Saturday, March 6, 2010

River Falls Road Race

On the agenda:  6 laps of a 5.5 mile loop just across the NC/SC line south of Hendersonville.  This is the final weekend of the Greenville Spring Training Series, and after hearing that a few of the Farm Team guys from Cambridge, NY would be there, I couldn't resist.  Why?  These guys are part of the crew putting on the the Tour of the Battenkill and frankly I wanted to see how I measured up.

The conditions were really spectacular with abundant sunshine, a little wind and temps in the mid-to-upper 50's.  I went with the CLM kit and armwarmers only.  It was definitely nice to be out from under the wool cycling cap and without knee/leg warmers.  Our field had somewhere around 60 riders, but that number is unconfirmed as the finishing list shows 51 but I know some guys pulled out.  At the start, I lined up near the back as I knew it wouldn't really matter in a race like this.  Being at the front was more likely to be a burden (wind, trigger-happy early-season guys) than a blessing.  I talked to a few guys before the race to get a feel for the important aspects of the course, and it pretty much boiled down to a 1k hill at just before the finish line.  Fair enough.

Off goes the gun and we rocket down the only real descent on the course.  After a 90-degree right hander, we settle into a 2-to-3 paceline mess for the first lap.  Guys are all over the place, and I'm one of them!  The speeds are impressive as we had a tailwind and willing guys up front.  The next turn, about 2 miles later, is a sharp right that strung out the pack on every lap.  As the yellow-line rule was in effect, this was one of the only places to make up positions.   At this point we were into a headwind so speeds came down to as low as 16mph (on one lap) but usually around 20mph.  Surges and braking were the rule over the first 4 laps as guys broke away, burned up then came back before the next lemming would take his turn. 

The climb is about 1k long and probably gets up to about 10% at the top.  It gradually increases so it can be tough if one starts out too hard.  The good news (at least for me) is that the top of the climb is about 75-100 meters from the finish line.  My plan (being a skinny rider) was to slowly make up positions on the last two laps and stick with the leaders on the last climb.  No reason to try a breakaway in this group - between the speeds we were carrying with the tailwind and the length of the climb, it proved to be too much for all who attemped it.

Honestly, I missed the bell at the end of lap 5 and for the first mile of the final lap I thought we had 2 to go.  Eesh.  Just about the time I realized it was GO time, the group really started to pick up the pace.  Although I sat in about 30th for most of the race, I moved up to around 10th on the previous climb up the hill, so now I was in the tender spot of being near the front but not on it.  Perfect.  We kept the pace high along the flats and at one point had a wicked, single-file line ripping down the backside of the course at 35+mph.  I was keeping my eye on a few guys with teammates, as we reeled back the one remaining flyer.

Into the approach of the last time up the hill, some guys were suffering but others were twisting their mustaches.  I slid back to around 20th due to some poor maneuvering after our single-file line broke down.  Now at the base of the climb, I downed some Gatorade and got out of the saddle.  With about 500m to go, I was back up to 10th or 12th when I must've blinked a bit too long...a small group of 6-7 got a gap of around 5 seconds on the 3 guys in front of me.  They were weaving a bit by now and I delayed in going around them as I too was riding on the limit and not sure I could go much faster.  With 200m to go I got clear of the three guys and crested the climb in no man's land behind the top 7 but ahead of the chasing pack behind. 

Finishing 8th is pretty exciting for me.  First, it's my best finish in a Cat 4 race.  Also, staying smart, working on racing techniques, and not cramping are also accomplishments for an early season race like this.  I also managed to finish ahead of one of the Farm Team guys - which is even better...though I have to say I talked with one of them (younger guy, never got his name) during the race and he was polite and a good rider.  I'm looking forward to seeing those guys again, on their home turf!

A special thanks to Coach for taking the day to head out there with me, and for cheering me on.

You can see me (far left and back a bit) as the winner crosses the line.

Post-race happiness...


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