First race in six weeks, last race of the season – the Dawg Days of Summer Men 3/4 Circuit Race in Bowie, MD. Tods won out of a four-man break, and I took fifth in the field sprint to take 9th overall. Won a prime — a signed copy of “Cutting Edge Cycling” by Hunter Allen & Stephen Cheung. Hooray.
Felt OK during the race, it started off hard as usual, but then let up abruptly as one guy from PTS attacked at the end of the first lap and his teammate ‘controlled the front’, which was fine with me. I was sitting in fourth or fifth for most of the first few laps, getting myself back into the swing of racing (it’s been a while since I’ve done a race where I felt comfortable). The PTS guy was joined by another guy from TBL, but they were reeled in soon and another break attempt went off with a few other guys, but they got reeled in too. The prime bell went off and an AABC and Squadra Coppi guy had a go of it, but Coppi faded early, which left AABC in the wind for too long, and I decided I was in a good position to contest it, so I launched a sprint and took the first of the two-place prime, with AABC taking second. I was a bit gassed from that, and the field came around me half a lap later. I was lucky to have the sense to slot in around 20th in the 100-man field and hold position, as a lap later we were going kind of slow and a couple guys tried to move up on the right and ended up crashing out on the curb — I was right next to it, grabbed a bunch of brakes and managed to avoid it, but Rick wasn’t so lucky; his helmet ended up cracked, but he seemed fine after the race, just banged up. Jeff (who wasn’t really feeling it, just racing because his daughter wanted to see him race) stopped to render assistance, and I and Tods continued racing.
A lap or so later, with about five to go, I was still sitting around 20th, now just maintaining position, with Tods near the front. I didn’t know that there was a two-man break up the road with one chaser; Tods put in a huge sprint and broke away himself (with me being a little puzzled as to why, with no prime lap and me not knowing anyone was up the road, but I couldn’t do anything to help him anyways). He picked up the chaser, and then they picked up the two escapees, and they worked together to stay away. Meanwhile, I was still sitting in the pack, whiling away the laps and trying to get a feel for better places to move up (actually, I had already figured out where was best — outside on the first leg, inside on the next leg, inside-ish on the final leg, but sometimes outside — it was getting into a not-boxed-in position to move up that was the real trick).
Final lap, and the field kinda starts to get going. My initial plan before the race started was to get onto the front of the pack and drill it, to string things out for Tods (or Rick), who is always pretty good at finding fifth or sixth wheel in the pack in the final laps. But since he was up the road, I was executing my other plan: don’t get boxed in, go for the field sprint. Simple stuff. There’s the usual jostling and yelling as the field goes through the last turns, but we all make it through OK. Final turn, and I was on the inside, looking for an opening, keeping my wits as the chaos is surrounding me. I found an opening on the right and just as I’m coming through and starting to light an out-of-the-saddle sprint — maybe there’s no podium spots left, but a top-ten is nice, after all — an R1V rider nudges my right shifter and I check up a little (first time I’ve touched bars in a sprint). I keep it upright, and still manage to follow him to take fifth-ish in the field sprint, and take 9th overall, my first top-ten of my Cat 3 career.
Tods managed to time his sprint perfectly – first leg of the course, one of his break mates pulls and is spent. Second leg: another break mate pulls, and pulls through the final turn. Last leg: Tods was sitting in third, and said he knew the two other guys were going to go to the right — it’s the logical thing to do, as that last leg to the start-finish curves to the right, and going right is the shortest way to the line. So Tods went around on the left from like 800m out and won with tons of time to put in a victory salute after he crossed the line.