Chris Hinds is a flat 0.9 mile loop crit held on the flat Ninigret park track. I’d never raced there, so was looking forward to it, but got derailled with a flu two weeks ago that seemed to take no mercy on me. I was back to riding this week and while my form wasn’t where it was I was still excited to race and kept a conservative outlook. This was my first crit in 2 years as well. A quick look down the sold out 80 rider entry list showed every fast guy I could think of in New England, highlighted by pro cyclist Ben Wolfe who makes it a habit of riding away from entire fields in these things. Ninigret is very exposed so there’s always wind to contend with, but in designing the course they neglected to include any hills which was nice. They also neglected to add sketchy corners, telephone poles, and parked cars, so even you went off course you found yourself riding in soft grass. What all this leads to is fast racing and not many places too hide when it’s windy.
Big breaks often get away early here, so once it started I sat in for a few laps but stayed close to the front to react if I had to. Despite the gentle corners, it took me a few laps to get a feel for the right lines, and after a while you’re not even touching the brakes at all. I was feeling surprisingly good considering the last 2 weeks, but it was a 90 minute race so knew I had to use any moves smartly. I think about 10 minutes in I had moved up into top 15 and could see a small break up the road as guys were constantly getting pulled back and attacking. We turned left out of the headwind and I decided to surge hard and if clear chase up to the guys out front. A couple guys were right behind me with a clear gap behind them. I rotated and saw a couple strong guys in Tim Mitchell and Keith Kelly. I wasn’t sure if they were already out front or came across after me. Then Ben Wolfe bridged up with a couple guys on this wheel and it was go time! The break was on and we started to rotate. I recognized Cole Archambault, John Harris, and Dave Warner from Green Line Velo. Alex Cox and Kai Wiggins represented CCB with Tim. There was lots of firepower in this break. We had 12 guys in the break with perhaps 10 seconds on the field now and you could see the field chasing hard. There was lots of surging, and small attacks within the break trying to whittle it down which prevented the gap from opening up much at first. The routine went something like 2 guys surging just enough off the front for a gap, a couple more guys would respond, then Ben would respond and the rest of us frantically chased after him. It seemed we dropped a rider every time this happened and it wasn’t long before there were 9 of us left. I felt good for a while and tried a break myself, which was too fast and left me alone since nobody went with me right away. Note to self, that was dumb and don’t do it again. They caught me quickly and I sat in from there but still rotated through. We still only had perhaps 30 seconds on the field and at some point decided to start riding for more of a gap since the 0.9 mile course was about 2 minutes per lap. I started feeling less and less like myself as the last two weeks were catching up to me. It hurt to cover attacks and I started skipping chases, making the last few guys pull me up. I wasn’t bluffing and I think they knew that by now. Kel was riding super strong along with Tim and Ben. Once we were nearing our catch of the field with about 30 minutes left in the race another Ben Wolfe surge went that I couldn’t respond too. About half of us were left chasing to catch back on before completing the lap on the field. I think I was on Kai’s wheel for half a lap, with Dave on mine and we finally made it to the field on the headwind straightaway to complete the lap.
Unfortunately there was on time to recover as we quickly moved up the left side and before I knew it I’m watching the same guys I was just in the break with attacking the field again. I had nothing left for that so I did my best to sit in 10-20 riders back with about 10 laps to go just hoping to rekindle a match to burn for the finish. With a few laps to go a couple teams had guys on the front riding a steady pace to set up the finish and control any attacks.
(For family and friends reading, we had the top 9 finishes wrapped up, but our finishing order would be determined in the likely group sprint finish with the bunch. Teams can now help lead out other rides who were in the break with me.)
At some point Ben Wolfe attacked – not sure if it was 2 laps to go or 1 but he was gone. I was still about 10-15 riders back and couldn’t respond but some guys did. It was a tough headwind finish and at some point I decided my time to go was before the final sprint and finish the best place I could. The fast pace and turns kept things single file and I figured I was still in top 10 and moved up on the cross/tailwind section. I saw Adam Myerson and another guy just in front of me now and could still see solo riders ahead. I made my final surge coming out of the second to last corner perhaps 300 meters out, hammered on the right side because cross/headwind was coming from the left. I passed at least one rider and can’t remember clearly if there was another, but turned onto the straight and saw nobody on my wheel and not much in front of me. Great. I saw a CCB rider ahead and it was Tim who’d’ been chasing Ben for I’m not sure how long. I spun the pedals as hard as I could up behind him and finished about a length back with a gap behind me. I looked up and only saw Ben Wolfe ahead of us who’d hung on for what looked like an easy solo win. 3rd place?! I was surprised and couldn’t have been more excited. That’s about the best finish I think I could have had on the day given the field and my current form. I was in the right place for the break, played my cards right when I was hurting, and saved it all for my best finish surge at the right time.
Hopefully things keep coming around with Marblehead next week. It feels great to have a top 3 finish already so no pressure for the rest off the races.
Thanks for reading,