Monday, June 13, 2011

First Race Experience: Tour of Galena

Since this was my first race I really didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to gain experience and to see where I stack up against other competitors. My only two goals were to 1) not crash, and 2) have fun…

Time Trial: Although I had never been in a time trial before, I was comfortable with the race because of my experience in triathlon. The short-course was constant rolling hills, but nothing too steep. I tried to press hard uphill and recovered on the decent. I passed the rider who started a minute ahead so I knew that I probably had a good time going. I finished the 3.6 miles in 7:31, which was the fastest Cat-5 time. Good start to the weekend.

Road Race: I heard it was hilly in Galina. I guess “hilly” is relative. The time trial short-course wasn’t bad and the crit course was flat. How bad could the road course be?* Well, about half way down the first decent I told myself this would be my last road race. I had a death grip on the handle bars and was shaking so bad I was having trouble keeping smooth. I was scared. I liked the climbs a lot better. Although they hurt, I was not afraid of dying while going up. I could tell right away the uphill sections were where riders would be dropped. About half way through the course I was in third position, on the wheels of the eventual 1st and 2nd place finishers. This is where the steep decent/sharp turn/railroad-to-hell-crossing incident took place. When I flew off the road I was just glad that I didn’t crash. I scrambled to get back on the road, clip in, and catch the front again. When I pressed down nothing happened. That’s when I looked down to see the chain was off. I dismounted again, and fought against my trembling hands to put the chain back on. When I restarted the group in front was nearly cresting the next climb and I knew I was probably done. I was told that the top two riders finished together, then a small gap, then 3 more, then another gap to the rest of the field which was strung out. I was able to chase down everyone else, to finish 6th in a field of 40+.

* On Sunday I talked to one of the race organizers about the road course. He said it was probably the most difficult road course in Illinois. Bob, Brian, and Paul would probably have a better idea…

Crit: The crit course had two long straight aways, one easy, wide turn, and one tight, narrow turn. At the start of the race I went to the back of the field for about 5 laps, until the lead pack started to separate. I passed guys that were dropping to stay on the heels of the lead pack. With about 5 laps to go I wanted to see if I could get to the front. I was able to pretty easily and led for one lap before attempting to settling back in. This is where my inexperience hurt. As I gave up the lead I could not get back in line and ended near the back of the pack again. I was able to out-sprint most of the field down the stretch to finish 4th, but I put myself in such a bad position there was no way I could get to the front.

Overall this was a great first race experience. The long team rides and talking to some of the more experienced riders on the team helped tremendously. Looking forward to the next race!!!


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