Last weekend was my first race as a Cat 4. As much as everyone told me that it was not a ton faster than the front of Cat 5 races, I was still a bit nervous. Luckily for me, this race took place at the Webster Groves Criterium. Although I got dropped last year, this was still one of my favorite races.
All that aside, there were a few things that were immediately different in the Cat 4 race. First, the field was MUCH larger... nice.
Additionally, there was far less stupid chatter in the pack... I had been informed that this would be the case, but was happy to be in the middle of it. By stupid chatter I mean crap like "on you left" or "inside" or "hold your line".
As for how the race went... well. My goal was to make sure I was mid pack the whole time. This was not entirely trivial since one of the interesting features of the course was that it widened an narrowed often making moving up difficult. Also, some of the wider sections were also very exposed to wind making advancing in these sections rather taxing.
Well... there was not much of any note that occurred over the course of the race. I heard tale of some crashes behind me. Nothing major I don't think. One interesting note was that a section of course that I could have sworn I remembered being kind of tough and a hill last year was really more like a block long short grade and a good place to gain some position this year. I guess I must be in better shape.
Anyway, the coming into the final corner before the last lap I hit a large pothole. I stayed upright, carbon wheels were intact, but somehow my handlebars got jarred loose. I tried to keep riding, but by the time I got to the first turn on the final lap I could feel the bars still slipping. I decided at this point to sit up and avoid crashing... oh well. Such is bike racing.
I sat at the bar across the street and watched the elite Dogfish team attempt to tear it up. Unfortunately a strong break of 5 got away early in the race.
Then I had some additional beers at the Dogfish tent while learning a very important lesson about what my Shimano SPD SL pedals are good for. I am seriously going to have to rethink my plan to get speedplays (or at least keep the old pedals around).