Great weather today for racing down in Mihama. The sun was out and slight breeze that you could feel out on the course especially on the final 1.3km straight.
The course was a 3.5km not so technical Criterium so no need for race radios or even profile of the course on the stem today as everything was a right turn and I knew from riding the course earlier this morning that it would be utterly impossible for an escape unless there was a crash in the very narrow section of the course.
We watched the other races and with over 100 riders in all the categories there were some serious crashes broken bones and dead frames. Fortunately our E3 rider stayed out of trouble and rolled across the line in the lead group in 26th.
We knew that our race would be worse as the JCF had decided not to split the group in half so 109 riders would be fighting it out on the narrow roads of Mihama.
The first lap went pretty well with everyone behaving themselves although there were a few warnings to the riders that tried overtaking and cutting in during the neutral zone, especially as they nearly caused a couple of crashes before the race had even started. They were quickly dealt with and ejected out the back of the peloton to ride on the shirt tails for a few laps.
After this the 3rd, 4th and 5th laps were primes set up by several of the local sponsors and as beer was on the list of prizes I was up for some early action.
On the final corner for the prime I was in 10th wheel, not bad but close enough to the front to have a go. A few young pretenders tried their hand but these were quickly shut down by the veterans of Crits and it was obvious we were leaving it for the last 100m to conserve energy for the 4th and 5th lap as well as the rest of the race (This was a 45minute timed race with 2 laps added)
As I expected the usual suspects launched with a 100m to go and some great play by one of the teams saw me boxed in and coming through the line just on the tails of the prime winner - 2nd 3rd or 4th. It was that close, all I know is that I didn't get any beer
The 4th and 5th laps got a bit messy with other riders trying their luck and knowing that the surge would come in the last 100m the front got swamped by riders with low handling skills or race craft so I just made sure that I stayed in the top 20 riders to cover any potential attacks that might split them off from the rest of the peloton.
While all this was going on there were several crashes at the back of the group, thus why it's very important to keep in the front. However if you don't have the legs or the handling skills its best not to be up front as things move around very quickly as some found out later on in the race.
After the primes things pretty much settled down, accelerate out of the corner and shift down, shift up before the corner check the lines, come out on line and put the hammer down shift up repeat 20 times.
On the final lap we had managed to drop those unable to keep up with the constant accelerations of the corners and were reaching the crux of the slight climb on the course when one of the riders got a front tire blow out and went down hard, taking 5 riders with him instantly, all going straight over the top of the poor fellow.
This is where the veterans played their hands, 3 of us saw the correct lines and hauled the bikes hard over to the left, each of us knowing instinctively where the others in the tight group were and just how far over each of us would need to go to make sure we all cleared the carnage on the road, as even if one of us was caught up in it we would all come down like a domino effect.
As soon as we had cleared without even looking back like many of the younger riders we put the hammer down accelerating away. Those looking at the carnage almost caused another crash as well as missing the jump and losing 15 to 20 bike lengths that would prove impossible for them to close down as we entered the final corner and the long straight to the finish.
With such a long run in to the finish there were plenty of attempts to attack early and these blew up very quickly as we all bummed a ride until the next eager rider wasted himself on the road. This was great until these riders instead of pulling over to the side of the road and cruising to the line, just sat up in the middle of the race and caused everyone else to break around them or slam on the brakes, find a gap and then try and jump on the next riders wheel.
With the meters rapidly decreasing and the amount of riders sitting up it became impossible for anyone to launch a proper sprint and the main group rolled across the line as a mass.
All in all I happy with the result as 16 riders didn’t finish, due to crashes or getting caught up in one that caused them to lose contact with the main group and with 2 more races in the JCRC to contest the GC and also the exhibition race at this year’s Cycle Mode I’d rather be in one piece.
Big thanks to Champion System Japan for the support and the JCF and JBCF for another great day racing in Japan.