RACE REPORT #1 Schwab Series, Wheels of Thunder CAT 4/35+
First race of the year… Heck, first real mass-start road event in about 8 years. Man, time flies. This was an early spring series that was a good place to go and test the legs – see if all that time spent sweating in the basement all winter did any good.
This race wasn’t a priority performance-wise, so I didn’t really have a plan for tapering my training or trying to peak for it at all. I just wanted to get some good training out of it, dust off the cobwebs, and hopefully see that I was in good standing fitness-wise compared to the rest of the guys. I just returned from a business trip a couple of days ago – where I spent a lot of time swimming and running on the treadmill in order to make up for lost time on the bike. It was the first running of any kind I’ve done in quite a while – my legs were SORE. On Wednesday, I had a hard workout scheduled on the bike but I had to bail only 1/4 of the way through. My legs were just too spent to get my heart rate up at all. Not the best way to go into a race weekend for sure… Anyway, as hard as it was to stay off the bike (during good weather, even!), I took 2 days completely off leading into the weekend. It turned out to be a good move.
I got to the race plenty early. I was curious to see the course and wanted plenty of time to warm up. The course was actually a Colorado State Patrol driving range on top of South Table Mountain near Golden. It was pretty cool because it was a totally closed loop of about a mile and a half. No cars to deal with, and we could take up the whole road. The first half of the loop was downhill, then climbed back up to the finish line.
It was exciting to be lined up at the start with over 50 riders and have about 10 of those as teammates. After some instruction, we started off down the hill and hit the first corner all packed in a tight bunch doing about 30mph. In the corner, I felt another rider’s handlebar pressing into my upper-left thigh. I thought there was going to be big trouble, but I stuck to my line and it all worked out. That was sketchy!! I also made a mental note to not only pre-ride the course, but pre-ride the corners at race pace to get a feel for the speed and the best line to take. I had spent most of my warmup on my trainer in the parking lot and only got to do one lap of the course before we started. I was pretty happy with my warmup, though. I used to be scared to go very hard in the warmup thinking I would use up all of my energy before I needed it, but am finding that I do a lot better after I’ve already done several hard efforts.
I found the racing to be pretty agressive. Attack after attack for the first 20-25 minutes, but nothing stuck. I was feeling ok and when I found myself second wheel nearing the top of the climb I LAUNCHED. It was a beauty of an attack, perfectly timed. I immediately dove around the guy in front of me so anyone chasing would have that much more of an obstacle to get around. Turned out to be the only clean break of the day. I stayed out for a while, hoping that I would look back and see a small group of 2 or 3 coming up to join me. Not so. Every time I looked back I could only see the huge pack of riders bearing down on me. I really wanted to cause some sort of split in the race, but think it was just too early. Everyone was still fresh. The last thing I wanted to have happen was to bury myself out in front alone (unless I could see a wall of SEAR jerseys on the front…), get caught, then spit out the back. I eased up and rejoined the group. I had been riding pretty actively in the front for the whole race, but decided to take shelter and recover for the next couple of laps.
With two laps to go, I started moving up through the field again. On the final climb, things were pretty packed, but I just kept at it. I kind of resigned myself to just finishing with the pack and calling it good since I had another race coming up an hour later. Once things got cranking on the last climb, though, I started to realize I was passing people like crazy. Then I thought, go for it!! I really started stomping on the pedals up the hill and was going well, I had it all planned out – I took the tightest line possible through the last corner only to have someone come from the outside and drop right in front of me – forcing me to jam on the brakes. Dang! I wound it back up again, and was still passing people, but the line came too soon. I was 6th. I felt like I could have contested the win had it not been for that corner, you can see on the graph I downloaded from my bike computer where I went from 32mph to 25 in an instant, then climbed back up to 32 for the finish.
Coulda, shoulda, woulda….