Yesterday evening, I pinned a new number on my jersey while hoping that the predicted rain would stay away. We rode out in a shower - one of those short, bright, heavy summer rains - but the streets were dry by the time we got out to Kissena. It was my first night in the 4s, I didn't want it rained out.
Unfortunately, the field was small due to the threat of the weather, and the 4s and the 5s were combined, since there were very few 4s out.
While warming up, Niki was taking dives off the banking. Last week he showed that he can hold a breakaway, and I gathered that he was working on his technique that would allow him to break away again.
The first race was a six lap scratch. "Roll it off, stay together, and I'll give you the whistle on turn 2!" Alan hollered. I stayed high on the banking, right in the front, as we crept around. The whistle blew and I heard somebody swing up the banking toward me; I looked over to see Niki diving down again. Racing is about split second decisions and some good luck; I was in the right place to respond, tilted down the banking, jumped, and caught his wheel. After a lap we had 100 meters on the field. "Half lap pulls," I said. There was another guy with us; when I pulled off to let him forward, he didn't take it. Niki stepped up, I fell in behind him, and we dropped the third. We kept the rhythm going; every so often I'd hazard a glance behind me. The field was still over 100m back, and Niki and I were feeling smooooth.
The bell rang, one to go, while I was in front. I thought about feinting to get Niki to take the lead, but didn't want to risk having the pack swallow us with half a lap to go. I put on an in-the-saddle acceleration and hoped Niki would lose my wheel. I glanced under my arm and thought that he did; I did my best to keep the pace high. But between turns 3 and 4, there he was on my elbow, coming around me with a strong final kick. I gave him a good run for it, but he had me. "No," he said later, "I never lost your wheel. You just gave me the perfect leadout." But I don't consider it a loss when you breakaway with a pal for six laps and come in 2nd.
The next race was an unknown distance tempo. For races where each lap is worth points, I like to give it a couple laps until the handful at the front have exhausted each other, and then attack. After two, I moved right up the field and bridged up to the three or four leaders, winding up on Niki's wheel with the leader in our sights, saying, "Let's catch him." Half lap pulls and we left him in the dust, holding a gap on the pack. I picked up one second (1 point) and two firsts (2 pts each) before the pack started threatening us again. Confident that I'd placed, I sat back and let them fight it out for the two remaining sprints. Khary, that initial leader, probably got first, but I think I got 2nd again.
We were all set to roll off for our third race when the rain started coming down in earnest, and everybody went home. Andras and I rode toward the triboro, stopping at the Astoria Beer Garden for a pitcher of pilsner.
Not bad for my first night in category 4.