Cat 2 – Day 1 – Criterium
Having never raced a Criterium before, the first day was making me very nervous about stepping up to Cat 2 as whenever it was being discussed the word “CRASH” was usually never far away. By the time we actually got to the line after the usual chaos at the ferry terminal, then the 1.5 hour journey to the start point from Bintan ferry terminal, I was already in the frame of mind that Cat 2 was not my calling. Sitting on the start line my heart was at 120BPM which wasn’t great however I was there and was going to give it all I had. The first lap was “neutral” in order for us to sight the circuit and thankfully this was adhered to as in less than a km in I spotted team mate Raoul sit up at the side of the road. After a very quick alteration with the skewers, he was rolling and straight back onto the rear of the peloton and a quick nod indicated he was ready to race.
After the flag dropped we had 6 laps before the intermediate sprint which as a team we had discussed as a target for either Shaun or me to give it a go. Up until then I stayed out of trouble as much as possible while James Cole dominated the front of the peloton with a great solo break that was brought back after around 4.5 laps. There were a few attacks but nobody seemed to be keen on showing their hand so just after the hill on lap 5 I decided to bridge across to the lone man and as I did he sat up and I cruised past. I thought I would give it a go and see if anyone would take the bait and chase to give Shaun a free pull to the sprint point. After my short burst there was no reaction from the peloton and I figured I would be able to take the all the sprint points if I carried all my speed down the hill and along the coast. At this point you will have guessed I have started to enjoy “Crit” racing and the nerves on the line were long gone. I rolled through the sprint point taking all the points and as planned managed to get up and over the hill before being caught by the peloton so sat in and got some respite. All Anza were still in the bunch and looking strong – great start.
There were a few people rolling off the front but nobody was willing to sacrifice completely so for the next few laps the pace eased a little until we heard the bell. At this point I had thought it was the end of the 45mins and we had two laps till the final sprint. On the climb however Peter Macca let me know the race was on and next man over the line wins. At exactly this moment a rider in front of us slipped on the corner and was lucky not to take us both down, time to move up the peloton I thought. It was a fast run in but with some hesitation in the pack I managed to carry some speed past the bunch and rolled straight on to the wheel of Shaun Gatter who I could tell was about to launch an attack to the line. As he kicked I was straight on his wheel and we broke free from the peloton. He even had time to pat his backside to let me know to hold on he was going for it. If you have ever tried to pass Shaun in full attack mode then you will know this is not an easy task and having picked up the points earlier I was happy to take home 2ndplace. Looking at the data after the race we were doing in excess of 60kmh on the run in so not sure I would have managed to get past even if I wanted to!
After watching wave 2 it was apparent that our wave was slower so Shaun wouldn’t be starting in yellow but the green was up for grabs. One of the Matadors was first in the intermediate sprint and then one of the Mavericks managed to stay away in a solo breakaway to the line followed by another Maverick in the bunch which put me in the Green Jersey on Friday night. After arriving back at the hotel after over 2 hours in a bus with no lights, driving in the dark and torrential rain, we were in need of some serious hydration so we met at the bar to discuss tactics after a quick shower. In the end no tactics were discussed but the hydration plan was adhered to!
Day 2 – 150km
The first thing that crossed my mind when going for breakfast was the weather after heavy showers early morning. Thankfully it looked like it was clearing up and we would be starting a dry race which I’m sure was a relief to many of the other riders too. It felt very weird donning the green jersey prior to the race and was great to have the congratulations prior to the 150km stage however I had only one thing on my mind and that was keeping it until Sunday evening. I had told a few of the guys in the team that my aim was to pick up some points in the 2 sprint points and then sit up and cruise home. I wanted to save as much energy as possible for the sprints on Sunday however having finished second in the crit I was in the deep end of the GC and needed to remove myself from there. This would enable me to get to the front for the sprints without being attacked constantly by the GC guys. The first sprint comes a few km after the “red road” and I was feeling good however we hadn’t a plan as such. I neared the front of the peloton assessing who was looking like they were up for jumping and soon in front of me offering a wheel 4km from the sprint was Nat and Raoul. Raoul set a great pace from a long way out to string out the peloton making moving up difficult for anyone behind. When he pulled off one of the Arrivo Primo guys was eager to jump and wanted in front of me. With over 1km to go and only Nat in front of me, I was happy to oblige and allowed him in. He tried to go LONG passing Nat with well over a Km to the line but with around 400m to the line he started to slow and I decided to attack. Thoughts at this moment: ‘Kick Kick Kick come on Craig the guys have delivered you this is where you need to work’.
