August is an odd month in bike racing. The Tour de France is over. The local road racing season is winding down. People are burnt out. It’s hot. Cyclocross season hasn’t started yet. What do you do?
Well, I went on vacation. I took my bike with me, but ended up riding it just twice. I went to Michigan with my daughter and my fiance and we went up north to the Upper Peninsula for my sister’s wedding. It was pretty cool to ride my bike up there, the hills were long and the roads were wide open. Here’s a pic of me along Lake Superior:
When I got back from the trip my coach had me on a rest week, which after the Michigan trip was really two rest weeks. This was just fine with me. I’ve been riding and training pretty hard since May and two light weeks on the bike were definitely needed. Well, one day wasn’t light, we had a cyclocross mini-camp followed by a 35-mile mostly gravel ride in Haymarket, Va. It was hilly, which would have been fine if I wasn’t on a singlespeed CX bike with 36/16 gearing. Ouch. Thank goodness for rest weeks.
After putting my feet up most of the week, Saturday I went out on the bike to do ‘openers,’ a series of efforts above functional threshold designed to get you ready to race the next day. Wait, what?!? Racing in August after two very light weeks on the bike? Yep, that’s what I did. I raced The Dawg Days of Summer circuit race in Bowie, Maryland. It was fantastic. The course was great, sweeping turns with no sharp corners. There was one little tight spot around a traffic circle but nothing crazy.
Teammate Brian Mattern and I were the only Coppis in the Cat 5 race, which went off at 8 am. I want to upgrade just so I don’t have to get up at 5:30 am!
The course is a “circuit,” so no free lap if you have trouble. There were no sharp turns, just one tighter spot around a traffic circle which ended up not being a problem. I spent most of the race near the back, paying attention to which wheels I could follow and where on the course attacks could launch from.
With 4 laps to go I looked to move up. An Artemis guy went up the left side and a VERY BIG Hagerstown guy jumped on his wheel. This was great for me. The Hagerstown guy was a little squirrelly but they were moving up. I told Brian to get on my wheel and we rode that freight train to the sweeping curve on the back side and into the top 15. It was textbook. The next lap, on the backside, guys in front of us were braking uphill. I cannot for the life of me understand why people brake in a race going uphill. My legs felt great, I was in a good spot and I motored and launched an attack. I hammered it for a solid minute and looked to see no one join me. I passed the start/finish with 2 laps to go and had a decent little gap, but I was getting gassed. On the back side, about where I launched, the field swarmed me and the next thing I knew I was mid-pack and moving backward when the bell lap rang. Everybody FINALLY ramped it up and I didn’t have much left. I finished off the back of the pack for 31st. Brian was solid and I think top 10.
This course was great. It was “my” type of course. I should have been more patient and waited until the end for a sprint finish. My tactics were great right up until I decided to go off the front without anyone. I did attack at the right spot, however. My legs were great all race, I really should have saved it until the end. The Sunday team ride is harder than this race. Next year, folks, next year.
I am racing Greenbelt on Wednesday, the last Greenbelt race of the year. I have one more road race, Kirkwood Road Race up in Pennsylvania, on Sept. 15th. That will put me at 5 road races since coming back from surgery and halfway to upgrading to Cat 4.
And you know what September brings? CYCLOCROSS!!!!