Spring 2019, bike racing season has finally begun for me. Admittedly I was supposed to race this event two weeks ago, but since the promoter combined the Category 3 with the Category 4 field, the race closed out much earlier then expected. Thus, I ended up volunteering at registration, and then I marshaled the course during the race.
Last year I raced from March through December, therefore at the end of the year I took a month off to leisurely ride and recover mentally and physically. On top of racing, traveling to races almost every weekend can add a lot of additional fatigue. By mid January I was finally itching to get my training program started in order to gain back my fitness and prepare for a new season. I also do not enjoy road racing hard in freezing temperatures. Therefore I was not interested in jumping into races in early March.
I will admit, I was very nervous and anxious going into this race for several reasons. The first race is always more stressful, I usually do not know how my fitness is progressing since race intensity is not always the same as training intensity. Another reason for my increased anxiety is that I moved off of the East End Cycling Team, and joined The Kissena Cycling Club. I will not go into my reasons, but I will say that Kissena has a lot more presence at the races I like to go to. I also feel that I will learn more about the tactics and other aspects of road racing, especially with a team, with them since they have a wealth of racing experience. Being new on the team, I have to get to know my new teammates, I have to learn how to work with them and for them as a team. So I put a lot of pressure on myself.
In all typical fashion, my wakeup was set at a quarter to three in the morning. This gave me time to eat breakfast, take care of my bathroom needs, perform my movement prep/warmup (since getting injured in 2017 this is very important step for me,) get kitted up and out the door by ten to four.
At that hour there are less cars on the road, but more police presence, thus it takes about an hour or so to get to Prospect Park West. I like the extra time so I can look for parking without stressing out. I am usually pretty lucky and find something within a block or two from the the third street entrance to the park where the start finish and registration is located.
I was one of the first few to get there, and I was able to get my number without waiting on line. Unfortunately I had to wait around for my teammates since I was borrowing a jersey. I missed the early year order for clothing and I just submitted my spring order a week or so back, but I probably will not see my new kit until May. John Olsson was supposed to bring me a jersey, but he forgot. I had a backup plan. My friend, and now teammate, Robert Peras was supposed bring me a jersey, since he was coming to marshal the course. As Murphy’s law states, he forgot to bring it. However, he was wearing a Kissena jersey, so we swapped. I gave him my sweatshirt and he gave me his jersey. I quickly got pinned up and by then the race was about to start. I was going to set out with out a good warmup.
The morning was cool, mid forties. I had decided on my Castelli Nanoflex 2 bib knickers, my craft wind blocker long sleeve base layer, my wintery head cover, and short wool socks and my regular SIDI shoes with toe covers. For gloves, I was using my light weight long finger gloves. They offer great grip and since they do not feature gel padding, they give me good tactile feeling from my handlebars.
The plan was to not allow breaks off the front and get a few team mates in contention for the KOM points and finish. The race set off at a good pace. On the downhill just past the start finish, I was shivering, but by the end of the first lap I was adequately warmed up.
The pace was high from the start. Right away I knew I was going to be working real hard to stay in. I also had to get the feeling back of racing in close proximity with one hundred other racers.
I do not remember much of the race, except that I tried to move up on some occasions, but it seemed that I could never get to a better location to be in the top third of the race. I do know the concept that if you are not constantly moving up you are moving back. I think that with the larger field, we had about ninety eight starters, it made it a bit difficult for me to move around with out blowing a match by exiting the pack in order to gain positions. I definitely need to work on my pack skills again. Other disadvantages of being further back, is that you are subject to the yo-yo nature of the pack which costs more energy over the course of the race, and the higher risk of being involved in a crash.
Right after the descent I would try to take advantage of momentum to move up a bit before the peloton would swell and fill in the voids at the sides by the curb and the joggers lane. The KOM and Green Jersey points during the race caused the pace to stay high on some of the laps. They rang the bell for the last KOM with three laps to go, which meant that the next to last lap would be a fast suffering lap, and then, of course, the last lap to the finish would also be spicy.
On the final lap, hitting the climb before the final five hundred meters or so before the the finish I wanted to use up whatever energy I had left. I moved up the field through the middle. Many people were falling off. My guess is that they were gassed from the KOM on the previous lap and setting a fast tempo on the early section of the hill in this final lap. About fifty meters from the top, some racer whom was about two or three bike lengths ahead of me, swerved first left, then right across the field and crashed out with several other guys. We had to bleed off a lot of speed to avoid the incident. Picking up in a big gear on the hill was hard.
Once I got rolling, I put in a strong effort to get to the finish but nothing crazy. In the end, I finished forty-fifth out of ninety-eight starters or so. Not terribly happy with my first race of the season. I feel I still have some ways to go to be fit for racing again.