Normally the "Center of the Universe" is located just down the street in Freemont but today it moved to downtown Ballard...........at least for the local bike racing scene. The Ballard Crit is one of the biggest events on the racing schedule. It draws the largest fields of any crit in the area. It's a nerve racking 4-corner, split level, multi surface (bad pavement and cobbles) course where fans and locals can spill out of the many bars located on the course. The speeds are insanely fast and crashes can happen anywhere on the course. It's the only crit where I can never hear what the announcer is saying because the crowd is so loud. Grab your beer and hang on to your hats!
Nine of us lined up for the 35+ open field that had a total of 75 at the start. We were only racing for 40 minutes so we new it would be a fast one. This is the only race I can think in any discipline where I've never finished in the top 10. I've had mechanicals and been caught in crashes at the end of races when no more free laps were aloud. I've blown up after being off the front for half the race and actually been near the front on the final lap without and sprint left in the legs. Last year I almost missed the start of the race after being taken out by a crash in the 4/5 field as I was rolling up the sidewalk to the start/finish area. Maybe Ballard is my Kryptonite but as we rolled off the line I felt pretty good and tried to remain positive.
Sure enough the speeds (and sketch factor) was were high during the first 10 minutes of the race. We had a strong team in the race and everyone took turns either starting attacks or going with anyone else that decided to go. I think last year we had one crash in our race (the one I was caught up in) but this year it was more of a fest. One of my teammates got taken out early in the race on the backside and there was one that involved 8 to 10 guys near the raised manhole cover out of turn three and that was right at the front of the race. I was super lucky to avoid getting tangled in that one. I think everyone was able to jump back in on the next lap. There were several other single rider crashes scattered through the race. This made for some nervous racing.
Matt seemed to be constantly at the front and even got the only real break of the night. I think if he would have had one other guy they might have been able to hold it.
Everything was going well when I saw that the clock had been turned on and we were now down to the final eight??? laps. I say this because I could not hear the announcer each time we came throught the start/finish and.......Where the F was the lap board. I was so focused on trying to figure out where is was that after a few laps I had no idea how many we had left. I asked a few guys around me but they didn't know either. I kept looking to my right where the clock was but there was nothing. (It turned out that is was on the ground on the left side of the road). Since I had no idea I decided to just get to the front and go hard but never heard the bell. I was getting winded and dropped back into the pack. Then I heard someone yell that there was four to go. OK, I waited one more lap and then started to push back to the front. Three to go and I had moved up to about 15th wheel. I just wanted to get up to at least in the top ten by the next lap and I felt I'd have no problem....BELL F'ing rings when I thought we had two to go. Dammit.. The pace picked up for the final lap and by the time we came through corner four I was sitting about 13th wheel. I just sat up and coasted across the line in 20th. I guess it was my own fault for not knowing the lap count but I talked to a bunch of others that thought we had two to go when they rang the bell. Oh well, that's the way it goes.