This was my second Criterium I've ever raced, though the first one was during a stage race and I only wanted to stay with the main pack...so I didn't give the first one everything I had. This one however I wanted to try and do as well as possible since it was a one day race.
The course was almost a figure 8 with the center "Main" lane separated by cones, so it was an 8 turn "Crit" course instead of a somewhat more normal 4 corner course. This meant a whole lot of accelerations, lots of corners (i.e chances for front wheels washing out and overlapping wheels) and all around pain.
I'm not sure how many riders were entered, but we had a full field...so I'm guessing between 75 and 80 riders at the start of the race. Being a 45 minute + 1 lap race the pace was high from the starting whistle (started by Portland's Mayor Sam Adams).
For some reason, regardless of my warm up I've been having a hard time with the start of races. I basically do everything I can to hold on for the first 15-20 minutes then I start feeling stronger and can start doing things I want in a race. This was no different. I didn't get a good starting position, probably 3/4 of the way back in the field at the start and for the first 5 or 6 laps didn't move from there much. After a few more laps I had worked my way to around mid pack and just kept trying to hang on.
By mid race I was hurting pretty good...which checking power numbers after the race would confirm that this indeed was a hard race. However, as usual I started feeling stronger at this point. I don't know if it was because other riders started to tire or I just felt better but I was able to make up a lot of ground through the corners and on one small incline on the back side of the course. At about 2/3 into the race I had moved up into the front 5 - 10 riders and stayed there for a while...However, nobody wanted to pull hard at that point so we would go in surges with the front going hard, then slowing and the rest of the pack would surge around and then moving up would start all over again.
With two laps to go, I put myself toward the front of the pack that was left over...down to around 35 riders now (some dropped out, some had mechanicals and others had been pulled). I was able to maintain position for the next two laps as the pace was picking up really fast and as usual in races like this everybody starts to fight for their line and things get dicey.
With three turns to go a rider on the outside slide out, touched wheels or something and went down hard sliding into the curb...which he later posted that he had a broken fibula and several broken ribs. I saw him go down, but at that point there is nothing you can do but hope for the best. Everybody kept pushing on for the final two corners and the finishing stretch. On the final corner I took an inside line and dove for the apex of the corner hoping to get to the front for the final stretch.
In the end this turned out to be a mistake as another rider dropped down in front of me and I had to brake hard exiting the final corner...as I did this 10-15 riders went by dropping me from the front of the group to the middle and slowing my momentum down as others were sprinting away. So at this point I decided to just bring it home without dropping any places...though one of my teammates sprinted past me just before the line :P
Looking at my power numbers on the day....The first 5 minute average: 416 watts, The first 10 minutes: 389 watts, the first 20 minutes: 368 watts.
That was a lot of work done in a race to blow it on the last corner...but that's racing :) All in all I ended up 25th on the day in the CAT 3 race.