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Race Report: My first race (LONG)(6 posts)

Race Report: My first race (LONG)vindicator
Jul 14, 2003 8:26 AM
Not sure if this is of any interest, but what the heck.

After two practice crits separated by a three week period of limited riding on a stationary bike due to a shoulder separation, I decided to make the season's last local road race (a few crits left) my first "official" race. Here's how it went.

Delhi RR, Delhi, IL

I had a choice of an early morning race, 3 12-mile laps, all ages Cat V or a late morning race, 2 12-mile laps, age 30+ Cat V. Figuring that the best guys would ride the longer "open" race and having lost more endurance than anything else in my injury time off the bike, I went with the late morning race. Looking at the schedule, I should still be able to make it home in time for other family commitments (wife needs to leave at 2:00 and leave the kids with me).

So I get there in plenty of time. Guy pulls up next to me in a BMW M3 and pulls a Colnago C-40 out of the trunk. He's clearly over 30, so I'll be riding against him (no late race for the better categories). "All bike and no walk, no doubt" I try to convince myself. At least neither were 2003 models, or I'd really have wondered.

First thing I learn is that they've added 4 miles to each lap because one of the roads we were going to use was just tarred and graveled, so we have to go 2 miles down to the next road, cut over on that, and then 2 extra miles back before picking up the original course. OK, that adds about half an hour to the race, and I'm getting a little more nervous about schedule, but whatever.

Lesson 1: Never assume a race course will be as advertised.

The Cat Vs from the early race are arriving as I'm getting ready. I talk to a couple guys I know. They give me the skinny on the hills - three of them, all near the end, including a rollercoaster to finish - turn last corner, short flat, descent, climb, descent, climb to finish line at top of hill. Roads all rough except for the "substitute" road which is a state highway and smooth as silk. Nasty winds in certain spots, etc. One of them flatted in the early race, so he decides to race the late race, too (under 30). They shortened all the morning races by one lap because of the extra 4 miles, so I'd have ended up racing the same distance had I gone early. The 1,2 race will still run long, though.

So I spend about 45 minutes riding slowly to warm up, with a couple of jumps, etc. and I'm at the assembly point at 10:55 for the 11:05 start (under 30s at 11:00). No one is there except riders.

Lesson 2: Never assume a race will start on time.

Lesson 3: Warmups may be a complete waste of time if you sit around for too long waiting for the race to start (see lesson 2).

Eventually, some officials appear - they were all down the road at the finish line waiting for the 1,2 race to conclude. But they never give us an ETA other than "soon" so we all have to stay nearby. Confusion reigns for awhile as they attempt to locate a lead vehicle and a wheel truck, and figure out what to do about the fields (9 under 30 guys and 7 over 30, after having 30-40 guys in the open Cat V early race). They decide to combine us with the under 30s rather than with the women or juniors (good thing) and we roll out about 45 minutes late (so much for warming up). I know I'm dead when I get home given how late I'll now be, so I might as well try to go out in a blaze of glory.

The start is a rolling start, meaning we ride about a mile to where the "start route" hits the main course, and we're not allowed to race until we get there.

Lesson 4: In a rolling start, being "near" the front don't cut it. Be "AT" the front.

As soon as we hit the flag, one of the under 30 guys takes off like a bat out of hell, and several guys go with him, including C40 and a couple of other over 30s. I say the mantra to myself ("It's easier to keep up than catch up, it's easier to catch up than to ride alone") and bust my a$$ to catch them, sending my heart rate int
Part 2vindicator
Jul 14, 2003 8:27 AM
As soon as we hit the flag, one of the under 30 guys takes off like a bat out of hell, and several guys go with him, including C40 and a couple of other over 30s. I say the mantra to myself ("It's easier to keep up than catch up, it's easier to catch up than to ride alone") and bust my a$$ to catch them, sending my heart rate into previously unexplored territory. I catch them and there's 7 of us now going single file in a paceline, rotating about 30 second pulls into a really nasty wind coming from about 10 o'clock. Despite the wind, we're doing 22-23 mph (I think). My heart rate stays basically at or above LT the whole time, though my legs aren't burning (heart and lungs are a different story). We turn right onto the state highway and with the wind now at 7 o'clock and the smooth road, we're doing about 32. I've never done 32 in the flats before without a downhill runup (other than maybe in a sprint), much less in a 7 man paceline. It was exhilirating, but I knew I wasn't long for this group unless they slowed down.

Lesson 5: When you finish pulling in a 30+ mph paceline, no matter how tired you are, don't coast as you drift to the back. I did this after my 3rd or 4th pull when I was just too tired to think, and soon found myself redlining it to get back into position as last wheel.

We turned onto the 3rd leg of the square and the youngster who started the jump at the start line dropped off the back.

Lesson 6: If you're in a group you can't stay with and someone drops off the back, drop with him and work together.

I decide to stay with the group, though, hoping that other(s) are dying as fast as me. Another mile or so, though, and I know I'm at the breaking point. If I'm going to do any recovering and finish with some dignity, it's time to drop. Otherwise, I'll go another mile and just die by the side of the road. So I go off the back. I check the cycle-puter. 8 miles at 24mph average speed. Nothing earth-shattering, but that's about a practice crit for me, except in those I get to stop at that point. Now I've got 20+ miles to go.

