How To Lose A Road Race

Through some miracle, the bad weather that was forecast did not happen. I looked outside at 7 AM and the ground was dry and the sky was partly cloudy. I called Mark and he said it was dry up his way (closer to the race) as well. So I got dressed, filled the bottles, gathered some food and I was off to Hell of the North.

By the time I arrived and registered I didn't have much time to warm up, except for the ride up to the start. I found Mark and lined up behind him, 3rd row, not bad. The Cat 4s went off and 5 minutes later the Cat 5 race started, and here, right from the start I began to lose the race.

I couldn't clip in! It wasn't nerves, I just missed the clip and kept missing. It took me 20 yards to get in, and by then I had slipped to the back of the pack. I was a little annoyed, but I didn't realize at the time how badly this mistake hurt me - like swallowing a poison pill, you feel fine, for a while.

The pace was not killing me and I tried to move up, but the lane was filled and the race official told us not to cross the center line so was I was stuck. On the 2nd turn I did OK - even with the yo-yo I caught back up to the pack, but it took some zip out of me. In hindsight I should have worked this next section to move up, but I just sat in.

I got dropped! Around the turn onto the dirt road the pack yo-yo'ed big. I could see the front racers up front sprinting out of the turn, but I was still stuck in the turn. I poured on the gas, my legs burned (yesterday's MTB ride and the TT the day before didn't help - my legs were far from fresh), but I just couldn't close the gap. Also note that now we were going into the wind, which made closing harder. With the gap to the front pack at 40 yards, I said to myself "they might as well be on the moon." I knew it was critical to stay in the front pack, but I let myself get dropped and I knew the race was pretty much over right there.

The other shelled riders were either still in pursuit or were going slower so I was solo into the wind for a while. A Ski Utah rider caught me and we worked together for the next two laps. He was stronger at pulling into the wind, and I pushed the pace on the tailwind run. I feel I got more out of the deal than he did, but working together we did better than solo. On the 3rd lap I lost his wheel on the north segment of the course as he worked to catch a teammate. I pushed the tailwind segment, but couldn't catch him. I passed a rider or two though.

The headwind segment of the next two laps was tough. I fought to maintain 17 mph. The road was overall in good shape, but the washboards were annoying so I worked to avoid them. On the last lap I was gaining on some riders and even passed a few. I tried to push hard for the last kilometer, but I was pretty spent. I didn't see the time on cyclocomputer right as I crossed the line, but I checked it pretty quick and I believe my time was somewhere around 1 hour 12 minutes for the 24.7 mile race giving me an average speed of 20.6 mph. Mark said his average was 22 mph. From the results I was 25 out of 28 finishers with at least 6 DNFs. When you get dropped early, that's what ya get.

Mark did great. Every other year Mark got dropped, but this year he worked hard to stay in the front pack and finished 8th!

So, that's the story of my first road race. I made some mistakes and paid for them. But I did finish and I wasn't last.

Update: Hell of the North results. I placed 25 out of 37.

Postscript: After I finished I stood up on the pedals to stretch my legs and found that my butt really hurt. I hadn't noticed it during the race. It was like part saddle sore (tender on the sit bones) and part sore glutes. I've done several centuries and my butt never hurt like this. Sitting back on my saddle hurt bad, so I rode back to the parking area standing up (felt good to stretch anyway). When I bent over, the glutes hurt even more. When I tried to sit down in the car it was agony. I've never had pain like this in that area. It was weird. Mark and I watched the first 2 laps of the next waves of racers and the pain subsided some - enough that I could sit (uncomfortably) to drive home.


Anonymous said...

Never let it be said riding a bike isn't a pain in the butt.

Nonetheless, you rode and I know you are a strong rider. Had I not been told to skip it, I probably would have been right there with you getting dropped.

Still, good for you getting out there and racing. If you're up for another challenge, come join me at the back of the pack for the Bear Lake road race on May 17.

UtRider said...

Put the week in context: Until Tuesday you had never ridden a criterium, Wednesday was your first sanctioned TT and Friday was your inaugural road race. You hung with the group in the crit, beat up on a few guys rolling full TT bikes and finished the road race. If everything was easy it wouldn't be any fun. One reason I'm so excited about my race today is the fact I got dropped in '06 and '07. Some people can compete on day 1, but for us normal folk, progress takes time. You'll be stronger because you stuck it out and finished the race today.

You know what's ironic? The only reason I finished HON the last two years is because my kids were there cheering me on. After the race they asked if I had won - they had no idea I wasn't in the lead each time they saw me. Today, even though I was with the main group, they never saw me. Sure, it might have something to do with the 4 kittens they found, but still, go figure! :)

Andy H. said...

Holy smokes three races in a week! Next thing you know you're going to be all serious with a coach and a training plan. Watch out though, Bruce might be a bit mad with you blowing your yearly race budget on road races. UMB needs the ICUP points.

KanyonKris said...

Thanks for the comments.

Mark, you're right, it was a lot of firsts so that made it fun, and hard to say "no".

Andy, I'm not much help to the team since moving up to Sport last year. I'm mid-pack fodder. But I seem to be slowly getting faster so maybe I'll get into the points some year. Jolene (my wife) says "hi" to Rhonda.