After being in rainy northern California and checking the weather just about everyday during the week, I was relieved to get to the race and see partly cloudy skies. The course was still wet, but everyone said it wasn’t too technical so it shouldn’t matter (and by my last lap it had dried out anyways). As the group lined up, I though that the forecast might have been a deterrent as the field was a bit smaller then usual. The pack got rolling and a rider went pretty hard right from the start, but the pace cooled down quickly enough as we rolled around the course. That is, until the (for me) unexpected right turn up the Mc Ewen wall, a relatively short but burningly steep climb about 2/3 of the way through the 10 mile lap. At some point there or shortly after, a Cal rider slipped ahead of the pack and would manage to stay away on a solo break for the entire race.
I stayed with the pack, which after the Mc Ewen climb, on lap 2 dwindled to only about 9 or so riders. While some people tried to initiate a chase on the break away rider, no one was really committed, and two slightly technical turns on the backside of the course only served as an advantage for him to keep a small but persistent gap. I knew the last time up the wall was going to be one of the most decisive parts of the race, so I tried to push as hard as possible while still keeping enough in the tank for the more gradual up hill finish. The group was no longer together by this point and I managed to get to the top and stay on the wheel of a Davis rider on the small descent before the final short climb up to the finish line. When I turned onto the final uphill stretch I saw that there was another Davis rider who had managed to pull away, so I knew at this point it was going to be a battle for 3rd place with the rider behind me. We played the game, but I managed to just beat him out on an uphill sprint to take 3rd. (Or perhaps he decided his teammate already got second and was just being nice J, either way). While it was definitely painful, it turned out to be a fun day of racing and I was glad the weather gods decided to play along after a week of rain.
Once again, when I got to the course adjacent to the Cal campus, I was relieved that it was not raining and that the road was dry (although it was unusually cold). I was hoping that the uphill half of the ½-up-½-down course would play more in my favor then previous crits this season. As the race started, I took it easy to see how the field would react to the difficult 3rd corner at the bottom of the down hill. Thankfully the early leaders established a good line and people were being smart and singling up. I stayed in the pack pretty much the whole time, except for one lap when the course marshal held up a 3, then 2, then 1. The pack was still moving pretty slow so I decided to go on a break, but when there was no bell, and no chase I realized that he had been holding another hand drawn 1 to make it actually a count down from 13 (used to them staring from 8… now I know I guess). Oh well. I managed to sit towards the back and recover before getting into a good position by the last lap. The uphill finish definitely played to my advantage and I was able to sprint into 4th: my best crit result this season. So, despite the cold, it was a pretty good day on a surprisingly fun course.