Century Road Club Development Foundation's James Fox recounts his season opener at the CRCA Grant's Tomb Criterium. Featuring photos by Daniel Cole and Kristin Reinheimer.
The time of year has finally come when I can stop using the hashtag, #CRITSARECOMING, and I can start yelling at my teammates CRITS ARE HERE! This is my first report on a race for CRCDF, so I should probably introduce myself being going any further…
Hi there—I’m James Fox, I’m 20 years old, and I’m from the Midwest. Also, if you couldn’t tell, I love criterium racing. It is the only type of bike racing I knew before moving to the east coast for school. Clearly, if there is a criterium in or around New York City, I am not going to miss it—sun or rain.
That being said, there was a strong chance of freezing rain on race day. The day before Grant’s Tomb, subzero temperatures and falling rain made all of us shake in our cycling shoes a bit. Bike racing and ice do not go together well, after all. Back in the Midwest, we sometimes call crits “four corners and a prayer”—and that’s even when conditions are perfect
Regardless, as long as the race was on, I knew I’d be on the start line. Don’t forget, CRITS ARE HERE!
Now for the post-race report:
I’ve only raced six or seven Cat 2/3 races before, so during the first 20 minutes of the race, I was really excited. In that short amount of time, I tried to start one break, and I chased down two or three other breaks that—in hindsight—were really unnecessary to chase down. I enjoy a long attack, but that was not smart racing. After those failed moves, I settled into the group and tried to stay sheltered. The race was pretty uneventful (for me) until there were four laps to go...
With four to go, a previous break was caught and the entire peloton slowed down quite a bit approaching the finish line. I already knew that I was going to attack at some point after the five-to-go mark. I've never been a great sprinter so I've been practicing breakaway efforts every week this offseason. But the moment I was going to go was not at any predetermined mile marker, or even a particular point in the race. I knew I just had to pay attention to the flow of the race, and when the flow slowed, I had to attack. You can’t hesitate in those moments.
Seeing an opening on the outside of the peloton after the slowdown, I attacked going into the corner, and immediately had the gap I wanted, albeit I was alone. Those final laps were absolutely all out, and after going through what felt like the seven gates of hell, I got caught with exactly one lap to go.
I'm not going to lie—my legs felt blown when I was caught. So I sat up, allowed myself to be swallowed again by the swarm, and tried to recover for the finish. In the end, recovering from that effort in just one lap wasn’t possible, so I rolled through the finish.
Looking back there is not much I would change about the race, other than telling myself to be more patient in the beginning. I was really satisfied with the race, and I know that one day, the move will stick.
Until then, I’ll just continue to turn myself inside-out on the turbo trainer.