Two bicycle races under my belt this weekend. I don't have the fitness and it really showed. Both races I ended up getting dropped on the very first lap.
Saturday's race was at River Falls - a great course with a rather gnarly little hill just before the finish line. The cat 4s do this 5+ mile loop 5 times.
The course starts off downhill. I was struggling almost immediately. The pace was fast from the get-go. After the first turn, of course there was a huge acceleration as I was in the back of the pack. I managed to keep in contact until we started up that hill. Dropped almost immediately.
I continued to ride the course, picking up one of my team-mates and another guy I know pretty well. We rode the course together, finishing out the 5 laps pretty far back from the main pack. Interestingly, a lot of people that get dropped don't even finish the race, they pull out and take a DNF. Well, I guess that means I wasn't last, although technically, I was scored 46th out of 47 finishers.
Sunday's race was at SCTAC (Donaldson) on Perimeter Road. I felt better about my chances of sticking with the pack for at least a lap, despite HORRIBLY windy conditions. We started off and after the first turn, the course runs through a rolling hill section before making a short climb up alongside the golf course, topping out at the golf course's club house. About half way up that climb there is a false flat.
On the very first lap, as we were coming through that false flat, I was forced off the road as riders squeezed to the right to avoid a rider moving backwards through the pack (he was getting dropped, and the stronger riders were moving to either side to get around him). I was on the grass side of the road, and did my best to stay on the road. However, it was just too tight, and to insure against crashing, I went off the road.
The grass was a little wet, the ground a little soft, but overall not too bad. I pushed to keep a good pace and not lose ground to the peloton. Unfortunately, by the time I found a safe location to get back on the road, a gap had opened.
Of course this had to be as we were turning into this horrible wind, and we are still going uphill. I tried to catch back on, but just couldn't push through that wind and up that hill. Maybe I could have overcome one, but the combination kicked my ass.
Thus, less than 1/4 lap into the race, I found myself alone with that wind. The remainder of that first lap was bad. My mind was really messing with me and it took all I had to resist the temptation to quit. It would have been really easy. That nice warm car (out of the wind, with a nice sunny day to warm it up inside) sounded really good.
I hate quitting, so I pushed on. For most of that first lap, I chased a rider I could see in front of me that had also been dropped. I caught him as we turned into the wind about 1.5 miles from the start / finish line. We tried to work together for that 1.5 miles, but the wind was so strong, you really couldn't find a draft.
So, he and I pretty much rode side by side for the rest of lap 1, and all of lap 2. He talked about quitting at the end of lap 2, but I think my decision to keep going kept him in it. We rode together for about half of lap 3, until 3m hill. He was much stronger up the hill, so he rode away from me.
At the end of the 3rd lap, with only 1 to go, I was feeling ok, but definitely slowing. As I crested the hill at the Golf course clubhouse, I bonked. I felt like I had nothing left at all. I nearly sat up, but started playing mental games with myself to at least go as hard as I could. That really wasn't very hard, but at that moment, it was hard for me.
At 3m hill, I dropped into the small chain ring and stayed there for the remainder of the lap. I had already been lapped by the Pro, 1, 2 group who started about 10 minutes ahead of us, and the Cat 3 guys started passing me as I rode past the Michelin Plant. By the time I finished the lap, I had been lapped by the entire Cat 3 field. they started 5 minutes ahead of us.
The only consolation I could take was that those Cat 3 guys weren't really moving that much faster than I as we rode into the wind between the top of 3m hill and the finish line. Definitely faster, but not by much. That's more of a statement about how bad the wind was than about how strong I was riding - I wasn't riding strong at all.
As I dropped into the dip at the end of the runway, a little over a kilometer from the finish, I realized that I couldn't just noodle into the finish line. with the wind almost at my back (but still quite a cross wind), I shifted back into my big ring and tried to give it one last push to the line. It may not have been fast, but at least I did that last push.
When I got to the line, I stopped to check with my friend Jamie, who is also an official. I asked her if I was not too late to get scored. Of course she smiled and told me I'd be scored. As I checked back to see if it was safe to roll out onto the road, I saw one final cat 4 guy cross the line. Perhaps that is the greatest consolation of all - at least I wasn't last (35th of 36).
3 years ago