After numerous crit races with the same mediocre results, I decided to do something different in this one. Instead of registering in the general Cat 4/5 races, I decided to race against the Cat 4/5 40+. I have always considered that 40+ category to be sandbagging. Wow, was I wrong. This felt exactly like the general Cat 4/5. In fact, most of the field lined up in the general Cat 4/5 race immediately after this one. I also noticed something in this race that I had not realized before. I am a far more timid rider than I realized. Let me explain.
The race began. I was able to click in quickly and sprinted all-out to the front. Within seconds, I was in 4th place. The course began with a hill and, at the top, we rounded the corner and went full-speed down the hill. At the bottom was another right-angle turn but this one was blazing fast. Being in a tight crowd and rounding a sharp turn at high speed made me really uneasy. I began to let people by just so I they would not be near me.
By the time we hit the third turn, I had dropped back so far that I was 4th from the back. Just like that, I was in the same predicament as every single crit I have done.
Lo-and-behold, a gap soon opened two bike ahead. I sprinted past the rider in front of me to close it. I made it and settled in at the back of the front pack to recover. Shortly after that, the leaders tried to breakaway. Everyone sped up and another gap formed. Again, I sprinted up to close it but, by then, the front half of the pack was going too fast and I had spent too much energy already to close the gap.
I matched their speed for a couple of laps before realizing that any attempt to catch up would be futile. I settled in to the same old routine of being the guy who was dropped but still had a remote chance of catching back on to the group.
The vibe of this race was awesome and I had a blast regardless of the mediocre result. The lesson I learned was that I need to grow a pair when riding in these tight groups are else stop doing crits.