My club (the SDBC) puts on the Barrio Logan Grand Prix each year. The race is held just south of downtown San Diego. It's a pretty challenging course for a couple of reasons:
1. The course is set up in a figure 8 configuration. One lap is only about 0.8 miles, so there are lots of turns compacted very close together (6 rights and 2 lefts).
2. There is a reasonably large change in altitude as you make your way around the course. The last 1/3rd of each lap has you mashing your way up a 2% grade or so. Obviously not real steep, but in a fast race like a criterium these hills can really start to catch up with you.
This race was the state championship criterium so there was a pretty large field (something like 75 or 80). Not only was it large, but it was talented.
As for the race, things were pretty fast. With the tight cornering, large field size, and unevenness of the "barrio" pavement a couple things were pretty clear:
1. There were going to be crashes
2. You needed to stay pretty close to the front. With the speed of the race so high, things strung out pretty quickly and it was tough to move up through the field. It was better to just get to the front and try to stay there.
During the race I was able to avoid some fairly nasty crashes. In one, a guys tubular rear tire (supposed to be well glued onto the rim) came off the rim. It's not fun to watch that unfold right in front of you. There were a couple crashes caused by people coming together in and out of corners. Bottom line is that I was able to navigate around them all.
With 3 laps to go I really thought I had things in pretty good shape. I was up near the front and feeling as good as could be expected after 50 minutes of racing with my HR up around 180. The bottom line on this race is that I was strong enough to finish top 5, I just didn't do a good enough job of continuing to push toward the front in the final few laps. I was completely spent at the end, but knew that a bit better positioning in the final lap would have given me a chance to do better.
When we crossed the line I saw 7 or 8 guys in front of me, so I thought I at least finished in the top 10, but even after an appeal to the officials they scored me in 14th. Regardless of what place I was given, I felt good about how hard I was able to race on the day and the fact that I was able to help two of my team-mates finish in the top 10. I however, really need to start doing a better job of getting right to the front for the finish of these races.