Sunday, July 12, 2009

The View from My Bike: PTO Road Race

It goes without saying that the PainPathways/PVS cycling team was serious about making a good showing at our signature event. In the 4/5 35 and under road race, Chancey, Dwayne and I lined up with a few friends (60+) to roll 39 or so miles in the heat. Last year, Cat 4, and Cat 5 road races were separate events. This time 'round, the Cat 4 and Cat 5 guys were together, which promised an interesting event. I predicted that half the group would be lost before the last lap, and I wasn't too far off.

The COURSE: Approximately 13 mile loop. Containing mostly flat to rolling terrain with one scenic lake crossing. Two climbs, effectively back-to-back were located about 4-5 miles from the finish.

Rolling through the neutral zone, chatter was pleasant and lively. However, as we got to the course and went "live," things changed immediately. The pace climbed into the mid-20's and stayed there. As this was a 4/5 race, there was some yo-yoing with plenty of brake-tapping. I was riding in the top 10 for the first lap (to avoid the yo-yoing), just sitting on and watching riders attack, dangle out front, then slowly slide back to the peloton. This went on 3 or 4 times over the first two laps. Usually, only one or two attackers went off, and no one panicked.

However, when 3 riders went off on the first lap, I decided to bridge up to them and give it a go. It was a let down, as when I got there, they announced there were sitting up. Back into the peloton, we knew we'd need to wait a bit longer.

Finally, on the last lap I moved to the front and started to push the pace a bit. Climbing a low hill to Ridge Rd., the kid behind me said "you might as well back off, it isn't worth it." Yeesh. Is this a group ride or a race? Just then, a guy I met at the start line, Lee, comes up beside me and says "Let's go man, I gotcha." I hop on his wheel and before we knew it, the loudmouth kid was out of earshot. Lee, not realizing he'd opened up such a gap, said to me "Hey, we're in a break!" I confirmed his statement, then we put our heads down and hit it.

We had a nice crosswind, but were still about 9 miles from the finish - a long way for two Cat 4/5 guys. Lee did more pulling than I could, but we worked well together, going as hard as we could. Our break survived for 5 miles before I spied a small group of chasers coming up to us. I told Lee, and we agreed to push hard until they caught us. When they did, one said "There are 5 of us here, let's go!" About that time, I got a message from my legs that said be careful.

Crunch time. We still had the two hills to go, with a big downhill rush to the first one. A pack of 40 can go down a hill pretty well, so our group of 7 was potentially out-gunned. The goal was to get over the two hills before the peloton got to us - that would leave just ~3 miles to the finish - most of it flat. On the first hill, I started to fade and couldn't pull through our paceline. I moved off and realized we'd already dropped one guy and another came off with me. My cohort Lee was still in there and heading to hill #2.

At the top of the first hill, the peloton crept up and I jumped in - happy to see Chancey and our friend Dwayne. Dwayne was near the front, and seemed strong, while Chancey and I agreed we were hurting (he'd raced all weekend). On the second hill, I faded just a bit. Encouraging 3 guys around me, we worked together to get back on the peloton and tried to get set for the sprint.

With 1km to go, the full two lanes of the road were ours (we were only allowed one lane up to that point). Riders were tired, so the speed was not terribly high right away. As we closed in on the finish line, I was actually in good position, maybe 3rd wheel here, then 5th wheel a bit later. Finally, the group started to accelerate and rumble to the finish. I tried to stand and sprint, but cramps closed that down pretty quickly. I lost a few positions in the last 100 meters, but am truly happy to have stayed upright!

Two of the guys from our breakaway of 7 stayed away and went 1,2. For some reason, I am proud of that, even though they aren't on our team.

Hopefully I will post pics later, but the experience was great. Hot, hard, fun, and rewarding.

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