My second Castelli masters 40+ race began with another early morning with a two thirty wakeup. I volunteered to work registration for this race, therefore, I had to get there earlier than normal. I arrived at the park at four fifty or so. Circulating around, I was able to find parking close to the start/finish. To help speed things up, I arrived fully kitted with the exceptions of my helmet and shoes, With the bike I needed to dial in the air pressure in my tyres. I slightly over filled them the night before, but with latex tubes, the pressure had dropped significantly over night. In fact, at this point I only needed to bleed out about 5psi.
I rolled up to the registration and they were about to get things underway. I did not have time to use the chemical toilettes, which where already sporting a line. I jumped in and handled the Masters 40+ Category 1/2/3/4. This race, which also going to be my race, had 108 registered individuals. The forms were broken into two books. My teammate working the category five field offered to help me handle one of my books since he was not as busy as I was.
I also pulled my number out while signing the required paperwork and kept processing people until I was relieved so I could use the bathroom and pin my number up. Once I was done with that, I jumped back in and helped with the second book for the Category 2/3 race. We were told to write down the USAC license numbers on the forms since the number had not print out. But with ten minutes to go, we were told to just get the participants since there were a significant number of people still waiting.
With five minutes from the start, I peeled off my warmups. It was quite cool so I opted for bib shorts, knee warmers, a long sleeve underlayer, and my long sleeve borrowed team jersey. I decided on my cool weather head cover, and my short wool socks with toe covers. My usual long finger light gloves, clear optics for my glasses, and my new orange helmet rounded everything out.
On Friday, with the help of a friend, I pulled off the bar tape from my race bike, and adjusted the shifters back up to a more comfortable position. They were too far forward causing my wrists to bend awkwardly downward. I then looped the Di2 shifter wire in an attempt to prevent a pull out, and a repeat DNF. To finish things off, I wrapped the bar with new tape. I also replaced my shoe cleats and heel tabs.
The race started off with the usual quickness I have come to expect. The problem is that this time I did not get to do any riding to warm up so I was starting off quite cold. In the opening laps I was trying to spin to warm up and just stay in the main group.
I wanted to use this race to better “sample” the different areas of the course. I practiced descending the hill on the left as opposed to my usual route on the right. I also practiced climbing the hill on the left, and trying to stay towards the center left on the back sections here we are presented with the rough pavement. I did not succeed on all laps to stick to one side or the other since the pack is always dynamic. But it did give me a better sense of how the road surface and conditions are in different areas of the course.
With roughly four laps to go, while I was putting in the effort to move up towards the top third of the race, I started feeling a tightness in my hamstrings. Then, on the back stretch my right hamstring started to cramp up. Not what I wanted to happen at this stage of the race. I also did not want a second DNF in a row. I drifted back in order to get out of the way of other riders, I then tried to stretch out the affected hamstring while keeping touch with the back of the pack. I also guzzled down more of my liquid. By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, the cramp was subsiding, but it had left my muscles feeling quite sore, and also with the feeling that it could come back at any time.
By good fortune, I was able to stave off any further cramping. I now started to work my way back up the field to get back into the mid pack. With three laps to go, they rung the bell for the last KOM. However, when we passed the start finish, they also rung the bell for the final lap. They were cutting us a lap short. So, now we would have the KOM sprint and the finish about one kilometer later all on the same lap. Boy this was going to hurt.
By now a small group had formed off the front. J.P. was dropping back. I kept up my fight for mid pack positioning. Going into the final climb, I tried to empty my tank out. I felt uneasy around one guy who was clearly struggling to keep his wits and ride up the hill at the same time. His movements, although not completely erratic, were very much signaling that he was in over his head. I moved over to my left, where the pavement tends to be smother. I wanted to get past this guy ahead of me but he kept the space to his left closed off. If I tried to go into that space it might have forced me into the jogger’s lane, especially if he suddenly decided to move further left. Entering the jogger’s lane is a clear rule violation punished with a disqualification. I really did not trust this guy to hold his line, so, in the end, I decided it was not worth it, and backed off.
I finished forty-seven out of the one hundred starters. Clearly in the mid pack. I still have much work to do to get into the top third. The weather was cool, and at some points of the race I was warm, while at other times I was cold. My toes were definitely cold. I found that I felt safest descending the hill on the right side. I think many people avoid the right side which then allows for a greater amount of space, which thenin turn provides more escape possibilities if things should go wrong.
I think that the up hill is a toss-up. Sometimes you can get lucky on the right side as long as the rough section is avoided. At other times the left is a better choice, probably due to the shorter distance traveled and smoother road surface.