While the rest of xXx was riding 8 wide and crashing each other out on Sheridan Road this weekend, I was doing the same... but in the 3/4 field at Preston Street Crit in Ottawa.
It was about the safest looking criterium course I raced this year. Four easy, wide corners, with no major road issues to speak of. The racing, however, was anything but safe.
A motley crew of cyclists took to the line. There were 3's, 4's, juniors, and champions of such-and-such doing their first crit. As I waited for the gun, I realized two things. With the hills and closed-to-traffic roads at Gatineau State Park only a 15 minute, protected-bike-lane ride from the city, there would be some strong guys at this race. Next, with hardly any crits on the calendar in a 100 mile radius from Ottawa, there would be some dangerous guys at this race. Many would turn out to be both.
About 96 meters into the race, I joined an attack from one of the few well-represented teams in the race. With a field as varied as it was, I thought we might separate wheat from chaff as early as possible. About 1096 meters into the race, I realized I was wrong.
I took some time to recover, and watched in horror as guys overcooked corners, clipped pedals, and overlapped wheels with reckless abandon, all-the-while riding with arms stiffer than a 4-inch diameter aluminum down tube. For no reason whatsoever, I was being muscled off a wheel, on lap two during a lull. Someone was bunny hoping a curb after overshooting a corner at 23mph.
I took the inside line on an inconsequential mid-race left-hander. As I exited, a handlebar was in my hip, and a racer was now fighting an oscillating front wheel to keep himself upright, which he did, albeit barely. I looked back and saw a junior, took back everything I was about to say, and instead, over the next kilometer gave him a stern but polite lesson on the safe way to take the inside line from someone in a race. Which he later did. To me.
Guys were tiring and I didn't feel like being in the field, so when I saw a Canuck jumping hard from 6th wheel I decided to follow. Well, apparently it wasn't a breakaway attempt; rather, your typical out-of-the saddle, 120% effort to move from 6th wheel to 1st wheel during a meaningless moment of the race. Well, I'm not really made for solo breakaways. I'm built like a 13 year-old Kenyan marathoner-in-training and sometimes get knocked over when I turn on my ceiling fan. But my girlfriend was watching and they were ringing the prime bell quite a bit, so....
It was the longest break of the race; I lasted some large number of laps, got my name and nationality called out by the race announcer. And the prime bell finally did ring... right when I was caught.
Back in the field I was too concerned with the Brownian motion of my peleton-mates to be worried about the lap count. But then I looked up: two to go. I moved into a good position behind a bigger guy that seemed strong. Well he wasn't, and his size blocked my view of the gap he allowed to open. When I saw it, there was one-to-go on a 1k circuit. No time for fooling around; I would pass him where I could: on his right side before the left-hand turn one. I was mostly clear of him when he turned hard to the right and into my hip. Yes, that's right, there's no typo here. This was a left hand turn and he turned his bike to the right. Perhaps he aimed to swing wide to take a wider line. In any case, soon after his handlebars collided with my butt they did so with the ground. I hate crashes, and my heart sunk for this guy, who was later taken away with either a broken collarbone, clavicle or concussion (those were the collective injuries on Preston St that day).
Though I was dragging what was left of the field in tow, I had no choice but to give everything to bridge the gap. I had little chance of out-sprinting the 5 or so ahead of me after I bridged, but I had zero chance of doing so if I didn't. I did, but was gassed, and a few guys out-sprinted me once we rounded turn 4.
I finished 9th. Not bad, eh?