The first race of the year is over with. It started out on Friday up near Phoenix (which is an extremely ugly city filled with nothing but freeways and large barren patches of brown dirt). Michael and I drove up the night before and stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house where there was chocolate cake waiting for us, an immediate good start to the weekend.
But things didn’t go well the next day at the time trial on Friday. It was a 14.2 mile out and back flat course, something that I’ve been pretty terrible at ever since I started racing. I finished mid pack, going at about 50 watts under my threshold–a pace I could probably hold for about 2 hours. I don’t know what it is about time trialing, but it’s got to change. I’m going to start doing 20 minute TT intervals twice a week to get better at it. I think it’s almost solely mental.
My poor time trial put me at 35th GC. The next day, Saturday, I decided I would sit in on the first of 5.5 laps of the 89 mile road race. The course was very flat with one small hill, some wind, and a lot of downhill. If there’s a place in the universe where it’s possible to go around in a circe on the same plane and lose more elevation than you gain, this course was it. I would normally be aggressive in the beginning of the race, but I told myself I wanted to be smart and conserve for when it really mattered. There was no way a lasting breakaway was going to get away on a flat course like this in the first lap. Of course it did. 12 guys got away within 8 miles and the race was over. They built up 10 minutes by the end of the race. I sat in the entire time, only going to the front once to help pull back another break attempt on the second to last lap. I decided I was going to at least get 13th and win the field sprint. And even if that didn’t happen, I wanted to have a good chance at the crit on Sunday, so killing myself on the front would have been useless. I can do that on my own without paying 90 bucks to do it at a race.
In the last 6km, something like 6 or 7 guys got away, not all together, but in a couple small groups. I waited near the back for the pack to eat them up. The pack didn’t care. We went up the final climb really slowly, and only started going fast for the last kilometer, which is flat. And the last 200 meters are a tiny bit down hill. I planned poorly for the sprint and was too far back with 200 meters to go and got 6th or something in what was left of the field sprint. 25th overall. It was the most boring race I have ever done. I had to pee half way through the first lap, and after the break got away, I spent most of my time wishing we would just stop and take a pee break. It was also the easiest race I have done in a long time since I was sitting in and there was less than 3,000 ft of climbing in the entire race. I rode back to the start line 10 miles away and felt like I had just completed a fairly easy endurance ride.
I needed revenge for the crit. I was aggressive early in the race, going with a few attempts, but nothing was sticking. I retreated back to the middle of the pack, where sitting in was very easy. The course was a mile long with seven corners and it was pretty easy to move around. The speed was fast the whole way, which meant getting away was difficult. The only lasting move that worked was a solo attack when the pack had momentarily eased up. A Jamis/colavita guy got away for 5 laps or so, but was reeled in. I got away with 8 other guys with five laps to go. With three to go we were caught. I held an ok position for the next couple laps near the front, but not too close to the front because I was waiting for a chance to follow a line up to the front and didn’t want to be one of the guys who was going to get swarmed. With under a lap to go, a guy crashed ahead of me and to the side as we went around a corner. His bike bounced up and missed me by about a meter. I regained my position about 15 guys back.
I should have moved closer to the front and gone with half a lap to go since I know I don’t have a good sprint, but I didn’t, the guy who won did. I came around the final corner in about 15th with 300 meters to go and someone in front of me lost control. His rear wheel hopped up about a foot and it looked like he was going down. I put the breaks on and swerved to the gutter on the outside of the corner. He stayed up somehow. I had lost all my speed by now and thirty guys passed in a few seconds and I finished 38th. It’s not likely that I would have gotten in the top 10 anyways since I was a bit too far back. My final GC placing was 29th. It was a strong cat 1 field, but not that strong. A lot of the guys I’ve been beating in the shootout placed top 10 GC. Although, the shootout doesn’t take much race tactics, it’s just going as hard as you can for an hour. It’s February, so I’m not too disappointed.
Overall winner was John Chodroff of Jelly Belly.