Yesterday was the first of a series of 4 training road races put on by St. Johns Cycling Team. I don't own a road bike, have never really ridden one and of course have never done a road race, but with the encouragement of friends (*cough* Jesse!) decided to try one.
I was hooked up with a really nice road bike by my friends at A&B Cycle. The bike was a new Specialized Tarmac SL3 Expert Double. Here's a pic:
The race course was an 11 mile loop around fellows lake north of Springfield. To get used to riding the bike I decided to ride to the race venue with Jesse and Jared. It was only about a 20 minute ride and would also serve as a good warmup. There were 2 classes at the race, A would do 3 laps and B would do 2. I decided to do the A race. I'm obviously not on the same level as everyone else in that class, but my fitness is pretty good and I like to race against the best so figured what the heck. I knew most of the people there since many of them also mountain bike, and I wanted to see what the draw is for road racing.
There looked to be about 20 or 25 riders in the class. The start of the race was pretty casual. We headed out in a clock-wise direction on the loop and the first section of road was straight with some small rolling hills. We were riding in a large pack about 3 wide. I was somewhere in the middle.
After a few minutes the pace picked up a bit but and we went 2 wide. After the first turn it became more of a pace-line with people pulling for a few seconds then dropping back into the line. There was a lot of conversation going on and I was getting a lot of good advice from several people. I took a few turns at the front and it was amazing the difference in the effort between being behind someone and being on the front. It seemed like the whole idea was to conserve as much energy as possible. Nobody would pull long enough to wear themselves out. On the first big climb Peter broke away from the group and for some reason I started chasing him. I got about halfway between him and the pack and once we crested the hill I was soon caught by the pack and Peter also fell back in. It was just wasted effort.
I spent the rest of the first lap with the pack cycling through the pace-line. It was funny because when I peeled off the front I would have to float alongside the whole line and get on the back because there where no gaps to rejoin. At one point as I was near the back trying to get back to speed to rejoin the group I got a little push from Ryan McCormick (Skip) which got me going again. The second lap was more of the same. I felt pretty good and couldn't help wondering when things were going to break apart. We were 1 big group of riders and I knew there were several people there that could ride away from us and not look back.
About halfway through the second lap there was a crash at the front of the line. I didn't see it happen but heard a couple guys bumped wheels and went down. Nobody was hurt and we all slowed down to let them catch back up. Not long after I was at the front of the group riding next to Brad Huff when I jokingly said I could have ridden my mountain bike. Big mistake. He pulled away and soon everyone was passing me. I was working pretty hard to pick up the pace and when Bud Hogan rode by he told me to keep it smooth. But keeping it smooth didn't help. I drifted off the back and despite my effort couldn't rejoin the group so I could rest a little in the draft. I struggled as everyone slowly pulled away.
At the end of the first lap a few people dropped out, and I saw that Skip had dropped off the main pack as well. I worked to catch up to him and when I did we started taking turns pulling and were able to speed up a bit. Then I noticed that Ryan Meschke had also fallen off and we soon caught up with him. The 3 of us worked together for awhile but on the next big climb with Ryan leading the way we noticed that Skip was drifting back. We kept going, rotating every 10 or 20 seconds.
As we neared the end of the lap Ryan asked how we were going to finish. I said I didn't care and he suggested we ride up the last big hill together which ends within sight of the finish and then sprint it out. That sounded good so I agreed. The last climb was pretty slow and I just tried to save energy. At the top I said "Let's Go!" and took off. Ryan fell in behind me. Then about 30 yards from the finish he swung around but I had used up my energy and couldn't hold him off. He passed me before the finish. Rookie mistake.
After the race my legs were cooked. Mainly my abductors and upper hamstrings. I must not use those as much mountain biking. I decided to catch a ride back to town with Lori instead of ride back with Jesse and Jared. I'm glad I did the race. It was a pretty big eye opener and I had a good time. If I can secure another bike I'll be back.
Here's my garmin data from the race.
I'm not sure who won the A race but Jared won the B race and will be sporting the yellow jersey next week.
On a side note, the Tarmac is an amazing bike. I rode it into work today and I'm going for a ride at lunch. It's so much more efficient on the road than my epic. Makes road riding seem fun.....