On Saturday, May 9, I raced in the Masters C category in the Ravensdale Road Race put on by BuDu Racing. As a beginner, it’s still hard for me to judge which races are going to suit me and which ones won’t (if there is such a determination for beginners… who don’t seem to “fit” many things.) Nonetheless, knowing there weren’t a lot of long, steady, steep climbs, I thought I might stick with the group for at least a lap or so in this event, and I was right.
My one focus going into this race was to pick a solid wheel and stay on it, no matter what. In this race, I picked my teammate Erik’s wheel. I knew he was strong, steady, and has years of racing experience. One of my weaknesses is that I spend a lot of time trying to stay out of people’s way, and one way that I am getting through that is to keep clarifying to myself that my objective is to defend my own personal space in the peloton… and… if I pick my wheel right, have a spot that other riders will envy.
By the third lap, I was already surprised to find that I’d made it as far as I had. Besides staying out of the wind, I was also focusing on staying fueled and relaxed, both things that would help get me through ANY 50 mile ride. Then, in an instant, the center of peloton collapsed! I was far enough back that I was able to steer around to the left of the many who had fallen. I quickly attached onto Erik and kept his pace as we weaved through slower riders. We quickly connected back to the lead group which was down to about 20 or so riders. The riders at the front dialed things up until the peloton was strung out into a single-file line. This eventually slowed back to an easier pace and re-formed the group. More and more of the chase group started filling in at the back of the pack and there were soon more than 50 of us.
On the next lap, just after I had come through a sharp corner and straightened up, another crash occurred just a few riders in front of me. It was due to a wheel overlap (most likely) or pedal. Either way, I ended up several feet off the road on the grass, but still upright! It was beginning to feel like cyclocross season had just started again. I accelerated out of the grass, despite having one shoe out of the pedals, but once I got my speed up again, I clicked in easily. (Two cheers for mtn. shoes in a road race! Huzzah! Huzzah!) I caught on to Erik’s wheel again, feeling very confident that he would find his way back to the front group, which was speeding away from us. I followed him as he smartly worked thorough the string of riders trying to play the same game we were, and my position proved I’d chosen the best wheel. I found myself once again rejoining the front group.
The rest of the race played out fairly smoothly, I was in the pack, and knew I had the energy left to arrive at the end as long as there weren’t any uphill attacks. This, too, proved to be true until the last 200 meters when it felt like my legs gave out. I tried to dial it up through the pain, but the pack began smoothly accelerating away towards the line and crossed about 10 or 15 seconds ahead of me. Though technically, it wasn’t a “pack finish,” (sorry Erik, in later reflection, I couldn’t connect the dots) it was a milestone for me.
Happy Riding, Andy