Sunday, March 11, 2012

First race of the season

Spring is in the air!  The evenings are longer, the days are getting warmer and bike racing in Utah has begun in earnest with the Utah Crit Series at Rocky Mountain Raceway.

I took in yesterday's crit anxious to get some racing in my legs.  I was curious what some much time on the bike had done for me this winter.  I ended last season with a win at the Harvest Moon Criterium so I was jonsing to go crit racing as well.
I started my day with a warm up ride from Bountiful out to the raceway.  The field was big.  It was great to see some of my friends and competition from last year but everyone was there with their game face on. 

I lined up for the 45 minute race a bit apprehensive.  I had a mechanical issue being worked out on my bike so I've got a demo Trek Madone in the meantime.  The Madone is a great bike, but I wasn't quite comfortable on the set up.  The demo also runs Shimano Ultegra and I'm not quite used to the difference in shifting from the Sram I'm used to.  The bike is plenty stiff though and just as light as my bike.  I had complete confidence in the Trek, but I only had a day on that bike.

With a group as big as we had, it was important not to get too far back in the back.  It only takes seconds to lose 10 places but can take multiple laps to get those places back so I worked to stay up near the front.  Staying up front tends to keep you out of accidents as well.  We had at least 2 in our race.  I don't have a computer on my demo bike, so I had no idea how much time we had left in the race.  My strategy was simply to stay up front, stay out of trouble and wait until the ref told us we had 3 laps to go. 

It took some big efforts to stick with my plan.  I have some friends who race for Infinite Cycles and they were keeping things hot.  Tyler Madsen from Simply Mac Racing also attacked a few times and the group responded with some big surges.  I though for a moment about trying to bridge up toTyler.  He had a teammate with him and I figured with 3 of us we might have been able to stay out front.  However, I had no idea how much time we had left or if I had the legs to go the distance in a break.  With just a few laps to go we reeled them in.

With 3 laps to go, the group bunched up on the drag strip heading into a stiff headwind, everyone waiting for someone to go.  With 2 laps to go, someone hit the gas and we get strung out.  I made a big effort to stay up front and I was third wheel heading into the last turn of the last lap.  The last turn is a sharp one and can get congested.  When people go down on this course, its usually right here.  My goal in being third wheel was to avoid a crash.  Just as we get to the turn however, someone dives inside of me getting in the gravel.  He skids but manged to stay upright.  At that point I exited the turn a bit slow and wide.  the group stepped on it and when I went for the gas, I had little left.  A long sprint to the finish is where I have excelled, but onthis day so early in the season I had no pop. 

I was a bit disappointed with my finish.  I discussed the race with my coach afterwards and according to him, my training up to this point has been mostly base building with a bit of hard effort.  Last year I didn't get fast until the end of May, so maybe this is inline with that.  I was just hoping with so much riding this winter I would have had more at the end.

But thinking about the finish, I may have had more gas but wasn't really in race mode yet.  Last season I really prepared myself each race for a painful finish and with an attitude that I would finish strong no matter what.  On Saturday, being on a different bike and having trouble finding the right gear on the Shimano shifters, that may have been enough to kill my tolerance for pain and have the mental toughness needed to for a big sprint.  Endurance wise, I could have ridden solid for another few hours, but I still need to find that pop that's needed for the finish of a big crit. 

I'll have a couple more shots this month at the raceway then at the end of the month it the first UCA stage race of the year in St. George.  I'll build up the toughness this month and go for it again at the St. George crit.  Regardless, its great to be racing again!  I love the fast and furious nature of criteriums and look forward to an exciting first season as a Cat 3 road racer.

No comments:

Post a Comment