Finishing a race, sometimes that is all one can hope for. That was my day today. Today was Race 5 of the Greenville Spring Series and it was held @ the River Falls course. This is a great course, but today was a horrible day for bike racing.
The forecast called for about a 40% chance of rain at Noon as of last night. I thought "well, that means 60% chance of no rain!". We got the 40% all right, in fact, it rained for the entire cat 4 race, and it seemed that it rained for all the previous races as well (and the following!).
The Greenville Spinners Racing Team had a great showing in the peloton today. Seven of us (Randy, Peter, Brian, Abhay, Plantec, Moser and me) lined up for the start. We had a plan and the goal was to put Randy or Peter or Brian on the podium. We all had assignments, the question was how well were things going to play out?
The start line for this race is at the top of a hill, so of course you go downhill almost immediately. Worse, at the bottom of the hill there is a right hand turn that seems to be more than 90degrees. Worse than that, add in wet brakes that really weren't working at all going down that hill and you had a recipe for disaster! Thankfully, no-one went down and the peloton made it through unscathed.
Almost immediately, there were attacks off the front. All along Devils Fork Road there was a group attacking the front. Abhay was up there in the mix and Peter and Randy were playing it safe near the front of the main peloton. I was a little further back in the peloton with Brian, George and Plantec.
Devils Fork Road rolls alongside a river. It has a couple of rolling hills but overall you are descending from the turn off of Gap Creek Road (at the bottom of the hill). As we came down from the first of the rollers, I found a path towards the front along the right side of the road. I took advantage and advanced many positions. I was now in front of Peter and Randy, and could see Abhay working the front, trying to establish a break.
The peloton was not letting a break get away, so we were slowly gaining on those 5 or so individuals who were trying to break. We pulled them back in as we came up to the Tankersly Lake. I had a clear path, so I took a lead position. I was surprised to be pulling away slightly, so after the right turn onto River Falls Road, I put down the hammer a little. I began to pull a gap. I was pretty surprised by this, my intention was not to make a break, but to push the pace.
However, since I was out there, I decided to make them work for it. I did my best to stay out front, and soon Peter came up behind me. We worked together for a ways, and as we neared the right turn for Gap Creek Road, another rider came up next to us. He got in the mix and did some work. We were quickly approaching the 1/2 mile climb up to the start / finish line, and I knew I didn't have the fitness to stay with them. I watched as the peloton swallowed me, then quickly closed on Peter and this other guy.
The pack set a solid pace up the climb, and I didn't have enough to hold it, despite my efforts. I fell off the back and briefly thought my race was over. I wasn't going to give up this time, after all, the conditions were really nasty, and I kept thinking to myself "This is Ranger weather"!
I chased, and chased and chased. I could see the pack again when we got to the rollers on Devils Fork Road. They were mostly together, but there was a small group of about 6 who were falling off the back. I managed to get in with them, and a couple of guys in there worked a little harder, then the peloton slowed to turn onto River Falls Road. We caught back on to the pack.
I worked my way up in the pack until I got up next to Brian. If nothing else, I wanted to offer encouragement to those guys. I didn't have enough in the tank to get out and drive the pace, but if I could show them I was still in, maybe it would help. No clue if it did anything for those guys.
Peter and Randy were looking strong in the pack as we rolled up and over the climb for the 2nd time. Brian was still in the mix, and I think I saw Abhay mixing it up at the front! Over the top, and descend to turn right on Devils Fork Road. I dropped back in the pack as we came up the climb, but managed to stay on the tail end of it as we descended.
It actually takes a lot of effort to stay at the back of a peloton. The constant accelerations due to the accordion effect play hell with you. If you are already hurting, these accelerations slowly break you down. I was at the back as we turned onto River Falls and was watching as small gaps opened up in front of me, only to be closed with another acceleration. I was back there with Brian and Abhay. I think George and Plantec may have dropped back by this time.
As we made the 3rd lap turn onto Gap Creek Road and approached the ascent, I worked my way back up near Peter and Randy. Again, I wanted to give those guys some encouragement. This time, I was able to chat briefly with them. Of course, the pace had picked up as we began the climb, and I quickly fell towards the back.
I tried to stay with the pack. My poor legs just didn't have it. Those guys were blistering up that hill, and despite my best efforts, I couldn't hold the pace. I could hear Duke (moto-ref) behind me, and finally, I waved him around. Thanks Duke for the kind words as I dropped off the back of the peloton. I was hoping that Randy and Peter were going to be able to stick with the pack - they were our remaining hopes for a good result.
Although I was no longer in the mix, I decided that I was going to finish the race. No dropping out like I did last week, if I was going to suffer, I might as well get a workout! At the top of the ascent, I got into the drops and into the big ring, and started in my time-trial mode.
The next three laps was all about me and finding the zone. I stamped out a solid cadence and tried to keep anyone from passing me. In that I was successful - I passed maybe 4 or 6 other guys who fell off of the back, and no-one passed me.
It was cold out there. I was having trouble shifting with how stiff my hands had become. I could barely wave as I passed the corner workers. I knew it was just as bad for the other guys in the peloton.
As I approached the final climb, a single rider - a pro /1/2 rider, turned around in his warm-up to ascend the hill. I used him as my rabbit to keep me motivated up the hill. I don't think he was going all that hard, although I was pushing for everything I had. I wanted to finish this race, and I was going to do it as if it really counted.
2 years ago