TOB Day 2: Road Race (42mi)
The Cat 3/4 race was a three lap, 14 mile loop including a final climb involving peak gradients of 18%. Leading up to the weekend, there was a lot of buzz about this final climb, and to prepare, I spent a good amount of time at the Crown Hill Cemetery to work on my climbing technique.
|Map of the Bloomington RR course. It's 14 miles,|
but the deciding factor was the last mile.
One of the disadvantages of being a solo rider is getting the race number on, especially when every rider needed two numbers, one on the side and one on the back. When I saw a team passing by, I asked them if they could press my number on my jersey (I had already applied glue), but to my surprise, they rejected me and told me to go to registration. I had to wait another 10 minutes until I luckily found a spectator walking by to press my number on.
To make matters worse, the start/finish line was literally about four miles away from registration and thanks to the delay, I was running late- so I had to time trial my way to the start/finish. I was sort of irritated that none of the guys stopped to help me with something that would have only taken seconds to do. As I rode to the start/ finish line, I thought I had missed the start of the race because I was already five minutes late. I just kept riding at a ~170bpm heart rate thinking about how much energy I was wasting and whether or not it was worth rushing to the start line.
Out of breath with my legs still burning from the hard effort I just put in, I finally made it to the start/finish line and luckily, they hadn't released the Cat 3/4 group yet.
THE CENTER LINE RULE
While we were still waiting to be released, the race officials really drilled in the "Center Line Rule." Basically, if any rider crosses the center line, he/she would be immediately disqualified. I'm not sure if everyone else shared the same thoughts, but I visualized many situations where a crash or domino effect would push the riders past the centerline and in the direct path of an oncoming car. That was a greater motivating factor than simply being disqualified!
LAP 1 OF 3:
The center line rule made for a very uneventful first lap. With about 50 riders, it was a very tight squeeze to have four abreast. With every single line moving at the same speed, it was impossible to pass. Riders at the front were stuck at the front, so after a few miles, the pace of the entire group turned casual- many of us were just having conversation! My heart rate hovered around 115 bpm! This continued for the first ~13 miles until we finally reached the climb. Unexpectedly, my heart rate jumped from 115bpm to 181bpm! Also, where it first appeared impossible to pass, the climb reduced the group into debris- I had to weave through riders as they popped off the back.
LAP 2 OF 3:
The group had gotten split pretty drastically by the attacks during the final climb, and I had to chase back to reach the main group. After I bridged the gap along with a several other riders, two Cutters riders attacked into a breakaway. They managed to stay away going into the last lap. I was feeling great going into the final climb, but forced myself to hold back. The other good climbers couldn't resist and proceeded to show off their abilities by attacking up the climb again. I could have matched the attacks, but decided to tempo the climb instead.
It took about 3/4 of the final lap to catch the rest of the Cutters who broke away earlier. They seemed to have lost their steam up the smaller hills. As we approached the final climb, there were a few surges, but nothing serious enough to split the group up. Unfortunately, right before we started the final climb, a bunch of riders broke the center line rule which caused me to lose a lot of positions. I had already mentally prepared myself to put in a serious effort, so I forced myself to hold a fast tempo and pass anyone who was in my way- slowing down was not an option. It almost felt like I was driving a car through slalom cones. After I made it up the first serious section, I had caught the same team who rejected to help me earlier in the day. I held their wheel for a few seconds and once I pulled up right next to them, they stared at me as if they expected me to take a pull. In my head I said "heck no!" and right when they eased off the pedals to force me to lead, I attacked and held the hardest tempo I could hold all the way to the line. I blew past third and second place and was probably going 5-6 mph faster than the rider who was in first position. Unfortunately, I was too far back to catch first place before the line, so I ended up with second place. While I wish I had first place, it was comforting to know that the team who rejected to help me earlier didn't reach the podium. The prize money I received helped me break even, and the Scholar's Inn Bakehouse Granola was a nice additional prize too! I'm about halfway through the bag- I've been topping my cereal with some of the granola. They weren't kidding when they said that it's the best granola in the world!
A week before the Tour of Bloomington, the nipple in my rear wheel snapped, so I almost had to ride my stupidly heavy OEM wheel for the weekend, but luckily my sponsors at Velocity USA and The Wheel Department saved me! As soon as they received my wheel, they rebuilt it and sent it back to me on the same day! If they start selling sandwiches, I think they can beat Jimmy John's! I wouldn't have been able to perform well in the climbs without their help. Thanks guys!