If arriving in adelaide was like the first day of school then todays "warm up" critirium was like being in your first school yard scuffle for the new year! When you put 150 of the worlds best cyclists on the startline, for most of which it is the first race of the season, two things are guaranteed. Firstly everybody has fresh legs and the pace from the gun will be frantic. Secondly, everybody will have the nervy first race back jitters and a nervy bunch is a stressful bunch and a stressful bunch often means a crazy fast twitchy bunch until finally the first rider ends up on the pavement! Basically much like the first school yard scuffle for the new year!
I was super duper excited about getting the season underway today. I have been feeling good and was curious to see how I would feel when back in the race environment. Tonights race was simply a warm up race for the TDU field. The city critirium did not count toward the overall classification and was simply a chance for the field to blow out the cobwebs before the race proper starts on tuesday. The circuit was a great flowing fast course around the adelaide river and past the adelaide oval. It was rarely straight which meant when the pace was on the field was in one big long line making it difficult to get from the back to front If you found yourself back there. Sure enough that's exactly where I was when the race started and sure enough it was on like donkey kong from the get go. We had a simple objective today to ensure elia and boivin, our canadian cannonball were in the mix for the bunch sprint and the rest of needed to then just keep out of trouble, simple enough in theory.
So I started at the back and finally after approximately 15minutes I was toward the front in a comfortable position with the boys all close at hand. I was happily minding my own business when we came onto the start finish straight and bang crash k pong!! Riders were hitting the deck left right and centre. I always ur on the side of caution and sensed the danger a few seconds before so had come to stand still once I reached the crash zone. Unfortunately someone from behind came in a little too much speed and collected my bike brake lever and literally ripped it out from underneath me! When the dust settled and I walked over to collect my bike I found not surprisingly the lever was broken. No dramas, I was unscathed and in a critirium you get a lap out for mechanicals so I rolled along to the pits and grabbed my spare bike. From there it was smooth sailing as I rolled along and waited for the peleton to catch me and rejoined it right at the front. Baring the fact I broke the lever it had actually worked out ok for me as I was now at the front of the group.
I tend not to enjoy bouncing around in the peleton early in the season. With that on my mind and having just been reminded how quickly you can end up in a bit of barney rubble trouble I decided I would bang out a few laps on the front of the peleton. A break was safely up the road and few laps at tempo is always something I enjoy banging out. Also that feeling of being on the front is one I really enjoy so why not take the opportunity when I had it. When the pace started to ramp up and the fight for control of the peleton began with aroung 10 laps to go I rolled back into the group and kept a look out for Elia and our Canadian Cannonball. They were as always well placed and saving there biscuits for the inevitable big bunch gallop for the race win. I felt better and better as the race went on and was now enjoying being apart of the action up the front of the bunch. In the initial laps those gaps between the riders and yourself seem so close and nervy but after only half an hour or so under race conditions you settle back into the argy bargey touchy feely lycra clab peleton of blokes and it doesn't seem so bad. The pace got higher and higher as the laps counted down and with the increase in speed the ease of staying at the front became easier and easier which was nice. As the pace ramps ups it tends to deter any unnecessary fighting for position.
As we entered the final lap our boys were perfectly placed behind the fastest men in the world. The lotto red train was at full revs and nobody was moving up anymore. Where you were for the start of that final lap was pretty much where you would stay. In the end Elia was a creditable 8th and showed signs that he will be a contender in the bunch sprints this week. On my part I felt better and better as the race went on and was very greatfull for the cobweb blowout ahead of the race start proper on tuesday. All in all a good start for the Cannondale Boys at the TDU 2014.
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