Watching the Show.

Initially I had every intention of going for the win. 
I was the first guy to sign up for the B race, hoping the field would fill out and we'd have a fun night at the Arctic Bike Club Road Division's Kulis Criterium #2. Although progress was extremely slow initially, by race day the roster had bloomed into four respectable fields (by Alaska standards). I've always thought that the Kulis crits had the most potential for creating a festive atmosphere like you'd see a 'cross race, we hadn't yet seen the right sort of chemistry to make it happen. Tuesday night I saw the glimmers of it, and I really hope the trend continues.
Starting with the new D race, you had kids and adults racing together, getting a partially-mentored experience and pushing themselves. Road racing can be a brutally selective sport, but having a welcoming and encouraging environment is a huge part of getting people to come back week after week. Having a crowd of fellow racers and friends, who all think you're awesome just for lining up, cheering you on is essential to getting new racers over the hump.
Kids were playing Frisbee and jumping bikes over a dirt pile. Families were sitting on the grass watching racers come up the hill while keeping an eye on the wandering toddler. It felt like a community event, and that's something the Road Division needs more of. Spending Tuesday night playing bikes should be something people look forward to. The more the merrier.
I watched the D and C races, cheering on the competitors and talking to random people. Distracted by all of the positive energy, I wasn't particularly focused on my own race, so when the time came to line up for the B race I realized I hadn't even done a single warm-up lap. I paid for it for the first 20 minutes, as the pack took off at a spirited pace and my legs turned to lead. Stupid move on my part, but I hung on with the leaders as the group split by abilities. Three or four laps in, we were already lapping small clusters of two or three riders. It was a relatively fast pace, but steady enough to be sustainable. You just didn't want to be caught out of the draft for long.
Eventually my legs started to recover, and I began moving forward. I was considering throwing out a stupid attack to see who would follow, but had noticed the team dynamics at play. Kaladi had four riders in the front group, and they were working over the two Beadedstream riders. A Kaladi guy would off the front, and Beadedstream would chase. Another Kaladi guy would go, and Beadedstream would chase. Beadedstream would go, and Kaladi would either let them cook just off the front or a rider would cover the break and sit on. It was death by a thousand cuts, and it was fun to watch. Being the only rider from my team in the pack, I was content to sit back, avoid getting caught up in the crossfire, and watch it all play out. Plus, I'm a complete douchebag. Even still, we were putting out a respectable amount of wattage as we circled the loop, so it wasn't exactly a leisurely spin.
When we got to one of the two Subway 6" sandwich primes, the pack sat up. Nobody wanted to be on the front, and somebody suggested I go for it. I demurred, saying the last thing my gut needed was another sandwich. As the pack waffled, we started bunching up in the turns, and I ended up stuck in a place I wasn't comfortable with. When a hole opened, I jumped forward to escape, unintentionally triggering a sprint response from a couple other riders. I just halfway went with it and won the sandwich that nobody else wanted before fading back to watch the second act.
As the race wound down, I mentioned to Pete Johnson that I wasn't going to contest the sprint. He kinda gave me a sideways glance like. "huh? Why are you here, then? Wait, are you messing with me?" I just wanted to watch it all happen at the end. Kaladi's Tom Piechel had been beaten by Beadedstream's Jason Rowland, so I think he was looking for a little revenge- but not so much that Tom would cook his legs for the following day's mountain bike race. Erik Ostberg led out, and Tom finished off the carefully cooked legs of Beadedstream for the win.
Rider after rider blew by me as I cheered on Tom for the win. After his generosity during the Spring Stage Race crit and auditing the Bike Racing Tactics 101 class they just put on, I was glad to see it all pan out. I got a good workout and had fun, so not going all in lost some importance for me.
Thanks to sprint primes, Jason actually extended his series lead, but Tom will probably start trying to chip away at his advantage. They're riding a lot stronger than I am, so my only chance at a decent result is douchebaggery. I'm good with that, as long as all of the races are as fun as Tuesday's.
Next time I might even warm up first.


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