year without rolling around at my home club criteriums, especially after all the fun I had at the Twilight Crit earlier in the week at Nundah. This was the very last race of the year before the Christmas/New Year break, so my last chance to race for 2011.
I was running a bit late (alarm clock malfunction!), so ended up driving to the race - turning up at 7:30am for a 7:40am start in C-Grade. After quickly registering (there were 48 of us in C-Grade), I did a few laps around the carpark to warm up. Soon, we were called to the start for our instructions - 40min + 3 laps, with a prime at roughly halfway. And we were away!
The pace was on quickly, but settled into a pretty steady rhythm early on. I was very happy with how my legs were travelling - once again I was working hard, but my legs didn't feel as 'fragile'. I was holding my place in the peloton pretty well, and experimented a bit as I went with my rear gearing to see what felt best. I ended up spending most of the time flicking between the 16 & 15 cogs (and of course staying in the 52-tooth chainring), the reasonably high cadence in those gears feeling good and natural.
We had a brief rest around the 18min mark when B-Grade overtook us. It did get a bit messy though, with a couple of guys at the front seemingly unwilling to let them get away cleanly. It was a bit frustrating, but being further back there wasn't much I could do...
My telling moment came at about 29min. A small group of 5 had gotten away, and the main peloton strung out into a long line as the chase picked up its pace. I was pushing hard, but feeling OK. Suddenly, a rider a few in front of me lost the wheel he was on, and rolled off to the side!! The two guys behind him both sat up, and looked back at me to see what I would do...
"Oh no" I said to myself - just like that, I was facing a 15m-ish gap into a headwind to make up. I dropped into the 14 cog, and gave it everything I had - which turned out not to be much! I couldn't make any in-roads into the gap, and after a brief chase which blew my legs to shreds, I sat up and admitted defeat.
There was a group of about 10 riders behind me who had been dropped earlier. I tried to grab onto them as they went past, but my legs were still so blown from the chase that I couldn't do it. I rolled off the track and into the carpark instead...
A quick check of my bike computer showed I had lasted just over 29min - almost the exact same time as Wednesday's criterium! The average speed was 38.4km/h - but that included a couple of easy laps while B-Grade passed us, so I think the pace was generally quicker. I topped out at 49.1km/h, presumably during my little chase at the end.
So, all told, it was another good result. It never feels good to get dropped - but again I was happy that my legs were able to work hard and keep me in the race for that long. It was no surprise I wasn't able to bridge a gap - but that at least gives me a benchmark I can work to improve.
Now, after 2 tough races in 4 days, I can look forward to 4 weeks of laying down some base mileage for the 2012 season. Hopefully the improvements will keep coming!