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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Feeling bad about 18th

There was a sanctioned race today at Donaldson Center. That means we get points and the races count toward moving up to new categories. Just getting a finish would help me toward moving to a new level. I wanted more.

I started to the event with a little bit of a timid feeling. Thursday night's ride was with me and my legs were feeling pretty sore even this morning. Plus I knew that this was going to be a combined category 5 race. That means I would be racing kids to granddads. The granddads didn't bother me too much. Even the kids didn't strike fear into me. It was those 20 something guys that had me worried.

As we lined up, I was feeling a little better. It wasn't raining and it was actually warm. Sure there were some younger guys, but there were also quite a few fellows who looked about my age or older. Besides, if you are good... it shouldn't matter.

Yep, right off the bat some younguns went off the front. I mean right away. I wasn't worried about that. I knew we would catch them. Before the first lap was complete, we did.

It took us 19 minutes to finish the first lap. Compared to Tuesday night rides, that is even slower than the B group. It was almost frustrating, but I patiently sat in 15 or 20 riders back.

The second lap was about the same though this time three or four riders went off the front. The main group just kept up their slow pace. The gap continued to grow. I was riding near Jimmy around this time and he said, "We don't want those guys to get too far up the road."

A couple other Spinners were around at that time and I said, "Let's go bring them back Spinners." We ramped up the pace a bit and before too long neutralized the break. Jimmy was right on my wheel as the pack moved forward. As we approached the breakaway riders, I heard him say, "Ease off now." So, I backed off to let some other riders take point.

On the first three laps, I crossed the start/finish line between 5 and 10 riders back. I worked so hard to be patient. If I ever perceived myself pushing a little much, I eased off. Jimmy was a guide to me for learning where to place myself to avoid the wind.

As we went into the fourth lap, there were about three guys that broke away just as a downpour started. I knew one of two things were going to happen. 1) We were all going to sit there like we had been the entire race and those guys were going to get away clean, or 2) everyone would sit there and realize we had to bring them back on the last lap and we would all kill ourselves trying to make it happen.

I rode up to the front and said to one of my team-mates who had been near the front most of the day, "I really don't want to chase these guys down on the final lap." My reasoning was I would be in better shape for the finish if we brought them back and then recovered for a final push.

Several us almost pulled together a pace line. Before long we brought them back, though I have to admit it took a little more work than I had hoped. So, halfway through the fourth lap we were all back together.

I immediately started second guessing my strategy, but it felt kind of neat to have taken control of the "peloton" twice in the race. It was salve to my ego to have riders mention to me during the ride and afterwards that they appreciated me helping to get the group moving. Of course, maybe that was a veiled way of saying they were thankful I had worn myself out before the finish!

Going into the final lap, I was sitting in second place. I didn't intend to stay there. I just wanted to get into that first turn without a lot of riders around me. Once we make that turn, riders typically make some sort of attempt to accelerate away from the group. I wanted to make sure I was in position to counter.

No true break formed. That could well be because by this time it was raining cats and dogs. I could hardly see because of the spray coming up on my shades. I kept working to stay in the top 10 or so riders and waited for the finish.

I was fully recovered from the lap four bridge -- at least I think I was. My legs were a little tired, but I have certainly felt worse. This might be a good day -- younguns or not.

After crossing the rail road tracks it was obvious that one rider made a significant attack. I was not in position to follow. At that point I figured a win was not in the cards for me. Still there was second.

Before going into "the dip" there was a rider who pulled away into the gap between the leader and the main group. I set it in my mind to beat that rider. I really believed I could take second at that point.

We started to climb and I stayed in the group. Up to this point I had ridden nearly the entire race in the small front gear. This worked well for me when I got a third place at River Falls. My goal was to climb moderately in the small ring. Once I reached the chain link fence just before the fire station I would shift to the big ring and turn on the afterburner.

Well, just as I was catching the second place rider, I felt things start to go away. I needed momentum. Earlier than I wanted, I shifted to the big ring. Sure enough, I surged forward. Then I plateaued. I was going pretty fast, but I wasn't increasing in speed.

At first when I glanced back I saw I had a decent (but not comfortable lead) on the pack. I tried harder. I really did. Then I heard it. It is a wonderful sound when you are in the middle of it, but a horrible sound when you hear it about to overtake you... the whirring of dozens of wheels.

I knew at that point my second place card was out of the stack. Fifty yards from the finish I was overtaken. It was like I was sitting still. Bikes were going around me on both sides.

Foolishly, I didn't fight. I think I was so shocked by the speed of the bikes passing me that I didn't even think. I just let up (obviously, not to the point where I was a danger). So, did I have to settle for that 18th place finish? No. I came back to reality near the finish line. I increased my speed, but by that time it was too late.

I really don't feel so bad about my attempt at the end. Hey, it could have netted me a second place finish. It was a gamble I was willing to take. It just didn't work out. What really makes me feel bad is the difference between 18th and 15th. I quit. All it would have taken was a little more guts and I could have had a better finish.

Race line

Distance: 35.9 miles
Average speed: 22.09 mph
Average HR: 165 bpm (Tempo Zone)
High HR: 187 bpm (Max 196)
Finish: 18



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