Today was my first race for the season. It was my first race since my surgery. I'm just over 5 weeks out from the surgery, and only about 3 weeks of getting in some hard riding. I had to get out there today as I was going nuts watching all my team-mates mixing it up. My plan today was to just hang in the pack and ride it out, but like most plans, it just never seems to work out that way.
I was a little nervous as we lined up behind the Pro 1/2, and the Cat 3 peletons. Big George came out again to give the Pro 1/2 group some lessons on how to race. Man can that guy ride. Great to see him out there rubbing elbows with the common man.
Poppa gave us his speach, with plenty of seriousness and a little humor thrown in for good measure. We waited a few minutes after the Cat 3 peleton before he set us off. Immediately, two guys went off the front. The peleton reacted, but it didn't seem to be a serious threat.
I was lined up pretty far back, further than I had really planned, but again, plans don't ever seem to work out. No problem, we set off with a pretty good pace and the pack got strung out through the rollers leading up to golf course hill. I took advantage of this and moved towards the front. The only place to be in a race is near the front. Otherwise, you're like a sitting duck, the front is where everything happens.
At the top of golf course hill, we absorbed the two guys, and the pace continued at a serious clip. Not at all unmanageable, but a little faster than a 'group ride' pace. As we rolled along the back side, I tried to stay protected from the wind and stay near the front. Because I had done a full lap of warm-up, I knew where the wind was blowing and I knew it would be coming directly into our faces as we turned to go up 3m hill.
The wind was a factor today. For sure. On the back side, I stayed to the left side of the peleton to take advantage of the protection and while we ascended 3m hill, I moved laterally across the peleton to the center. As we neared the top of 3m hill, I was positioned pretty well - on the right side (for wind protection) and in the top 10 (to watch / cover any breaks).
Sure enough, as we rounded the corner at the top of the hill, two guys went off the front. I don't know if it was the same two, but they hit it hard and a number of us set off in chase. We had a bit of a cross, but slightly tail wind as we went through this section. I was pushing hard, and calling out to get the guys around me to organize to chase the break.
It was working. Several of us started to get organized, although some of them dropped off pretty quickly. A two person chase group had now gotten a little gap and I was in the 2nd chase group (which was pretty much the entire peleton). Granger came up and gave me a good pull to help me get closer to that second chase group that were gaining on the 2 man break. I sat on his wheel for a little while but came around and started to chase on my own. Granger told me later that he sat up after I went around, as the entire peleton was on his wheel.
I was able to bridge up to form a 3 person chase group. I thought I was sitting pretty - the three of us were bridging up to the breakaway and we were working together. Each of us was taking a short pull before we handed it off to the next guy. We switched off a number of times, and we were making great progress when a fourth guy pulled into the chase group.
By this time, I was really starting to feel it. Although I don't have a heart rate monitor, I could tell I was at or above redline. I tried to stay with these guys, but couldn't hold their wheel when I switched out after a short pull. I kept pushing, some crazy belief that I might be able to bring them back. A couple of other guys pulled up alongside and I tried to catch their wheels, but alas, I was burning matches left and right and I was running out!
As we crossed the start / finish line at the end of lap 1, the break had about 6 guys, I was behind about 20 yards and chasing and the peleton was getting shattered behind me. I made the right turn at the stop sign and looked back. I needed the protection of the peleton, I was out of gas.
They absorbed me as we rolled through the terrain leading up to golf course hill. At the top of the hill, I was a bit disappointed that the pace seemed to slow. It almost seemed like this was going to turn into another group ride. I was still recovering, so my heart wasn't too broken by that!
As we came through the rollers on the back side of the course, I felt several times a handlebar rubbing me on the rear end. That is real racing. Nobody got upset by it, and the racing was clean. I was trying to stay near the front again just to see if there was something I could do.
As we approached 3m hill, I had had enough of the group ride pace, so I attacked - uphill and into the wind. How smart is that? I did open a bit of a gap, but my match supply was really low, and I had just burned a couple that I didn't really need to burn.
The attack did what I wanted it to do - drive the pace. Once they re-absorbed me, the pace was brutal! I stayed with the pack, now strung out single file for the rest of the 2nd lap. I was basically just hanging on for dear life! Remember that cross / tail wind (seemed like more cross than tail!)? It was really taking it's toll on me.
I was with them through the start / finish at the end of lap 2, and stayed with them through the rollers near the golf course, but I popped about half way up the golf course hill. I just didn't have anything left. So much for staying with the pack, although there was nothing in my plan about trying to chase and grab that break.
I'm certain that is what did me in. Although, I do feel that is what I needed to do. Even though it was just my first race back, and I knew my fitness was in question, I needed to see what I had in the tank. Now I know.
What I am really glad of is that I have the instinct to see things forming at the front. Not only to see them, but I also feel I have the ability to react to them. I'm totally comfortable to ride near the front of the pack and to make things happen out there. Now I just need to get my fitness up to speed so I can stick with it through the entire race.
So, I didn't race my plan. I had to improvise on the fly. I feel I reacted well, although with my current level of fitness it definitely turned out to be the wrong move. Next time, I'll stick with my plan!
2 years ago