From my sprint position I can usually see if someone is on my wheel however one of the Cambodian Khakis had positioned himself well so I never saw him and when I eased up thinking I had it he managed to sneak up and take me on the line by 2-3 inches. Damn, second place, not the start I was hoping for but not bad. At this point there was a very big and well timed attack from the Arrivo Primo team (I think however I was going backwards) and I had to dig very deep in order to not go straight out the back of the peloton along with a lot of other people. After 6km I had recovered a little and was able to get some water from the bikes however the salt tablets were making me feel very sick and I couldn’t touch any of my usual energy bars but managed to hold down a few gels.
To me this is a very interesting point of the race as the group was shrinking and tiredness was starting to show with riders starting to get sloppy at the back of the peloton with a few touches of wheels and I even had to go off-road and unclip to get a foot down after a rider decided to stop unannounced in front of me… However, I managed to get back on the peloton no problem and even had young Nat standing by making sure I had no issues. Who said we didn’t work as a team at Anza?
The next point of interest for me was at 104km and at the 80km mark (still feeling terrible from the salt tablets) I decided to be near the front after my off road excursion. I sat up with the Mavs however never put my nose in the wind for more than a few seconds trying to carry as much speed in to the climbs to make my life easier. With around 12km to go Raoul went off the front and I immediately sat up to make someone else pull him back and create a gap. The break was never going to stick however it did create a change at the front of the peloton. After a quick chat with Matt Lodge from the Mavericks he was happy I wasn’t planning to attack the yellow jersey and only looking for sprint points therefore they allowed us some space while taking a well deserved break in our draft I imagine. After Raoul was pulled back the Cambodians went off and attacked which was covered well and Nat gave everything he had and we were looming in on the sprint point. I had made friends with the Arrivo Primo guys and for some reason they were willing to lead me to the sprint point (thanks if you happen to read this!) at this point Raoul took the bull by the horns and set off again like a man possessed drilling it as hard as he could, immediately dropping my new friends. Between him and myself was the same Cambodian guy that had piped me to the line last time. Excellent I’m thinking to myself as head to head I was confident of my ability. I waited but saw Raoul was nearing his max and decided I was going to have to go at 400m again. As I pull out from 3rd the Cambodian kicks too and we are side by side, no drafting this time. I go with both guns as they say and I can hear Nat shouting encouragement from the bunch and I keep kicking all the way to the line this time to take all the points and remain in the green jersey for another day. At this point I had nothing left to stay with the peloton and thanked the guys as they rolled past for another great run to the line. I was fortunate as the Ladies peloton soon came rolling up and my little grupetto sat behind and enjoyed the racing while I offered some encouragement where possible to Lizzie and Kari.
Day two complete and I’m still in green so I stated to think I could actually pull this off but I wasn’t sure what the situation was with points. After the dinner and a few beers, we checked the board and I only needed 1 point from any of the sprint points on Sunday to take the green jersey home. We had a small chit chat and the guys were all onboard to seal the jersey by the first sprint point and then I would try and get Raoul in a breakaway as he was in the best position on the GC.
