Exeter Criterium 2018

 

Photo by Katie Busick

Open with a calm, sunny New England evening. The town slowing to crawl, streets clearing and shops closing so that several dozen cyclists may perform feets of speed and agility before the gracious onlookers.

Women and men in skin tight racing suits, assembled before the town hall. 

The calm before the storm.

Then a pop, and the pellicule starts to skip. 

Ninety-six racers sprint into the first sweeping turns. Immediate mayhem.

The pace not fast enough to string it things out. Riders clot and clump together. Constantly in motion, moving up or losing positions. Dive bombing the corners. Cut or get cut. 

Pedals and derrailleurs clink against my front wheel no fewer than three times. No damage done.  Riders hook and swerve, elbows out, shoulders leaning on hips. The most contact I’ve seen in a race in decades, compounded by the mix of pros, comfortable in the closest of quarters, the younger, inxperienced riders, the older, slower riders, the older faster riders who don’t want to get crashed, the 3’s riding in perhaps their first pro-level race. What a race of all races to choose. 

My front wheel is chopped and sliced, no fewer than three times. I ride each one out, reacting on instinct, drifting with the rider’s back wheel, counterbalanced, not overcorrecting. Staying upright. Barely. That alone is a victory. 

The laps are melting away. Half-way, a blistering pace for the big money prime, then it all comes back together. I’m punching holes and taking lines I didn’t think were possible. Turn three, I get swept all the way to curb, lock up brakes, lose position, and start it all over again. I know I’m in the danger zone when I pull up behind certain riders, question their faulty lines and make an effort to get in front of them. There are crashes, but not nearly as many as the combat would suggest.

Then there are 6 laps to go and I’m wondering where the race went. Time to get into position. Every other rider has the same idea, so it’s more shoulder to shoulder, taking risks, hoping for a split or a break, hoping to be on the business end of it. 

I’m flat out the last three laps. A blur of wheels, multicolored jerseys, finding a line, then another one, locking up, sprinting back to speed.

Last lap, I’m reasonably well positioned within the top-15 or 20. Into turn three, about to punch through it and instead there’s a rider down, a sprawl of blue Hot Tubes, the sickly scrape of skin and carbon, and I’m hesitating, just a second to see which way he tumbles, and then it’s over.

Overgeared, struggling to get back up to speed, I give up 10 or 15 spots, sprint full on into mediocrity.

And it’s over. 

Across the line, I hear Myerson has won, and that makes me smile. 

Stats:

  • Average speed: 42.8 kph
  • Normalized power: 258 w
  • Max HR: 175
  • Final placing: 30th
  • Attrition rate: 25%
  • Post-race Ice cream flavor: Jake’s Maple Bacon
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