I thought maybe some of you would be interested in getting some insights of the Men C Criterium as seen by one of the racers (i.e. me). Our victory was a great combination of being at the right place at the right time and team effort. Here it goes:
First of all, I have to say that I was very nervous about this race up to a point where I did not get very good sleep the night before, even though I was exhausted from the Saturday TTT and road race. I could not help it but think about the crash I had the weekend before in NYC and I really wanted to avoid any kind of trouble this time. However, I knew that we had good chances of doing well in that race since we were so successful the day before by winning the TTT and having 4 of us finish in the top 10 of the road race.
As we were warming up on the trainers, we did talk a little bit about strategies but nothing official came out of it. It was however quite clear that one of us would attack at some point and that if any other MIT rider was in good position, he should try to follow. As usual for crits, it all started with the “race before the race”. Matt was definitely in good position for that as he was the first one on our team to line up next to the starting line. I joined him 2-3 minutes later and I remember Adam Bry talking to Matt and trying to convince him to break away during the race. Adam was very confident that we were strong enough to do it, almost willing to bet some money on it (And I guess he was right). After watching the end of the C1 race, we finally lined up on the starting line. If I remember correctly, the front line was almost exclusively MIT riders (pictures to confirm that?). I remember someone from another team made a comment about that just before we started (something like : “Big crew this weekend MIT!).
As the race started, I was quite happy with my start, clipping in my right pedal almost instantaneously, I was 2nd wheel for the first half-lap, until the front rider decided he did not want to pull anymore and slowed down way too much. So, I decided to go at the front a little bit. I pulled the pack for about one lap. When we finished our first lap, I was surprised to hear the bell ring, meaning that our 2nd lap would be a premium lap. I guess I was not expecting it to happen until the 3rd lap. I pulled the pack for another half lap and then some rider from another university went to the front and I was able to draft behind him and catch my breath a little bit.
At this point, I had no idea where the other MIT riders were but I was sure that they were not too far behind. As we were riding on the 3rd straight portion of the square shaped course, I was expecting someone would attack to get the prime points for this lap. As expected, I heard someone behind me shifting and I prepared myself to jump behind him, no matter who it was. As the rider passed next to me, I realized it was Matt Talpe! I pulled to the left and jumped behind him to go for the prime points. We both easily passed the race leader at that point who did not seem to be interested to sprint on that lap. After passing the starting line, Matt in first place and me following him, Joe Near passed us on our right and yelled something like “Let’s go, let’s go! Let’s do this!”. I guess he was right behind me when we sprinted for the prime points. Following Joe’s very appropriate recommendation, we accelerated and formed a nice 3 riders MIT pack with Joe taking the first pull. F!
rom this moment on, it was a TTT race just like the day before. I never looked back behind me to see how far the rest of the pack was, but hopefully, there was this very reliable guy somewhere along the course who was giving us the time gaps at every laps. I was so glad to be out of the main pack and not having to worry about the other riders taking me down in the turns. I felt it was much safer at the front out there with my fellow MIT riders. I feel like my cornering techniques improved a lot during that race.
After about 4 laps of this awesome TTT/crit, I was starting to feel tired (or “le” tired for some of you) and a little gap started to build between me, Joe and Matt. At one point, Matt turned around and realized I was a little bit behind and they were nice enough to slow down a couple of seconds for me. I guess the gap between us and the main pack was large enough that it was not too risky to do that. Thanks again to both of you for taking a little bit more pulls than me in the following lap and helping me to catch my breath again. After this, we finished the last 2-3 laps in perfect TTT ride again. With only half a lap to go, I remember Joe looked back and said something like “Ok, we’ve got them guys!”. We had made it. It was an awesome feeling to cross the finish line and see everyone cheering for us. After our cool down lap, Joe had his traditional celebration “Dr Pepper” which he really deserved once again! That was definitely the most enjoyable race so far in my very short road bike racing career. I really look forward to see the highlights of the races from Joe’s helmet cam!
Only after the race did we realize how important Andrew and Zack have been in blocking the attacks of the main pack. Andrew has been very successful in developing a lot of different blocking strategies and it was really interesting to hear him describe those to us after the race! Thank you again so much for your help. Again, this victory is definitely due to a big team effort! It’d be nice to get a written version of your race, Andrew, so that we can all learn from your blocking skills!
Thank you to the more experienced racers who gave me some good tips about racing strategies during the weekend, I tried my best to apply them during my races. I would also like to congratulate all the other riders on the team for the very good results we had this weekend!
Finally, a special thank you to Juls who did an amazing job in convincing me to go to the Philly weekend after a terrible day in NYC for both of us. Your “robust enthusiasm” was key in my decision process!!!
I can’t wait to upgrade to Bs for the next race, I know it will be hard but I definitely look forward to it!
Sebastien Gauthier Perron