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It was the last race of the crit season. Around the back of the course the headwind just smashed whoever was on the front. It seemed like there was just no shelter and by this stage the riders in our race had just relented themselves to a single pace-line to keep what energy they could.
The 2015/16 Crit season drew to a close on Friday and whilst initially the wind seemed to be nothing but a distraction in turned out to be a defining force in the race. I got a call on my arrival from Dan the Bike man, it was hammering down with rain at Ourimbah. It was however bone dry here although storms were forecast. We had already lost so many race days to rain and flooding this year, not the last one!
For me this year had been one of positive goals and achievements. I started out wanting to go up a grade and finally take a win. Last year had been so close with a number of podiums in D Grade but none on the top step. The other goal was to get Connor from training at the velodrome to finally getting out there and doing a race.
After a delayed start to the beginning of the crit season I lined up with the other riders I had not seen for the last month or so before making our way up to the sign on table. I had started with Mick just a month or so ago and had my shiny new Avanti Corsa SL all dialed in and ready.
The goals here were pretty simple, move up a grade. I went to the table to sign on to D grade only to find I was now in C grade. Well ticked that one-off before I had even turned a crank. Turned out most of last seasons D grade was now in C. The racing for the first part of the season was strong. I regularly made breakaways but they never last more than a few laps. I felt good and only seemed to get stronger each race but could just not get it done.
In the last race before the Christmas break I found myself sitting at the back of the bunch. Don’t really know why but we were 3/4 of the way through and I was holding a conversation with the rider next to me. I looked down and my HR was really low and it occurred to me I had not put in any efforts this race, just seemed to be floating around. As we came into the hill for the second last lap the bunch slowed and started to play with each other. They opened up a massive hole on the left side of the road just as I came into the bottom of the hill. I grabbed the bars and just thought, “NOW”. I smashed it up the hill hoping to take them by surprise. So far this year I had been able to hold them off for at least one lap before my power reduced.
I turned the top corner and down past the finish line collecting the last lap bell in the process. My body went low and I put my head back on my trainer at home, focusing on each stroke and keeping it smooth. I rounded the next corner and pushed before finally making the turn for the last time up the hill. I afforded myself a look to the left as was amazed how much space I had put into the group. The top of the hill is always tough but I was able to dig in and get over, losing a light amount of ground but enough to keep a gap. Into the final corner and head down, not my fastest sprint but i brought it home. Once over the line a massive hoot 🙂 Got it by about 8 seconds.
The damage was done and I was to be put up to B2 grade. On return from the Christmas break they regraded everybody and B2 got called C. So I went from C to C, but all the C’s went to D. This grade was harder and whilst i felt strong and could keep up but another visit to the podium eluded me. This was mostly due to me making big efforts of the front or trying to get into the breakaway. The sprint in this grade was stronger than what I had but I was unable to break away.
As we continued to circulate on this last week, any hope of trying to make a break had diminished. The preem bell went and they put down the power, my plan was to just hang in there and let them wear themselves out. I found a wheel and did my best to keep out of the wind. This seemed to work till the second last lap when everybody had the same idea. I finally got myself back into the group and found a wheel that I wanted. The last lap in this grade is always strong and the pace got higher and higher. We pushed up the last hill and I had the wheel I wanted but as we pushed hard another rider become quite aggressive with his request to have my carefully selected wheel. During this process I just lost contact and came into the final corner towards the back but I had enough to get another wheel and started my sprint. I clawed my way back up to 4th or 5th but just ran out of road.
Happy with the season, 1 first place and Connor with 2 3rd places. Just stoked at the progress he had made for the year. Now, bring on the road season!