I just realized that I'm up to 7 straight race weekends. Now that I'm over my road racing fear it's even harder to come up with a reason not to race bikes on any given weekend. I might pay lip service to "not burning out before cross," or "doing something productive," or even "riding with friends" but next thing I know I'm on bikereg, blowing cash and committing to getting up way too early. I just want to see my name on the confirmed riders list. I can't remember the last time I slept in. Is this maturity or an addiction?
I forgot to mention it but I've got a new team, Back Bay Cycling Club. They're like my old team except totally different. One of the most exciting differences is that I have 18 or so teammates, so I tried to lure some into doing the Purgatory Road Race. I've never road raced on a team, so I felt like I was missing something.
Despite my best efforts I could only get one teammate, Ryan, to come hang out. With 2 guys in a hundred-rider Cat 4 field... we weren't doing jack. But then I read an exhaustive course preview and realized that teammates didn't matter anyway, because we were just going to ride as fast as we could up a big hill at the end anyway.
Since this is my fifth? Sixth? road race I have half a clue about positioning myself, so I converted my near-back-row lineup into a solid midpack slot by the end of the neutral start. Is that wrong? Hey man, if you're gonna leave a monstrous gap I'm gonna roll into it. I can't resist.
We went live at the base of the first climb and immediately drilled it. BIKE RACING! It got steep and we played shift-to-the-little-ring roulette and of course someone dropped their chain just ahead of me. All hell broke loose and 10 or more guys ended getting stopped, which really sucked for them. I snuck through a crack and proceeded to go crazy (458w for 1 minute) just to hold my place. This jacked my heart rate 40 beats and made me realize that my warmup had been... nonexistent.
I spent the rest of the lap hiding out a few wheels away from the wind, trying to figure out if the terrible sensations in my body were a temporary or permanent problem. I took a pull on the long riser before the descent to the lake and final climb, and was starting to think that I felt ok. But before we crested a bunch of guys rode around me, which is probably the first time I've ever gotten of the front of a Cat 4 field without explicitly swinging off, and a sign that I'm not riding very well. Crap.
We hit the big climb (Lackey Road) and guys went ballistic. As noted elsewhere, the course profile on the race website made it look like nothing more than a 4% roller (not, ahem, 1k @ 9% or whatever it was), so obviously big ringing it flat out was a good strategy. I came into in the front of the group and went straight backward. I looked down after the first 20 guys passed me and my power tap was still at almost 500 watts, to which my inner valley girl said "seriousleeeeee?"
For serious. Fine then, I am sag climbing this, because I'm a smart dude. Was there a prime at the top or something? It was absurd how fast we went, for how long. Maybe the guys at the front refused to admit that this was not a 4% roller.
I crested the hill in 50th or so, which made me think that I must have just saved a ton of energy over staying at the front. Then I noticed that there was a 30 yard gap in the field ahead of me and promptly threw away all that saved energy bridging it with some other similarly perturbed individuals. We made contact just in time for the next climb, and I slingshotted the draft and a very hard effort right up to the front. That's enough of that, I'm staying the hell away from the back. Later on the referee on the moto told us we were down to 50 guys, so fully 50% of the pack got shelled on lap one.
By this time I had confirmed that my legs were going to be crap for the duration of the event, so it was time to RIDE SMART. Boring. Our rapid lap one ascent intimidated pretty much everyone, so the race became almost a 9-mile group ride in between our 1 mile of racing up the hill each lap. And I was just fine with that.
The highlight of the mid race was my front wheel intersecting some dude's pedal stroke. I was certainly to blame for this (braking? what's that?) but was very excited to discover that I didn't panic when it happened. Can I use this to get my Cat 3 upgrade?
The next two times up the climb were moderately uneventful. We shelled another 16 guys to get down to 34 riders, and I was well into the 400+ watt/180+ bpm zone, but no post-climb chasing was required, which had become my only goal.
Finally, on the last lap, we had our first attack of the race. One guy rolled off the front over the top of the Barnett Rd climb, joined shortly afterward by Ian(?) from NEBC. They dangled 10 seconds up for the next few miles, and then a 3rd guy bridged on the last riser. It was doomed to failure, though, because the guys who had been murdering most of the field on Lackey Road could smell the finish and had no intention of letting them out of sight.
On the downhill before the climb they were 10 seconds out and we were having a softpedaling contest, which let me slide up to a front row seat for the upcoming anaerobic massacre. My plan was to make it over the top and win the sprint, because hey, you never know, right? I'd been under duress each lap but I hadn't tried riding my eyeballs out as a strategy.
It was positively stupid how hard the field attacked the beginning of the climb. I average 550 watts for 30 seconds (that's 8.3 f-ing w/kg!) and all I had to show for it was 20th place. Seriousleeeee? Guys?
Believe it or not, that counted as "pacing myself, " because I did 393w for another 90 seconds and picked up 12 places, as most of the field keeled over and died on the second pitch of the hill. I did my best to snort my lungs through my nose at 191 bpm but seven guys somehow managed to keep the pace up right over the top. I looked at the 15 yard gap, put it in the big ring, and gave the chase exactly two pedal strokes before giving up.
With only 500m to the finish, I was able to TT across the line in relatively close proximity to the sprint (won by 16-year-old Brendan McCormack, bet I'll see that name again) for a generous "st" finish in 8th.
After the race Ryan and I went hunting for food while he regaled me tales of how hard it is to climb with a sprained wrist. Apparently he got hit by a taxi two weeks ago and couldn't stand up at all. Needless to say he was not in the group of people that stayed in contact over the top on lap one, nor a finisher at all. Bummer.
We took our recovery food to the finish line just in time to see Linnea come by leading the women's 3/4 race. Oh yeah, did I mention I finally got her to do a road race? Because I did. And her Pro MTB license is still just a Cat 4 road license... so she was on her way to inevitable victory (just ask Kevin) with five other girls when they had a horrendous crash just a minute after passing us. Like...close the course, stop the race, fire up the USAC insurance policy bad. She used her ninja skills to avoid a hospital trip AND save her bike... but she still had enough road rash on her hip to ooze...something... all over the passenger seat the next day. Gross? Gross. Girls are gross.
Er, I mean, BIKE RACING!
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