Me and some folks from the team headed up to Dominguez Hills for the first criterium of the Southern California racing season. This was the first time I've ever raced this course. It fits right into 2010's flat criterium heavy racing schedule, so I figured I'd give it a go. As it turned out, so did 100 or so others.
For some reason the first few races of the season seem to be like this. Everyone has been sitting around all winter dreaming of what their 2010 racing season could be. So they're all amped up to do some racing. Mid-season something like only 50 people will show up to this race. This time of year however, everyone and his brother is out. Plus, having not seen a crash happen in a few months, they've all forgotten the haunting sound of bikes and bodies coming together at high speeds and then bouncing around on the pavement. Folks are all incredibly brave and willing to dive into the corners, rub elbows, etc. So, looking at the field size I was pretty nervous that there was going to be a crash.
The cat 4 race went pretty smooth. There was the odd bit of bumping and tightening of lines through the corners, but in general it was a safe race. My anaerobic fitness definitely has a long way to go, but I already knew that, so no big deal. Whenever I was on the front I could definitely feel that I wasn't going to hold on for too long. As the laps counted down I got myself reasonably close to the front, but not close enough. With some of the surging going on I wasn't too committed to sticking my nose into the middle of it. Coming out of the final corner I was something like 20th, not far enough forward to do anything. I ended up finishing somewhere around 20th.
The cat 4/5 race ended pretty much the same way, but with a couple hairy situations on the last lap. Between corners 3 and 4 some guy kinda lost his balance in front of me and nearly got his skewer into my front spokes. I managed to avoid that one. Then coming out of turn four and sprinting for the finish some guy got a pretty good elbow into my left forearm, which nearly took me off my bike. I managed to stay up and again finish something like 20th.
No big deal. It was nice to get out and do some fast riding again. I think I'm riding faster than last year. My left leg seems to be doing more work and I can sprint better standing up. Once this last base period comes to an end in 3 more weeks I'll begin ramping up my anaerobic fitness and things should start to come together for these fast, flat races.