I spent the week of Super Crit learning how to race in a pack, which I quickly discovered is much different from riding in a pack. Gapers Block Days 1-3 were my first crits, and were quite a learning experience. Here's a brief summary of those three days before getting into Super Crit.
Day 1: I realized in the first turn that I was clueless as to how to take a corner at 24mph with 30 of my closest friends all looking for the same line. I quickly fell to the back of the pack and survived the rubber band for two laps before it finally snapped and I was pit out the back. I eventually got lapped and got spit out again, but I finished.
Day 2: After learning in Day 1 that I didn't need to break into the turns, I was a little more confident about my cornering ability - I lasted three laps with the pack this time and then soloed to a new 20-min power record and finished without getting lapped - small victories.
Day 3: Confidence growing, I made it five laps with the pack, even spending some time at the front. Once I got dropped this time, though, the first two days of soloing caught up to me and my legs refused to do it again, DNF.
Onto Super Crit: My confidence grew throughout the week, but I was still nervous about riding in my first real crit of the season, with a larger field and arguably more at stake. Lucky for me, the Blackhawk Farms Raceway has very forgiving turns and this race would be a great opportunity for me to simply work on my handling in a race pack.
From the whistle, I made an effort to get toward the front (but not on it). I have heard that most problems, especially in a Cat 5 race, occur toward the middle/back of the pack so it's a good idea to stay up front. This lesson was, unfortunately, reinforced early in the race; before we even finished the first lap I had a crash right behind me and later learned some poor bike handling by an unknown rider had taken out four of my teammates (Kevin, Will, Jim, Felix). There was a lot of poor bike handling going on with several riders appearing to not have ever even done a group training ride. One guy bumped forearms with me and immediately started shaking his handlebars back and forth, which sounds very similar to what happened when Kevin was taken out in the first lap. Additionally, there were several riders that could not hold their line in a straight-away, let alone a turn.
After the lap 1 crash, the race was rather uneventful. There were a few attacks here and there, and if they were on my side of the group, I would try to grab a wheel, and if they were on the other side (and didn't include xXx), I would yell it out to the front group to make sure the attack didn't go unnoticed.
As we came in for the bell, I sense an attack coming up my left side and I timed the acceleration perfectly to hop on his wheel. He pulled me straight to the front and I was sitting 2nd wheel headed into turn 1. Soon after my chauffeur puttered out and I glanced left to see another train coming up on the left. I tried to slot in and get out of the wind, but wasn't able (or wasn't aggressive enough) to do so. I was quickly back to mid-pack but finally found a wheel. I rode that around to the back half of the track and into the last turn. i took the turn wide and resisted the temptation to launch a sprint as many others were doing since it was a LONG finishing stretch. Instead I found a wheel and got myself a lead-out, then sling-shot around for a final effort (not a sprint so much, I wasn't in contention). I managed to move up about ten spots in that final stretch to finish 17th.
It was the first time I managed to survive the whole race with the pack and finished top-20 in a starting field of 55. Feeling pretty good about it and confidence is still on an upward trajectory, but the technical corners at Lincoln Park next week or going to be a whole other ball game.