Altoona in Review: Altoona Downtown Criterium

After a disastrous road race, I was hoping to salvage my weekend with the crit. On paper, I was well suited to it: 8 turns tucked in to a mile circuit with two chicanes – fast and dangerous. Check the course out here. The 3 field was subjected to 20 laps. What wasn’t suited to it was my frame of mind: the first thing I thought upon waking up was “I don’t want to do this.”

I got a front row start and maintained position for the first 2 or 3 laps, then started slipping back. I wasn’t losing position on fitness, just giving up a spot here and another there as riders took risky passes. It was too early in the race, I felt, to make aggressive defenses. Why take chances, right? Next thing I knew, I was 20 wheels back and having to work too hard to remain in contact. I would surf to the front, then a few laps later find myself in the same sweep position. Wash, rinse, repeat. It was frustrating, and I had a hard time fully engaging in the race. Attacks were constant throughout the race; it felt too fast for a bunch of tired climbers to do all on their own [sure enough, several racers paid $90 to skip the road race and come out just for the crit].

With 3 laps to go, a crash in the last turn  took out a number of riders. A quick glance backwards revealed that I was the last rider to make it through unscathed. The next two laps went quickly, and through the last lap I found myself unable to commit to a real sprint finish. I was too tentative – second guessing moves to get where I needed to be, wondering if I would be caught up in the inevitable spill. It happened, again in the final turn, but I managed to take an inside line to avoid the mess and rode in for a 14th place finish. Certainly better than the day before, but given the conditions it came under, not something I’m happy with.

All in all, I’m glad I went. It was something different, new, and the Tour has a lot of history behind it. Things could have gone better, but I’ll chalk it up to a learning experience and move on. A positive note: now that the racing is behind me, the last of my sick has given way. Great timing?

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