Last week I raced in my first ever criterium race and I have to say, despite the disastrous finish, I loved it and am super hooked! The course was half a mile long and the duration was thirty minutes. Something that was off putting about the race is how little the peloton actually wanted to work together. I actually got nudged a couple times, which was pretty terrifying, but also adrenaline inducing. What better way to fuel a race than adrenaline amiright?
The start was fairly standard, I got told I don’t know how to pin a number, which is probably true, but but outside of that, it was straight and to the point – go fast, play nice. The ability to draft behind other riders made a world of difference in keeping my average speed up, however some of the turns were ninety degrees or less making it quite stimulating to hit them with speed! I kept up with the group for the whole race, my legs screaming bloody murder. When the cowbell went off to indicate the final lap, all hell broke loose. The peloton when from sorta organized to a mass of riders trying to get in front of each other… With one of the aforementioned tight turns approaching, and me stuck in the middle of the peloton, I knew I was not in a good spot. As we entered the turn, somehow I was keeping good speed, good distance from the rider in front of me, and carving into the turn nicely. Suddenly I saw the brake calipers in front of my shoot inward and let out a loud “FUCK” I impacted the rider in front of me, flipping over my handlebars and landing on my elbows and my left shoulder, still carrying all of the momentum I had moments before.
I slid for what seemed like no time at all, my bike dragging behind me still attached via clipless pedals and eventually came to a stop. Flipping onto my back and staring up at the sky, I let out a very confused sigh. I looked up just in time to see another rider hit my bike, flip over his own bars, and yep! You guessed it! Land right on top of me, face up. The bad news was that it didn’t feel particularly good. The good news was I broke his fall, so he was okay! Whew! We both got up to assess the damage and found another rider clutching his leg a few feet away. We tended to him as best we could, and when we were approached by a woman claiming she was a doctor, we promptly backed off. Hobbling over to my bike, I grimly assessed the damage. Nothing seemed too out of place…chain was off, handlebar tape was destroyed, and both of my shifters housings were absolutely demolished. The left shifter was bent inward at an extreme angle.
“I can ride this” I remember thinking to myself. I assessed the rest of the damage around me, it didn’t seem like anyone else would be getting up in time to finish the race, so off I went!
With holes in my kit and blood running from several places, I did the equivalent of hobbled around the course on my beloved Kestrel Talon X. It wasn’t pretty, but we crossed the finish line, battered but OK. Not bad for a first crit I’d SAY! Even better, two of my best friends in the world made it to cheer me on. What an experience… I can’t wait for the next one. Anyone have any good racing tips?
“Earn your tailwind.”