Having done well at the Omnium and just completed my 10th mass start race (the minimum requirement for upgrade) I felt like it was time to move up to category 4. So about a week ago I applied for and received my upgrade. I'm now a category 4 racer! I don't really feel any different, but the tattoo they gave me makes me feel a lot more manly.
Sunday morning I headed out to El Cajon (about a 25 minute drive from my place) to ride in the world famous (just kidding) El Cajon Crit. As far as races go, it's one of your more unimaginative courses. Four 90 degree corners on wide downtown streets. You could pretty much pedal through all 4 corners, so it may as well have been a 40 minute drag race.
I headed into this race in the midst my two week Peak phase. The Barrio Logan Grand Prix is next Saturday. It's one of the races that I've targeted as an "A" race, so at this point of the season the goal is to ensure that everything builds towards next Saturday.
As such, I gave myself a personal goal for Sunday of seeing if I could break from the field and spend 15 minutes off the front. My reasoning being that anaerobic endurance is what I need most right now, I had a crit called out on my training plan for 4/29, and if so why not work like a dog and get something out of this thing.
The field wasn't too large, probably less than 50. While the course was scorchingly fast, it was also spiced up a bit with bot dots (small raised reflectors) all over the place. Basically any time you needed to cross a traffic lane or the center line you were going to need to cross a wall of bot dots. Yikes!
The race went pretty much the way most category 4 races do, no real breaks off the front and a few people going for the primes. For the first 10 minutes of the race I took things fairly easy, sitting back in about 25th and trying to keep things pretty smooth. About 20 minutes into the 40 minute race I was in second feeling pretty good. There had already been 2 or 3 primes to tire some of the stronger riders out. The guy who was in front of me clearly wasn't too strong and didn't really want to be there so I took off. We were just coming out of corner 3, so I got a good jump on the field. As I came down the front straight I had about 50 feet on the field, even better, the announcer called for a series point prime for the next lap winner (5 points in the CBR 10 race series), so I put my head down and got going on my intended 15 minutes of work.
I was able to build on my lead over the next half lap, to the point that the field gave up on trying to catch me for the prime. I crossed the line with about 100 feet on the field. From that point on it was simply a matter of trying to hold on for as long as possible. I got a little more than 1 more lap in before the field started to reel me in. It wasn't as long of a break as I'd hoped to pull off, but I was happy to get the series points and to spend 5 or so minutes off the front. Realistically, the speed of the course meant that you needed a couple other guys to work with if you were going to make a realistic break.
After my hard work at the front I settled into the pack and tried to get my breath back for the finish. The rest of the race was pretty uneventfull. I expected some other folks in my team to attack after I'd gotten caught but that didn't happen. I did have to avoid a crash in corner 3 that happened right in front of me. Coming into the last lap I was in 4th or 5th, I just wasn't able to hang on at the front all the way around. I crossed the line 14th.
The net on this race is that I didn't really show up even looking to finish in the top 5, I just wanted to build confidence that I could get away from the field and hold it. And even more so, I wanted to prove to myself that if the field caught me it wouldn't be the end of my day (i.e. that I'd be able to latch on to the end of the pack as they went by). All in all it was a fun day.
You can check out some photos here.