I can still see young'un in the distance behind me, and I wonder if I should just coast and let him catch up so we can work together. If he's got gas in the tank, we'll both benefit from riding together, but if he's fried it'll only slow me down to wait for him and then find out he can't really help. I decide to ride a middling pace so I can recover and so I know that if he catches me, he's still got some gas. Before too long we hit the three "big" hills of the race. I do the first one, turn onto the fourth leg of the square, and he catches me midway up the next one. He offers to work together and we do. He asks if I've got enough water, and I say I do but my ice has long melted and I'd love something cold. "I've got an extra bottle at the feed zone" he says (I have no one at the feed zone - I'm on my own) so I take him up on his offer. We hit the last climb to the finish line of the first lap and his "feeder" is on the right with his bottle "Get 2!" he says, holding up 2 fingers. Message doesn't register with her until we're right there. For some reason, her colleague is across the street with the cooler, so feeder number 2 comes running over from the left. I veer left, chuck my empty to the side of the road and get the bottle from her. Still recovering from the initial effort and of course hurting from the hill, only the thought of an ice cold bottle is in my head. I head over and rejoin young'un.

Shortly thereafter, I suddenly recall the little note on the course map - "Feed zone, right side ONLY" and of course the officials' comments about not crossing the yellow line (which, except for the state highway, exists only in our imaginations on these narrow unstriped country roads). Well, nobody said anything so I guess I'm OK.

Lesson 7: Burn the rules into your brain so that they are automatic to you even when you're exhausted
Part 3vindicator
Jul 14, 2003 8:28 AM
Lesson 7: Burn the rules into your brain so that they are automatic to you even when you're exhausted.

Lap two is a much shorter story. We soon see a lone rider in the distance ahead of us, so the lead group has one less guy. We work hard into the wind on the first leg and pull very close. Soon after we turn onto the state highway, we catch him and again work the 30+ mph paceline magic.

He's an over 30 and he reports that someone in the lead group has quit. By my estimation, that left 2 over 30s and one under 30 in the lead group, then the 2 of us competing for 3rd place, with young'un also in our paceline. What to do now? I can't drop this guy and I need to stay with this group, but it'd be nice to grab that 3rd place trophy. He said the hills were what got him dropped, so I resolve that he's either bird-dogging me and he'll beat me anyway, or I'll take him on the hills.

We hit the first hill and work hard.

Lesson 8: The "reverse punt" is real. Young'un stands up about halfway up the climb, with no warning and me right on his wheel. This drives his rear wheel seemingly backward about an inch and I almost hit him.

The other old guy's hurting at the top, but so am I. I'm bigger, heavier, and younger than him so I decide what I need to do is follow him up hill 2, gap him a little on the downhill, and then try to lengthen the gap as hill 3 starts and hope I can hold on. Things set up perfectly. He's at the front of our paceline as we start hill 2, and I'm right behind him. I just sit on his wheel and let him work as hard as he wants. As soon as we crest, I go, and open up a gap before we hit bottom. I charge hard up hill 3. Young'un passes me about a third of the way up, and I try to stay with him. The other guy doesn't put up a fight, so I coast home thinking that I may be late but at least I can give my wife a 3rd place trophy to shove up my a$$ when she kills me.

I park my bike and walk over to trade bottles back with the nice feed ladies. "They came over and chewed me out for giving you a bottle from this side of the road and said they were going to disqualify you" she reports. Hmmmm....

I head over to the finish line and look at the tally sheet. Turns out I miscalculated the lead group's composition and they were all over 30, so I'm fourth among over 30s anyway (though that means young 'un won the under 30s, so I did better against the young group than I did against the old group). There's no big red X or anything next to my number, though, so maybe I'll end up with an official 4th place, maybe not.

Lesson 9: Old guys are cagey. Don't count on the strongest ones to ride the earlier, longer ride with the young guys. Figure that the ones who think they can win will ride their C-40s in the over 30 race to try to get a trophy.

I definitely think the best old guys self-selected to the late race and the best young guys self selected to the early race.

In any event, with only three places at the podium and 3 trophies, and my being mucho late, I don't stick around to see if I got fourth or the big DQ, nor to see who won among C-40 and the other horses who dropped me.

Final stats: 30 miles @ 21 mph average. That comes to 24 mph for 8 miles and 20.1 for the remaining 22. I'd seen a 24 mph average before in the practice crits but never anything like 21 for any distance close to 30 miles. Cool!

Lesson 10: With no downtime at stoplights, etc., and very little out of the saddle riding because of pacelines and the constant need for speed, 30 miles will do a number on your rear end. My butt STILL hurts, and it's Monday morning!

Thanks for reading, comments and advice appreciated!
Great report! (nm)TFerguson
Jul 14, 2003 12:57 PM
Jul 14, 2003 12:59 PM
Enjoyable reading!
Nice race!CritLover
Jul 14, 2003 10:51 PM
Isn't it great when you have strategy and actually make it work. Nice tactics- you should've got the trophy!