Leesville Gap Road Race - July, 2003 (Cat 5)

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Finish: 13th

The weather was nice and warm for the race and they started us about 20 minutes later than scheduled. The start out each category on there own (except pro/1/2 all race together) and each is spaced out 5 minutes. I staged at the front line and listened to the instructions. The official asked if anyone had done this race before, and one person spoke up that had done the race. Luckily he was right next to me and he was the one to lead us out through the neutral area. Since I forgot to put on my wheel magnet I did not have any idea of what the speed was of the race. I sit up near the front during the first 10 miles chatting with the guy next to me. There is one guy in front of me pulling, so I just take it easy and relax. The guy next to me is the one that has raced this race before and lets me know that I need to be in the top 10 after going over Hwy 20, because that is where the road turns ugly. About 3 miles before Hwy 20 the guys in the front pull off and it is the two of us pulling. Looking back it is two wide all the way back, so we slow up the pace a bit. We cross Hwy 20 and boy does the road get nasty. Potholes that I never new existed on roads where all over the place. No reason to call them out to other (unless they were really big), I needed my hands on my handlebars to keep the bike straight. The road just kind of gets worse, parts of the road do not have asphalt and are just dirt and gravel for 5-50 meters. The terrain begins to go from flat to rollers. One guy launches an attack and I just keep pace, there is still a good climb to come and another 40 miles to race. Five or so guys come to the front to chase him and Mr. Experienced and I try to convince them to slow up the pace and let him hang out there for awhile. They slow up a bit, but the pace is still brisk since someone is off the front. We get to the base of the climb and the roads get a bit better, I am sitting in the top 10 and climbing without any major problems. The solo rider that was off the front is now coming back and we are climbing at a decent pace. About a quarter of the way up the climb two guys attack and four follow. I did not feel great and let them go and stayed with the other 10 or so riders I was with. About half way up the climb 6 guys go and this is where it is fairly flat so I follow and stay with them. As the climb continues we get strung out and I am riding at the back of the 6 riders. I look back and I can only see one rider coming up behind me at about 20". We get to the top of the climb and I take a good drink of water and begin my descent. I could see one of the guys ahead of me by about 15" and another rider not to much further up from him. I take it easy in the first 100m of the descent since it has potholes and bumps and gravel all over the place. I then realize that I need to just suck it up and go. I start pedaling and braking less picking good lines into the turns trying to avoid anything major. About half way down the descent the road is so bad that my water bottle on my seat tube pops up and flies out. Luckily I noticed it and was able to catch it while trying to keep the bike upright. After about 200m with just one hand on the bars I get the bottle back into the cage and continue my pursuit. I catch the guy ahead of me about 3/4 of the way down and continue my pursuit of the next guy. At the bottom I just continue to push my biggest gear to catch on to the next guy. I catch up to him after about 1k or so and let him know someone is behind me and we should slow up so he can join us (3 is better than 2). The three of us work together and catch another guy, Mr. Experience. Now there is four of us and we push a good pace (45kph+) looking for the others up ahead. I try to down a gel, but I just felt sick. I finally get it down and wash it the flavor away with some water. I am still not feeling, good, but I should be in a few minutes. We continue our fast pace and pass a couple members from the higher up categories that started before us. At about halfway we pick up one more guy and my legs are really hurting. I take some shorter pulls trying to relax a bit, but I did not want to just sit on. Others where obviously hurting too as we would hit rollers, we would slow up quite a bit. We come to another climb, which is about 1/3 of what the first (main) one was and I am in the back just hanging onto a guys wheel. He drop kicks me and almost sends me over. I save it and get back on his wheel. About 3/4 of the way up I go around him and let him catch back on my wheel. He did not have the power needed to do so, so I continued up to catch the other two guys. At the top I see the guys down the hill and try to catch them. I start going and shift into the big ring and down the cassette. One problem though, my chain falls off the cassette and gets stuck between the cassette and the dropouts. Not a major problem, except it freezes up my cranks and I cannot move them. The descent is not steep enough to just tuck, you have to pedal and that slowed me up a lot. The guy I climbed with came flying by me as I wrestled with my cranks and shifter to get the chain back on. About halfway down the descent I get the chain to move onto the 12T and I shift down one more to the 13T to prevent any other problems. I pass the guy I climbed with and caught up to the group I was with before the climb. The pace slowed up after the descent since I bet some of those guys pushed harder than they should have. I pull through and keep the same pace, even though we are going over rollers. I go and pull off and no one comes through on my right. I look back and I have created a gap of about 20". Not sure what happened, but I just sat up and waited for them. Still 20+ miles left in the race and I am not strong enough to solo the rest of the way. The group catches up and most of the guys look kind tired, but I am starting to feel better. We get back to working all together again and ride about 10 miles before we catch another guy from our category. After a few minutes I ask Mr. Experienced how much further and he flashes 7 miles at me. I am starting to feel week again and down another gel, but without any problems this time. My feet really hurt from the rough roads and my legs are tired, along with my body. Up the road our group see two guys riding and we hope it is part of our category. I noticed that one of the guys was wearing a green jersey and a red/white/blue Giro helmet. I know that guy, it is Chris (Cat 4), the President of the CSUS cycling club. I mention to the guys that those two are 4s and not to worry. They told me I needed to give my friend a hard time for catching him since he started 5 minutes before. I raz him a bit and feel a bit more zip in my legs now. A few miles go by and Chris is just hanging out behind our group, we are only cruising at 35kph right now, so it is not to fast. He rolls up next to me and asks how I feel and tells me what happened in his race. He had some bad luck with getting two flats during the race. I tell him I hurt all over and I am just happy to be in a group. We keep riding and Chris falls off a bit behind our group with about 3 miles to go. The pace slows up and everyone starts looking around at each other. The sprint is starting to come up and people are getting into position. I am sitting second wheel on the right, but pretty much boxed in since we are riding on the right side of the road. We hit the 1km to go sign and everyone is looking around. We start to slowly move to the left and now there is a spot for me to move up to the front if I want. I see the opportunity and take it. I shift up and stand up and go for it. 500m to go and I look back and see a nice gap forming, so I keep at it. I see the 100m to go sign and I am still there, but I two guys have come up and are on my wheel. No way I can win leading someone out after that effort, so I give up and the two go around me. 50m to go and I stand up and start sprinting with the other guys right behind me. I gave it all I had and managed to hold them off.

Looking back I think I should have held the wheel in front of me for longer, but I did not feel I could out sprint the two big guys in our group (Mr. Experience and the other one that caught me). I need to climb with the top guys for a bit longer and try to stay up with them next time. We never caught that group of ~10 guys and I should have made a stronger effort to stay with them when the attacks came. Inexperience is all I can say. Also climbing in a 39/21 was not the best idea, next RR I will have my 12-23 on.

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