Day 3 – 107km
The rain through the night had cleared up so the sprinting wheels stay on – good start. Arrived at the bike depot to find I had a staple in my tyre and the chain was stuck between the crank and the BB -not such a great start…. Sorry to anyone who spoke to me prior to the race I was in a mad panic and was not myself so I have no recollection of what was going on before I got down to the line. Once there I got shouted to the front along with the yellow and polka dot jersey which was a great feeling and instantly I was calm again. Sorry to the guy I hit with my right crank on the way past it wasn’t intentional 🙂
We set off out of the hotel and I was feeling very good. In fact so good I didn’t want to say so after 2 days in the saddle when anyone asked. We set a decent pace for the first 30km and I’m sure there were a few casualties out the back but I was looking to stay out of trouble after my morning mental breakdown. The run to the first sprint point starts a long way out as it is on the wide flat highway and knowing there was a lot of wind there last year I wanted to be closer to the front. When we were nearing the end of the twisty section I had the perfect wing man with Nat once again sitting in front of me. I had noticed Richard from the Mavericks heading back for water earlier and he happened to move past me as I was thinking I needed to move up. I gave Nat a quick shout to follow his wheel to the front for a free tow and we were off. Next moment the road narrows and Nat is forced off the road in front of me and he manages to keep the bike up while going round the corner on the wet gravel and then bunny hops back up on to the road like a pro. Huge Kudos there as I’m sure many people would have hit the brakes and taken out the bunch however he took it in his stride and we continued up the peloton to the front.
We were now on the flat 10km run in (there was a headwind I have been told) to what I was hoping would be my last sprint point and out of nowhere we have 7 Anza riders descend on the front to lead me to the line. A quick word with the yellow jersey and the Mavs were happy to take a break from the front and allow us some space to finish the job. I really can’t thank the Anza Cat 2 team enough for this lead out and to me it was my most memorable moment of the whole weekend. Standing on the podium was great however having 7 guys increase the pace to string out the peloton for me was fantastic and I don’t think we could have done it better if we had planned and practiced it.
My trusted wingman from the Tuesday morning blast Nat was my last man and I could tell he was just as up for this one as me. After giving him a shout to bury the pace he nailed it and delivered me with 400m to go at a good speed for me to go again and I wanted to take this one without any questions for the team for their hard work over the weekend. I have no idea what was going on behind me or if anyone even reacted and tried to sprint with me but I went regardless to cement the Jersey I had been hoping for.
The pace following the sprint point was fairly relaxed as it was going to be difficult for anyone to get away on the flat road so I was able to sit back in the peloton and thank the team and receive a few pats on the back. I had made other plans and was hoping to get involved again if I could.
On the previous training ride on Bintan I had practiced launching an attack directly after the KOM and had some success so was hoping to try the same again should I manage to get up the KOM no problem. On the approach I was feeling quite confident and going up the climb I was spinning past a few who were starting to struggle. I was in a good position so as planned I moved forward as we neared the top to attack and see if I could get involved in a break. Turns out this is a very difficult thing to do and even more so when the peloton are rolling at over 45kmh. However there were 2 guys off the front and I was hell bent on getting over to them. I got across no problem and then tried to find some draft to recover a little before offering to help and take a turn on the front. It was at this point I felt the engine give a cough to let me know I was now hanging on around the limit. This never happens when you’re doing a Sufferfest I tell myself. Come on 5km to go harden up. I look down and I’m losing the wheel and slowing quickly. At this point I decided it was time to get out the way before I get involved in the peloton as the GC race was on and I had no place in there having lost 15mins the previous day. I pull over to the right and wait for the pack of wolves to pass by before jumping on the back with the other wounded sheep near the back.
I crossed the line just behind the peloton for the second year knowing I had secured the Green jersey however this one felt much more of an achievement. Going in to the weekend we had the usual tactics meeting and chit chats throughout rides however I never actually believed I could do it this time.
I would like to thank all the guys riding in Cat 2 from Anza for the team spirit we showed over the whole weekend. Also a huge thanks to Nico for the training rides and trips organised which brought us together even though they were painful!
Next year Anza Team prize???