"Wow, I couldn't believe how fast you guys were going...!" said my wife. Now, from an experienced racing spectator, those are unfamiliar words for a Cat 4/5 race.
The Cat 4/5 Bensenville race was just that, fast. With the "old course" back, it was 35 laps / 35 miles with a field of 75. Overall, I averaged 26.0 mph and 190 watts. For those versed in power, that's pretty high given all the time I spent in the middle of the pack trying to conserve energy. Looking back over my old race powerfiles, that's the fastest avg and highest power I've ever put out in a crit, including the Master's 30+ Monters race from this past May which had a fair number of Cat 2 and 3's pushing the pace on a wide open course (unlike Bensenville, which had some tight corners).
Within a few laps of starting, my legs already felt cooked from the Blue Island race the day before. I was almost dropped, but managed to get back to the pack and sit in for a few laps and recover. A few more laps and I actually started to feel better and then moved up towards the front to take advantage of better positioning through the tight corners. Throughout the race, xXx riders were constantly back and forth from the front as the lead group would take a brief moment to recover and would then become swarmed by riders from the rear of the pack. Nothing new as far as crit racing goes, but there seemed to be more than the usual amount of movement within the group all throughout the race.
While there were no crashes, there were a few close calls. Tim dove into a corner a little too hard and rode over the curb and onto some grass before getting back on the road. It opened a gap to the lead group of 20 riders, but I was able to bridge most the way up (pulling half the race with me, but also Tim, who went on to get the top xXx placing of 11th, so the effort was worth it). This sent me to the back for 5 laps to recover, but with two to go Nick gave me his wheel and I was able to move up to mid-pack and eventually finishing in 29th. Our pre-race team plan of a lead-out train never materialized, but we put two riders in the money (Tim and Joe) and had five finishers in the top 30.