On Sunday I did the first stage of the July Challenge Race in San Antonio. The race is a three race series that will be run the next two Sundays.
The race was to start at 8am, so I headed out at about 4:50 for San Antonio. I got to the course which was run around a large business park driveway at around 6:50. Registration opened at 7am. I could tell when registering that the race was not going to be well organized. How should I pin on my number? "I am not sure." Where is the start line? "I think it is down the road to the right." Not a good sign. They began telling everyone to pin the numbers on the left side. I pinned mine on in fine fashion. When we got to the start line, they told everyone to pin their numbers on the right side. So, everyone stood there at the line in their bibs repinning their numbers. Total BS. Oh, and the race was supposed to be 30 miles but was cut to 25 miles due to getting started 20 minutes late. OYE!
I was racing in the Cat. 5 race which was also run with the 45+ men (regardless of category). The course would be a 5 mile loop that was basically a 2.5 mile loop that doubled back on itself with two 180s. So, you would leave from the start line and go 2.5 miles to a barrier which was back at the start line and make a 180 and head back to the start line and make a 180, etc. etc. The flyer said there would be a small climb in the course. The climb turned out to be about 1/2 mile of decent grade, so not exactly what I expected, but it was a good course.
The race started off pretty fast and after 1 lap the HR was up, but I was feeling pretty good. My estimate of the field was about 25 total people including maybe five 45+. One was a 14 year old boy who seemed to be some sort of cycling prodigy. The group stayed together for most of the second lap but on the climb, we lost a few people. On the second lap a break of two people went off the front. One was a 45+ I was told and the other was a Cat. 5. They got about 200 meters on the pack, but it didn't seem like anyone was interested in chasing them. On the third lap I chatted with my coach who was doing the 45+ race. He is from the San Antonio area and knew most of the 45+ guys. I said, "Two guys got away." He said, "See that guy in the pink? He is going to go shortly. If you want a free ride to the break, get on his wheel." About 2/3 the way through the third lap, I moved up to the front of the group and was driving a decent pace. Out of the corner of my right eye, I saw Mr. Pink 45+ (who turned out to be a Cat. 1) streak by with two in tow including the 14 year old prodigy. I flogged it, but couldn't quite make it to the chase so I backed off. Dude caught me by surprise. I should have been paying more attention. The 14 year old prodigy couldn't hang and was back with the group quickly. On the 4th lap, we saw that the two chasers had caught the break. So now there was a break of 4 up the road about 300 meters which included two 45+. On the climb on the 4th lap the main group pushed the pace a bit harder, but I could tell nobody was interested in catching the break. As most of you know, Cat. 5 racing tends to be unorganized and at times is more about survival than strategy. As we headed back to the start for the 5th lap, we saw the break coming out of the 180 and they still had about 300 meters. It looked like I would be racing for no better than 3rd. On the last lap, the pace on the climb was not as fast as the lap before which confirmed my belief that the break would stick. My brain was now working on my finish strategy. The sprint to the finish line was about 1/4 mile up hill after a left turn from a downhill section. This wasn't good for me because I am not great going uphill just yet. So, I would have to put myself in a good position before the turn, meaning I would have to attack on the downhill. As we came to the top of the downhill, to my surprise, my coach took off. I jumped quickly and was 4th wheel. He didn't sustain his attack and coming fast on my right side was a tall rider in orange kit. I decided to go, but I waited too long. The plan was to come into the left turn 1st in the chase group, but I hit the corner in 3rd. I got out of the saddle and gassed it. I got passed by about 9 people, had too much gear, and was about to blow. I shifted, sat back down, put my head down and gave it all I had. I was able to re-pass 2 of the 9 and finished pretty strong. I have seen no results yet, but I am guessing I was about 9th or 10th place in the Cat. 5. As I came through the line, I was sure I was going to puke. That last 1/4 mile was as hard as I have pushed myself this year. About 100 yards past the finish I was able to convert the urge to puke into a giant belch which the 14 year old prodigy thought was pretty funny.
Feedback from my coach was good. He said I am super smooth. He did pick up on one thing that I know I have a problem with. That is drinking smoothly while racing. I have to practice getting my bottle out while continuing to pedal smoothly. Now I have the knee flying out and I have to stop pedaling for a second which is totally suboptimal. I need to practice getting my bottle with my left hand because I like to have my right hand on the bars for any situations that require braking.
Overall, it was a good race. I am encouraged because I see a lot of upside for my racing. While continuing to lose weight, I am still about 35 pounds above my ideal racing weight. My training program is also set up to be in race shape in August. Technically, I am not even supposed to be racing yet. We shall see.
The Fort and the Scion. Can you think of an odder combination?
An early break in the P/1/2 race. Kristian House of Navigators is at the front of the chase.
I barely made it back from my ride tonight before this showed up. It appears we will have more of the same for the rest of the week.