Before I begin, I must preface this with a memory of a few weeks back.
Preface: About two weeks ago (on a Thursday) I attended the bi-weekly Rose Bowl ride in hopes to stay with my peers in the front of the ride for as long as possible. For those of you who do not know, the ride is ten laps around the Rose Bowl that are about three miles long and the ride usually last about one hour. I made it out just fine and felt good as we began. I stayed with the top twenty riders for about 8-9 laps until I was unable to hang on with the bunch for any longer. It felt good to exert myself to that extensive level; and I know it will do nothing but good things for me since Cat 4 races are forty minutes, and cat 3 races are about 50-55 minutes in time. My goal for that ride is to finish it with the front pack I usually start with. Once I am able to do that confidently, I know racing in the future will only get easier.
I decided to break off and make my way back to my car to meet up with the Bicykillers to ride around some more at night. As I broke off, there were about fifteen people behind me who ended up bridging the gap I had created. Not thinking much of it, I thought that the overall group of about thirty riders was more sparse than usual. I continued to pack my things up to head out when about a minute after I had broken off, I see a large group of about fifty plus riders trying to bridge the split in the group we had created. As bummed as I was about not being able to finish the entire ride, seeing that gap made every effort worth-while. It also gave me a new perspective on bike racing technique. If I was able to work together and follow through with a group acceleration, I should be able to do that come race day.
Today was a grand prix race out in ontario, and with my newly found confidence and approach I had learned from the Rose Bowl, I was ready to ride with the best of them. When our race began, I made an effort to get a good starting position with the top twenty riders. All seemed to be going well and the group I was with seemed to be taking their corners in a swift and safe manner. Seeing as we were at the front of the race, I resorted to how things were that Thursday and expected a hot pace to develop in an effort to keep the slower riders from latching on and disrupting the smooth race. I couldn’t help but notice that once riders got to the very front of the race, they seemed to begin to slow down, and relax. This was a bad sign of things to come for the rest of the race. As time went on, people would get fed up and accelerate to the front in an effort to push the pace and maybe break away from the pack entirely. Seeing this excited me and excited other racers. I would latch on with someone else to try and bridge the small gap to whoever decided to get giddy in the pack. This was the start of an ongoing disappointment I felt for the rest of the race.
Racers would end up closing the gaps others would try to make, but when they finished bridging the gap, they were already going faster than the rider in the very front; so what do they do, they slow down to the rider that is too tired to follow through with his effort. It is hard to describe how upset I felt having seen this multiple times. If you are trying to bridge a gap, and end up exceeding the speed that that person is going, you should follow through with your effort and take a pull, if only for ten seconds. Instead, riders would bridge the gap, then hop on the wheel of the already tired frontman and slow the pace back down so the rest of the peleton could catch up. At one point, I tried to follow through and split the group up. This resulted in some riders latching on, then eventually attacking me. I didn’t mind this at first because I knew others would follow him, and I would latch on myself. the problem was whoever decided to attack ended up tired and leaving those riders back to square one.
This happened at last three times in the race and I became very annoyed. If you’re tired from bridging a gap and you find yourself going faster than that person, then pull through and start to form a rotating paceline to give that person a break and let the person behind you follow through and keep the pace smooth and swift. This didn’t happen, and I ended up tired from the sudden accelerations.
When the lap cards came up, I will admit that I got a little nervous at the lines other riders were picking into the turns. Something about other people passing be up and taking riskier lines makes be a little defensive and result in me slowing down. I ended up finishing in the front half of the race. No crashes ensued (thank goodness.) I know I could have done a lot better if there were more riders willing to work together to separate the fast and slow, to make for a smoother race.
When all was said and done, I kept telling myself, “I am a good bike racer” and I still stand by that. I know I have what it takes to get good results and separate myself from others. I am convinced that victory is tangible. With all the variables that come with bike racing, I can’t help but come off as one who makes excuses for lack of success. If I had to define a goal for today’s race, it would be to stay in the front group of the race for the duration of said race. If that were my sole goal, then I would have to say mission accomplished. The sad truth I found is that not very many riders are willing to sacrifice themselves in an effort to break away from the pack and become victorious. As disappointing as this may sound, it is a fact of life and I must accept it. There are improvements I can make, but at the same time I know my head is in the right place. I have the right type of fitness for these kinds of races and although there is always room for improvement, I will keep with this tactic in hopes that something sticks.
I’ve had an amazing weekend with good friends and despite my fifty mile, fire-road filled suffer-fest of a ride the day before my race, I know I am in good shape. I hope to share more events with the public and always appreciate feedback of any type. Cheers to one of the best summer’s ever.