I spent a weekend in Connecticut and used the opportunity to race criteriums in Plainville and Bethel. I needed just a few more races before I upgrade, and I chose Plainville based largely on having heard about it from Sprinter Della Casa's blog and Bethel from its reputation in NYC as a good training crit. After racing both, I highly recommend each for some good weekend racing.
Plainville is an excellent course - fast and flat, D-shaped with two ninety degree turns separated by the home stretch and by a long, fast, winding part. The final turn was just before the 200m mark. The combined 4/5 category meant that the race was long enough to be satisfying (45 minutes plus 5 laps), and I found the racers and organizers, volunteers, and marshalls to be really congenial. I got there with enough time for a few warm-up laps before being called to the line, and when the race started I found that the quality of racing was pretty high. A few riders whom I wanted to be away from but nothing terrible, and some people who had that quiet confidence around them.
I separated the race into sections and executed my plan very well. I sat in and got a feel for it. Then I tested things out as an opportunist, putting myself in a good two-person break for several laps until we were decisively reeled in. Then, I sat in and recovered, and figured out what positioning I would need for the sprint (recovery was aided by an unfortunate 6+ rider stack-up on the backstretch; the officials stopped the race a few laps after as an ambulance needed to attend to one rider still down. Here's hoping that everyone is not too bad off and riding again soon). And then I played my position very well, putting myself where I thought I needed to be. I saw an acceleration moving up the inside on the backstretch, jumped, got myself to be the third wheel, took the corner at 31mph and sprinted. I got into a rider's draft and threw my bike at the line to take 2nd! I even won cash, which went right into lunch for me, my traveling buddy, our helpful friend, and our two hosts for the night. Burritos - my favorite post race food.
My traveling partner and I rolled up to Bethel in barely enough time to sign in and get to the line. I was able to take one (1) warmup lap: ninety degree turn, sweeping gentle downhill, wicked headwinds on the back stretch, and a hill that's long and steep enough to change things. Sand on the course but nowhere particularly dangerous. The cat 5 race was only 12 laps and I figured I'd just patrol the front. The front turned out to be the eventual winner, a big young guy who liked to sit at the front and hammer. Had he attacked he could have done some damage. He also telegraphed everything he was about to do, so coming up to the finish line I jumped right before he did, opened up a huge gap, and rolled over the line first. Except I had made a mistake: there was the official, ringing the bell. One to go - how did I mess that one up? I sat up, got a wheel, and tried to chill out. I did but was tired enough that I couldn't sprint the way I would have liked, and came in 3rd.
Good results feel good, but I'm happier about a few other things: I made plans for the races and I stuck to them; I read the races well, and I read the other racers well. But on the top of the list is that I just submitted for an upgrade to Cat 4. I'm also just happy that a weekend of traveling and racing worked out very well - I had a great time in Connecticut, hanging out with friends, enjoying the first weekend of Spring weather immensely. And we hit up some races that I do not hesitate to recommend broadly and widely (in fact, I just emailed my team doing so!). So, if you're within whatever you consider to be worthwhile driving distance of either Plainville or Bethel I recommend that you get out to them. The people are friendly and the courses are good.