I was finally able to sneak out for a bike race this Sunday and figured the Apple Pit Criterium in Santa Rosa would be a great low key event. Well, it was great, but with 125 riders in the field it wasn't exactly low key. It was a P/1/2/3 race and at 90 minutes long, the wind picking up and a motivated field, the race was sure to be fun. From the gun, riders were attacking like crazy, but nothing was really sticking. Webcore Alto Velo had the largest team in the race and they were racing very aggressively. Moves would go and dangle, but nothing would get more than 10 seconds before coming back quickly. I went with several moves and even attacked at what felt like the right time, got the right combination of riders (Cal Giant, Webcore, Clif. . . everyone with a teammate that would be happy to let us go) but nothing stuck.
However, at about the 50 minute mark, it was clear that the field was getting tired. The front of the race was a long line of single file riders, all fighting hard for position. Moves would lob of the front, stringing the field out more and more. Shortly thereafter, I went with a move that contained several Webcore riders, a Cal Giant rider and a few others. We worked and got a gap, with riders stickling onto the back from the field.
All of the sudden, our "breakaway" has 30 guys in it and the field sat up. Hmm. . . awkward. The race is almost over. There are all of the strong riders and teams represented. What now? If we continue to race aggressively, something might stick out of this group. But there are a lot of guys with team mates sitting in waiting for a sprint, making a sprint likely. After some deliberation, I decided just to sit and wait. Cal Giant soon made it clear they were working for a sprint (though they were yelling at everyone else who was waiting for the sprint). Webcore was trying desperately for a break to stick from that group, but after being the most active team all day they didn't seem to have the juice left to make it work.
Going into the last few laps, I got good position on the wheel of Steve Reaney (Cal Giant) and waited. Patrick Briggs (Yahoo!) jumped early and got a gap, but Jared (Cal Giant) hit it before the last corner with Steve and me on his wheel. I launched my sprint with ~200 meters to go, almost plowing into the back of Jared as he came backwards. Reaney dusted me, but I still managed to get Briggs and Jared for second place.
It was a great race and tons of fun, just the kind of race to make you realize how lucky you are to be able to race your bike.
Unfortunately, Apple Pie's only went to the winner. . . got to work on that for next year.