Shamrock Crit: Is this what the Classics feel like?

Last Saturday, Taylor Burks, Neil Etheridge, Jason Walters and I headed east to Virginia Beach to represent Sweet Spot at the Shamrock Criterium.

All week the forecast in Virginia Beach was for a partly sunny 50° day, but because the world bends toward entropic chaos, it was raining and 40° on race day. Hooray. 

Jason, Taylor and myself. Hard to feel loose when you’re wearing full arm and leg warmers, overshoes, a base layer, two jerseys and a neck gaiter. I was part man, part spandex.

Shamrock was the de facto end of the “race-yourself-into-shape” part of the season for me. If I’m driving four hours round-trip for an hour-long race, I’m of course hoping for a good result, but I think these winter races are better used as a barometer for my fitness going into the spring.

The race itself was pretty standard as far as flat, four-corner crits go.

  • The first few laps were fast.
  • The next few settled down.
  • Someone went solo off the front about halfway through.
  • Someone else bridged over.
  • The group reluctantly brought them back.
  • The pace gradually picked up as the Laps Remaining counter hit single digits.

One of my favorite things about bike racing is the constantly shifting plate tectonics of the peloton. Around each corner you can move up or move back, but rarely can you just stay where you are.

Catching a ride on others’ wheels as they move up in the group is a fun game to play, and keeps me alert throughout the race, but it is wild how quickly a good position can evaporate. This was basically the case at Shamrock.

With about three laps to go, our whole team was near the front. Hell, I think at one point the four of us were lined straight up, setting the pace.

Going into the last two corners before the finish, I was about 10th wheel from the front and just latched onto the guy in front of me, who launched his sprint pretty early.

I sprinted to 8th place, with Neil right behind me in 9th!

Immediately after the sprint. My face depicts how I felt about the day’s weather.

Credit goes to the V.B.-based Fat Frogs team, whose guy won it and I believe had another on the podium. They masterfully slotted right onto the front at the right time and held off everyone else.

Not to be all rah-rah, but I genuinely believe in our team. Learning to ride as a team, hold position, communicate, and successfully execute tactics is more challenging than just turning the pedals over harder and faster. We’re like an effervescent puppy whose growing body is outpacing its ability to learn how the world works, just clumsily jumping all over the place, knocking shit over.

Also, we don’t take ourselves too seriously which I think is probably our greatest asset.

After the race I grabbed lunch with Miles & Summer, which was a real treat, then trekked back down 64 West.

Now, it looks like spring proper is on its way. The clocks have changed, and this is 100% wishful thinking, but the days of riding after work will be back in short sleeves will be back in no time. I hope…

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