This weekend was the eventful for two reasons. It was the start of my daughters' summer vacation at my parents back home, and my return to racing back where I started racing a LONG time ago. It felt great to be racing in the beautiful mountains of PA again. The course itself wasn't that hilly but there was a nice test (1km climb) near the start finish line that was sure to put some gaps in the field. I was entered in the Cat4/5 race of about 42 miles or so (3 laps).
My dad got to come to the race which was a rare treat for me. He used to race bikes until he broke his hip in a bad spill at a 50miler we were in quite a few years back. He can still ride, but has hung up the shorts for now. My brother Tony, along with Chris and his wife got to come watch also. I had some high expectations with so many people watching. Anyway, on to the race.
The course started with a lot of level and downhill for the first 5 miles or so before turning left up a short very bumpy hill, then up and down false flats, up a little rise, then down again before the left turn up the big hill to the finishing straight. I had a feeling the race would start out fairly slow because of that hill and sure enough it did, which was nice since I didn't have much of a warm-up beforehand.
There were attacks going up the road all the time, but nothing looked serious. They would get maybe 100 yards up the road and just dangle there until it was time to reel them in again. I stayed up near the front and took a few pulls to try and keep the pace up. It seemed to me that the same 3 or 4 guys did most of the work up there, which led me to believe they'd be the same guys there at the end. There's a huge disparity of fitness in Cat 4/5 races.
The pack surprisingly stayed pretty well together the first lap and the second until we got to the hill where it pretty much blew up, leaving me and about 9 other guys to fight for the finish. I was looking for my feed-zone water being held by my sister-in-law, but she moved on up the road a bit from where I saw her the lap before. I was totally out of water and got a bit behind looking for her. I had to sprint to catch back up to the front group myself. Slowly, guys started reeling us in and the group got back up to 15 for the final push up the hill to the finish. I felt pretty strong and was liking my chances at this point. 3 guys attacked on the small hill on the back straight and actually got a fairly big lead. I was getting seriously worried now and decided, along with a few others that it was time and we started flying towards the finish with attack after attack going up the road, trying to bridge up the front 3. Each time we got a bit closer. Finally at the bottom of the hill, perfect timing, we made the catch and went around them. With my luck, a guy in front of me lost his chain downshifting for the hill and slowed me down. That kinda sucked but it wasn't a game breaker. I got around him, but the gap to the front 3 was opened up to about 10 yards at this point. I did manage to maintain 4th until the top of the hill. That's when my pathetic sprint took over, getting edged out at the line by 3 more riders, all of us getting Same Time. I ended up 7th overall, 3rd in Cat V. Not too bad but I can't help thinking what could've been if I had played that last mile or two smarter. Yeah Yeah, broken record, No Excuses!
Bloomsburg Town Park Criterium: For the heck of it, I entered today's 15 mile Cat V criterium in Bloomsburg, got a double flat on the 10th lap, race over. DNF. But it was a beautiful day and the girls played hard on the biggest jungle gym I've ever seen. My dad and I watched the Pro race with 5 laps to go, and the peloton together, I made my prediction it would be the Rite-Aid guy taking the sprint. Sure enough he did. He was a monster out there. Good Call!
And One More Thing: Thank you organizers of the road race for not insulting us CAT IV/V people with some lame 20k road race. 42 miles with some hills is a huge step in the right direction. Thanks!
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