Written by Casey Cesari Thursday, 27 June 2019 00:00
I moved to Maine this past summer, and in an effort to make some friends in the cycling community here, I joined Tall Sock Racing for the 2019 season. The team races a few different disciplines, but largely focuses on the road. I’m a big fan of pro road racing, but partly out of fear and partly because the people who got me into bike racing raced cyclocross, I had never really given crits or road racing a shot. Starting crit racing at the age of 34 is perhaps not the most advisable thing to do, but I was committed to giving it a try.
In my few months of racing cyclocross last fall, I realized that living in Maine and trying to race your bike means lots of driving in your car. Any chance to race locally should be taken advantage of, and we are lucky to have the Scarborough crit series nearby. The series runs on Sundays from April through May on a simple oval course that provides a good introduction to the displicine. I planned on making four of the races, but I ended up only making three because on one race day, it was raining a little too hard for me to feel confident out on the course.
For my first race, after a quick prep talk with the team, I nervously lined up near some of my teammates. The group started out a spirited, but sustainable pace. However, the first time we hit the third corner, I knew that it would be my undoing. The race organizer had warned us of a small pothole on that corner that was right in the racing line. The thought of getting taken out by that hole combined with my novice cornering skills lead me to getting distanced on the first lap. I was able to catch back on to the group, but I knew then that I only had so many of those efforts left in me. Sure enough, by the fourth or fifth lap, I got dropped for good on that corner.
Fortunately, there were a few other guys who had suffered the same fate as me. We rode a few laps together, and eventually, the lead group started to approach us from behind. Just as I was slowing down and getting out of the way to let the group past, the other guys in my group made an attempt to rejoin the main group. It wasn’t clear to me at the time, but because this is considered a training race, if you are getting lapped, you are allowed to rejoin the lead group if the opportunity presents itself. You can’t race for primes or the finish, or help your teammates, but you are saved from the shame of being off the back by yourself. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to correct my mistake, and I raced the last few laps alone. For the next race, I was focused on not finishing in a group of one, whether I got lapped or not.
On the first lap of that next race, I wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but I found myself racing off the back again. I raced probably close to 10 laps by myself, before the lead group started to approach. I managed to catch on to this group, but quickly found myself dropped again on corner three. The second group on the road caught me, and I managed to catch on again. I was destined not to get dropped yet again, fearing that one of the few race spectators was keeping count. Thankfully this group was riding at a more leisurely pace, probably because most people in this group had teammates in the first group. I crossed the finish line with the second group, and silently congratulated myself for not finishing alone.
My last race was the last race of the series and my last chance to not to get lapped and get a real mid-pack finish. I think my form had improved, as I was able to hold on for a few more laps this time before getting dropped in the usual spot. I managed to form a group with some other lapped riders, and finished again with main group, though a lap down.
Despite my poor performances, I had a good time trying out crit racing. I have a lot to learn, and obviously, cornering is something I need to focus on. I hope to have a better outing next year at the series.
Thanks to my teammates for their support at the series, both in the race and on the sidelines. Thanks to Downeast Racing for organizing the series. And thanks to Bikeman.com and our other sponsors for supporting our team this year.
Casey Cesari, Tall Sock Racing Presented by Bikeman.com
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