Did I have a good Tuesday night race tonight? Suck Level 1, baby! We are talking absolute minimum Suck.
How non-suck are we talking? Well, the race noodled around for the first half, until the prime sprint, which I won, again, like I do every week. This week I did it by being second wheel out of the bottom corner and, er, sliding my rear wheel sideways when I ran wider than I wanted to and grabbed the rear brake. Disturbingly, this worked, albeit with lots of noise. That's right, I pulled a controlled e-brake drift on a bicycle. Professional rider! Closed course! Do not attempt! Not even you, Supafamous! Dumb luck aside, I was then heads-up with a rider who had pretty much pulled the whole pack along for half a lap, so I attacked and left him for dead. I took the prime by a zillion bike lengths, though how much of that can be ascribed to the sheer terror I insipred in the pack by nearly stacking it in front of them is an open question.
After that, I spent a long time just sitting near the front of the pack while a few half-hearted attacks went off, Fast Johnny managed to fall down in front of me on a straightaway (between this and his epic solo prime crash at Yaletown, we have a lot to tease him about...) and then one wholehearted attack got away. Teammate Chris chased that mother down, and in one of the most agonizing rides I have ever seen, slooowly caught the escapee.
With a teammate up the road, I had nothing to do but sit in. When Chris finally got caught, we were now hunting a rider who had been out solo for nearly half the race. The pack finally started paying attention, the usual highly impatient types chased, and the pack . . . nearly got him, but not quite.
But one more attack on the last lap, in the usual place on the lower section of the course, and I followed. This fast wheel towed me through my favourite corner (no bobbles thank you) and within sight of the clearly cracked escape artist. I powered up and dropped the pack (you can do that when you've been sitting in all race) and started moving towards the last man ahead of me.
And as we got onto the finishing straight, the blighter started sprinting! Against me! So, I turned on my sprint, and it turns out my new sprinting technique (standing up) is unstoppable! In an unbelievably heart-breaking finish (for him, not me; I loved it) I caught and passed my opponent within yards of the finish line. Alessandro Petacchi's train couldn't have made a more perfectly timed catch. I punctuated the moment with some disturbingly visceral shouts. Must work on a cool finishing move.
Teachable moment: the reason the ideal is to catch an escaped rider as close to the line as possible (if you're a sprinter) is twofold. First, you minimize the work you need to do to catch them. Second, you prevent any counterattacks from trying a last-kilometre escape on you. It effectively controls the pack, too, because nobody is likely to escape and attack the pack for the glory of second place.
The important lessons of this race were teamwork (Chris' long breakaway meant I got to not do any work), patience (if you wait long enough in Cat 4, someone else will almost always do the work you want done), and control. While Chris was up the road, I sucked onto the wheel of every rider attacking out of the pack. This meant the individual in question couldn't usefully attack the riders up the road, because he would drag me up there in his draft.
Why could I counter every attack, strike out for the prime, and outsprint both the back and the escapee at the end of the race? Well, partly because I've got a good (for Cat 4) sprint, and partly because I'm strong, and mainly because I didn't do any work in the race. Also, because I got lucky and didn't crash in my botched cornering move on the approach to the prime.
Winning is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend doing it.