I had a pretty good week of training and was looking forward to today's race up in Brogue, York County, Pennsylvania. One thing I wasn't looking forward to was the 8am start time for the Cat4/5 race.
We hit the road by 5am with some pretty sketchy details in my head on how to find the place. A GPS in the car would be nice in such situations, but I've heard they really lead to brain rot since you're just sitting there following directions like a sheep and not finding your own way. I'm old-skool so I don't need no stinkin GPS or directions. Riiiggggghht. The sun was just coming up over some really beautiful farm countryside as we made our way the last few miles, following signs for the Chanceford Municipal Building/Recycling Center. Something interesting, to me anyway, is the matter-of-fact names given to roads up there. Short Cut Road, Bacon Road, Landfill Road, Gum Tree Road, Lucky Road, etc,.. Kinda cool, hmm, wonder who got lucky on lucky road?
We were the first ones to show up so it was nice chatting with the race organizers, super nice people, and taking my time preparing the bike and basically just enjoying the day.
That's when I hit another snag. After pumping up my rear tire, the valve stem came right off the tube along with the air-chuck on my pump. Yeah, that was nice, and yeah, I didn't have a spare tube with me. Stupid. After asking around a bit, I was lucky enough, Lucky Road thoughts coming back, to find a guy with extra tubes in his car so he sold me one. In a couple minutes and many thanks later, I was ready to go again.
If you think airport time is fast, you should experience how fast time flies before a bike race. It was now 7:30 and I've gotta warm up if I want to be prepared to start the race. It was a 2.5mile circuit, all right turns. The first 90 degree turn was at the bottom of a high speed hill, with a short upgrade, downgrade, up again, down to the next 90 degree turn, followed by a gradual up hill run, before another turn to a steep hill before the start finish. The road surface was very crunchy with a lot of gravel here and there, but it seemed as though they had cleared the corners pretty well. Cat4/5 riders, gravel, high speed, fast turns, nuff said.
As suspected, the first trip down the steep hill to the first turn was fun. I could hear guys locking up brakes in front me on sections of gravel in the road, but everyone got through smoothly. I wouldn't say the pace was exactly fast, I've been on training rides much harder, but more like a chugging locomotive, fairly constant and seemingly building steam with each lap. A few breaks managed to dangle just ahead of the pack, only to be reeled in whenever the pack felt like it.
From what I could tell, I didn't look back, it was a race of attrition. Guys just started dropping off the back of the front group, one by one I'd say. In talking to my wife after, it wasn't on the final Start/Finish hill where they'd get dropped necessarily, but on that long uphill (false flat) backstretch. That sounds about right to my legs. The hill definitely had some effect on people's legs, but that back stretch was a drag. I noticed that every time we'd come around to the hill, guys were getting slowed down and I could move up front very easily. hmm. legs feeling pretty good I thought. I did a couple pulls up front hoping a couple more guys would drop off the back.
On the last lap with the group down to about 15 guys through attrition, the speed definitely picked up. On that back straight is where I finally started to feel the race really moving and I had a hard time staying on the wheel in front of me, but I manged to hang on. We made the final turn to go up the hill and while digging deep my dam foot came out of my left pedal on the steepest section 75meters from the finish. Race over for me. I did manage to get back on the bike and finish at the tail end of front group. 12th place I think.
Disappointed? A bit, but at the same time I felt pretty good out there and now know more about how my riding is doing and where I have to go. Nowhere close to as fast as when I was really training and racing, not to mention younger, 15+ years ago, but I would say I'm having more fun doing it now. We hung around a while to watch some of the next race where some breakaways were looking much more successful than in my race. I also got to chat with the really nice race workers some more. Mari and Mae put some dandelions in my hair while sitting under a giant oak tree watching the race. Girls. I also got to take some photos of the action and the girls, before packing up and heading towards home.
Group 4/5 reunion at Cracker Barrel:
It seems a bunch of other riders had the same idea as us and stopped at the Cracker Barrel restaurant in Shrewsbury, PA on trip back south of the border. As I was leaving I noticed a couple familiar faces sitting down to eat, and the parking lot had a lot of racebikes sitting on and hanging off cars. Good'ol southern homestyle cooking ALWAYS tastes great after a race.
Side Note: I broke a spoke on my front wheel somewhere along the way. I noticed it later when out riding with Mari and her new Pink cycling jersey and helmet. I'll have to see if I can fix that tomorrow. She looks so cute in that jersey. Mae will get one too when she starts riding. That won't be very long, she's a competitive kid.
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