Today was my first cycling 'race' of the year. And it seriously showed (I mean it!). The series is called the GVCC Spring Giros, a Saturday/Sunday circuit road race that is every weekend in March in the Rochester area. The UR Cycling Team uses these as our tune-up races to get into the racing zone and get the cobwebs out...which is always necessary, especially in cycling. I missed the first two weekends due to spring break, but I'm back and pretty pumped. Only catch, my one cycling race of last year, lack of experience, and minimal group riding this year will make for a very slow start to the season. Not a worry though, I'm well aware and prepared for using these races to get into racing mode and gain a lot of much needed skill and experience.
Todays Race: Giro #5 (4th Giro - #2 was cancelled due to 4-7 inches of snow), 3 loops, which equals something near 27 miles, but that is a bit of an overestimate. RunPartner tells me 8.5 so 8.5 it is!
Going into this thing I knew it was going to be rough. But I didn't think I was going to make it so hard for myself. There were a bunch of small breaks early on (first lap or so) that didn't come to anything. I was in a couple of them, but realized they weren't going hard enough to make something useful. So I stayed up front, took a few pulls, and waited for an attack. A break (which ended up being the true break that won) went and a couple minutes later a few of us bridged the gap. People fell off, and it really looked like the peloton was going to overtake us. At this point I was getting pretty much toast and didn't want to blow up. So I allowed myself to fall back to the group. My judgement was very poor. The break did not fall back. A few guys bridged right after I dropped off, but I didn't have it in me at the time to go with them. My fatal error, falling off the lead pack just because I thought we were going to get gobbled up. Lesson #1, Check!: When you commit. Stay committed, unless you literally get popped off. This error led to me working my ass off to get back in it. Since the contenders had surged, there were only a few guys willing to work to get the leaders back. This was not nearly enough, at least as unorganized as we were. Had three of us committed and went for the leaders, we could have made a really honest shot at it and likely gotten them. I discussed this with two guys after (guy named Mike being one of them).
Because of my miscalculation I took it upon myself to work as best as I could to reel them in. The group was 5 people, and by the end was 2. Without my hard work I think we would have only caught 2 of them, leaving 3 off the front. Sadly, one of those individuals we caught was Ronan (UR Team), who made a great move to get up with the leaders when I dropped back. After realizing I wasn't going to be in the winning group I worked hard as hell and made the race an excellent workout and really pushed myself. Lesson #2: Make a very well organized and timed attack to catch the leaders, however this was nearly impossible without knowing anyone at all who was in the peloton (Kevin and Chris were in the following groups).
Coming into the finish, I was in the main group and on the hill with about 1 mile to go I dropped back. This happened solely because I literally had no feeling in my hands (numbness + thick gloves, not cold) and could NOT, for the life of me, get into my small ring. I was watching my hand push the lever, but couldn't get it to engage. So that caused me to quasi-blow-up on the hill, giving the group 10 meters on me. The next part was downhill. I gave it all to regroup with them, entirely solo. It worked, miraculously. Now I was in shambles, trying to navigate through 15 people to make a shot at the sprint that led to this finish about 800m away. I narrowly rode the edge of the pavement and got up in the top 8 of the group (places 3-10 at this point). With 300m I hit the pedal (too soon, but people moved here and I wasn't about to let another gap open). The intensity dropped a little from 200m-125m to go.
With about 125m to go I pulled out with two other guys and went for it. Three (#3-5) had already gotten some slight ground and were fighting each other. Myself, and three others (#6-9), went at it. We lost one guy, passed one of the three ahead, and it was now clear we were very very tightly fighting for places 5-7. I pushed hard, and was dying - just like my competitors. The three of us finished within less than one-tenth of a second. One guy was about 6 inches ahead of me and I had 3 or 4 inches on the other guy. I ended up in a somewhat respectable 6th place, considering all my wasted energy.
Tomorrow will be interesting. I have NO idea in the world how my legs will feel in the race. I'll be fine for easy/moderate riding. But hills and pulls could get very interesting. Gonna do a 20 min rollers spin just to loosen up and stretch. See ya tomorrow!