First up, HUGE props to my son, Alastair, on his first road race, and HUGER props on his first win. The field was small, the wind was strong, and the temperatures were horrible, but he put down intervals for 20 minutes and cruised to an easy 3rd overall in the juniors race, getting a BAR upgrade after the 2nd place finisher failed rollout. I guess #zwifteffect is real.
The Men's Cat 4 race started just after noon in 10 - 15mph gusts from the NNW. It was cold at 40F, but I'm used to riding in much colder on the way to work. For whatever reason, though, I just could not get warmed up. I ended up back at the truck 3 separate times for costume changes, finally settling on a balaclava, my warmest base layer, and mid-weight gloves (my hands got hot even though everything else was freezing). I was sure I'd overheat in the race, but I was so damned cold I didn't care.
I also ended up doing a lot more warm-up than I would normally do, putting out 10 miles instead of my usual 3 or 4, and all of it with a bit more intensity than was maybe warranted. And of course, I also rode to work yesterday because I'm dumb.
And I was coming off a wonky week with an out-of-town business conference where I stayed on my feet for over 21 hours and off a bike for about 3 days.
I had plenty of excuses, is what I'm saying.
But the race, when it started, eschewed excuses and went straight for blistering speed. The first 3 laps were all in excess of 25mph, and hovering somewhere in the 300W range, a pace I cannot maintain for very long. I was hopeful the rest of the group would settle into something a bit more endurance-y, but a rider ran off the front and quickly gapped the field. The next lap, another rider chased.
As we came through start/finish, I heard a spectator shout "20 seconds". Absolutely unwilling to have the few points decided at lap 4, I shouted "fuck that, let's GO!" and hammered, bringing myself to within 5 seconds before looking back to...nothing. Goddammit. Worse, the two ahead had joined forces and looked strong. I held on for another 10 seconds before realizing it was going to be a long race if I blew up this early, and sank back to the group.
But now I was pissed, because the first 3 jerseys to pass me were the same as those who held up the entire peloton at William & Mary and caused us to get neutralized. Once again, this one team was dictating the pace of the race to everyone else, and it seemed nobody was willing to work together to stop it.
Eventually we reeled in the break, and things settled down (thankfully) for a couple of laps before another break started. This one had 3 or 4 guys from the start, and the chase group nearly split trying to counter.
We were little more than half way through the 40-minute race, and I was starting to yoyo at the back. But I was not going to get dropped by this group--I'd held on to Ben King's NYD ride, by God I would hold on to this one.
Magically the group came back to me, and several laps followed of moving freely around the peloton with no real risk of getting dropped. The break was away, but not pulling any further ahead, and nobody was taking any risks.
With 6 or 7 laps to go, it started getting fast again, and I was back to hanging on for dear life. I could make good progress on one side of the course and nearly get dropped on the other. Round & round. 2 laps to go, they ring the final prime lap. Some guys think it's the final lap (because really, who does that?) and it's game on: a group of 3 breaks off the front to chase down the leaders, and I got vacuumed to the front of the chase.
Last lap, and guys are really trying to bridge up. I hear carbon howling EVERYWHERE around me, but the next-to-last turn is a smidge tricky, and I'm given too much space. I jumped at the same moment as E. Shipp and we sprinted side-by-side for the next corner, but I got the inside line and tucked down for my usual seated sprint. I see a wheel hew into the corner of my vision from the right, actually literally screamed and put out as much power as I had left, and held off the attack...only to be passed by at least one rider on the left.
A quick glance up was nearly impossible as the whole world was blurry, but I think I counted 10 jerseys ahead, putting me around 11th. I spent the entire cool-down lap telling myself not to puke, which was frankly a pretty tall order. Garmin said I'd averaged 288W, a 30W increase from my previous 20-minute best.
I spent the next 4 hours wondering why the hell that race had been so hard before I remembered that it was a mixed Cat 3/4 race. Oh. Well, that'll do it, I guess.