Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. I needed to race. I’m still building base and prepping for ‘cross season, but I love road racing and now that I’m feeling better it was time to see where I stacked up.
I had signed up for the RGS Title Crit in Sterling, VA. It’s a pretty simple office park loop, shaped like a D with a rolling backside curve that turns uphill to a corner. The straightaway has a slight kicker for the first 200 meters and then flattens out. I rode out to Sterling on July 4th to check out the course and get a feel for it and I’m glad I did. I was prepared for the headwind on the backside, and knew when to shift on the uphill turn. Recon rides rule.
The days leading up to the race I was pretty nervous. In hindsight, I put too much pressure on myself to do well. I’ve been riding a lot and riding pretty strong and felt that not only should I finish, but I should podium. This was unrealistic. A reasonable, achievable goal would be to finish the race. Nerves definitely got the best of me Saturday as I tried to do a leg opener workout and ended up feeling lousy and nauseous.
The nerves were still working on the morning of the race. I got up early, ate a light breakfast and Madeline and I headed out. We wanted to stop for coffee and it took us a little bit to find a shop open that early! Finally we found a Starbucks and got our drinks, then headed out to Sterling.
After I registered I pulled out the trainer to warm up. Man, it was hot! 90 degrees at 8 am. It was crazy. After 20 minutes on the trainer with no wind, I was dripping with sweat. I drank a bottle of water just warming up. I got off the trainer and rode a backwards lap around the course to warm up with a breeze flowing. I ran into my teammate Brian who was also racing in the Cat 5 race and we chatted a bit. Also ran into Dustin, a new bike racer and former runner who has been coming out on our Sunday rides. He’s a strong rider and would definitely be a factor.
I got to the start line later than I wanted and lined up in the back. I spent the first lap getting a feel for the course at pace and noticed how twitchy a lot of guys were. I sought out a good wheel and ended up making my way to the front. I was 4th for a couple laps, then Dustin launched a solo break. An Evo guy yelled at the two NCVC guys in our group to go after him, but they didn’t want to do any work. I went to the front of the chase group and pulled for the entire straightaway, then the next thing I know the two NCVC guys slingshot around me. After the corner I was top 10, top 15 for a bit after a few guys swarmed me. With 4 laps to go, I braked a little too much going into the first corner and burned a match to get my spot back. Going up the backside hill into the 2nd turn I had a shift issue and burned another match to get through it. I was probably 30th or so at this point and looked to make up ground. With 2 laps to go I saw some slowing ahead and the next thing I know two guys go down HARD, just to my right and ahead a bike length. I avoid it totally and didn’t lose much speed, but the group ahead attacked and got a little gap so I chased. I spent the bell lap chasing back to the first pack of riders and finished 22rd. Dustin won, stayed away just about the whole damn time. He’s freakin’ strong.
Overall I’m pleased with my result. I was a nervous wreck for the last 3 days. This was my first race after surgery and my first race in two years. And two years ago I wasn’t training properly. For this race I honestly was worried I would get dropped and spit out the back half way through. My goal going in was to last as long as I could with the front group. Well, I succeeded in that. I went beyond and ended up at the front for a couple laps, too. The front is definitely the place to be.
I have things to build on, things to work on. I need to work on cornering and not exhausting myself coming out of a corner. I maybe had 2 or 3 really solid turns out of 10 laps. Getting at the front and staying there is really important. At one point because of the pack stupidity I braked downhill on the back stretch, then had to brake going uphill! These guys were dumb. So the braking and surging zapped me a little more than I was prepared for. Being at the front will avoid that.
Kirkwood Road Race in three weeks!! Time to get ready for it. Here are a few pics from Chantilly that Madeline took: