Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cyclonauts Road Race

Saturday was the Cyclonauts Road Race in Monson, MA. The race is 56 miles long, with some decent hills and an uphill finish. Along with myself were about 9 other guys from the MRC in the Cat 4-5 race. This was my first race against Cat 4's. Since I have had decent form in the hills, I was hopeful of a good finish. Here is the profile of the race:

The day was going to be hot, and the race started out pretty easy. Being a Cat4-5, there were a few sketchy rides who were having a hard time maintaining an even pace and holding a straight line. But, that smoothed out after the first 45 minutes or so. Plus, the pavement was pretty chewed up in spots, with some big holes. One of my teammates hit a hole hard and had his handlebars rotate about 4 degrees. Another guy flatted, and he wasn't the only one. I think the SRAM car was pretty busy all day with neutral support. Given that they had Zipp 404s as replacements, I should have aimed for some holes myself.

Things were mostly casual during the first half. We had a few gradual climbs, but nothing that bothered me much. The first major climb was the one through the finish line. The finish is about 1.25 miles uphill, but the climb continues past that. The climb got pretty steep up towards the top, but again nothing too crazy at the pace we were going first time around. I knew that the next time around for the finish would be a lot more difficult.

After the first loop, things heated up a bit. There were some attacks off the front, including some guys from our team. At one point, one of our guys got off the front with two others who were unattached, and a few of us starting blocking and slowing down the pace. I thought they were going to have a chance to get away, but they were gradually brought back, as all the breaks were. It became pretty clear that the race was going to come down to the last hill, so I started to sit in and conserve energy.

The hill started after a sharp right-hand turn. Going toward it, I got on the wheel of one of my teammate, who then promptly took off like a rocket toward the front with me in tow. It was a great move, and I was at the front positioned perfectly for the last climb.

As we started up, I went to attack and then everything went badly. Both of my quads started to cramp massively and I couldn't get any power. The pack I was trying to stay with was moving away, and I couldn't do much. Myself and another teammate were working together to bridge to them, with the peloton behind us not gaining any ground. I tried to relax my legs and get into a rhythm, which I was barely able to do. I had another teammate up with the group, so we had 3 guys positioned in the top 10. I was gunning as much as I could toward the finish line, but couldn't go much faster, and ended up either 9th or 10th. We had one teammate 7th and another 8th. So, three MRC guys in the top 10, which isn't too bad.

I'm disappointed at the result, because I was hoping for and positioned for much better. I have not idea what happened to my legs. I have been doing mostly tris, and this was my first road race since the Hartford Crit in May. So I don't exactly have race legs right now. But, I should have done a little better if the circumstances were better for me. Oh well.

I did learn some nice lessons as a result of the race, though.

1. Again, big thanks to Rob my teammate for sprinting me up the side going toward the final corner. It worked really well. I yelled to Rob that I was on his wheel, and he took off. I just wish I could have done something better with it. So, lesson one is communication is key.

2. I'm still pissed I didn't place better. I was RIGHT THERE with the front group and feeling pretty good. Don't know what happened, but what are you going to do. A positive lesson was don't give up on it no matter what. I was able to regroup and give it another go before the end of the hill. Lesson two is don't give up on the race until it is over.

3. The race is an organic, ever-changing thing. It is hard to have "a plan" at the start that is going to be executed exactly as expected. That said, it is important to be able to recognize what is happening at that time and react. When either Todd or Rob went off the front, Kevin and I immediately were at the front and starting slowing the pace of the group. That was pretty cool. Lesson three is recognize and react.

4. Despite "only" being a Cat4-5 race, there were still some strong guys there at the end. I know there was talk before the race about it not being challenging enough, but I didn't hear too many people complaining about the pace being too slow. Things were firing at the front toward the end. Talking with people in the other races, it seems like they had a similar experience to ours in terms of tempo and pace. Lesson 4 is don't judge a race or cyclist by the category.

5. It was really cool seeing everyone at the finish line cheering the team on after their race was over. I didn't see any other teams there doing the same. And we cheered everyone over the line no matter how far back. That is why we race with a club. Even though we didn't win, we were there in numbers and people saw that. What's more, we were there after the race was over as well. Lesson 5 for me is it is better to belong to something than to nothing.

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