My first road race (The Carl Dolan Classic in Columbia, MD) was, in my eyes a huge success; I didn’t crash and I finished with (or at least near) the pack! I think going into this race my biggest fear was that I just would not be able to hang around with the pack and would get blown out the back like I often do at the hains point noon rides. Yesterday however, with somewhat minimal effort I managed to stick right into the back third of the pack for the entire time and ride out the race, despite the constant breaking and subsequent yo-yoing effect especially in the large (two available lanes into and out of it) 90 degree turn.
(Not much of a pic for me but you can make out the green jersey and part of my head there in the middle back. Picture taken by Jim Wilson along with LOTS of other great race shots from the day.)
Overall I feel like I was more of a spectator in the race just along for the ride and not really a racer vying for anything. I never really tried to go anywhere other then one lap where I moved up into the first half of the field during the semi flat area leading up to the downhill section and turn, though at that point the narrow road closed off any serious movement I could take since we were down to one lane and any forward movement would have to be done across the yellow line. (Not sure if I was faulted for this anyway, though no one ever said anything to me).
(Michael R-P in the pack in the 3/4 race later in the afternoon. RU had 3 of it's 4 racer in this race finish in the top 12 with the fourth getting caught up in the big crash at the finish. Otherwise that number would have definitely been 4. Picture also by Jim Wilson)
Towards the beginning of the race I was a bit nervous and getting closed in on both sides by two cyclists I got antsy and bumped into the Unholy Rouleurs’ Leg (though I was forgiven) and after not going down there I loosened up quite a bit. Overall the race felt pretty good and I think with a boost in my effort level and definitely some extra confidence out there I could be out at least feeling like I am contending for a spot (gotta be top 20 to even get mentioned in the results???). Also I think a better understanding of where in the race I am would be helpful since I wasn’t really sure the number of laps that were left at any given time and I didn’t realize it was the final lap until everyone was sprinting for the finish.
I also need to make sure I stay on top of hydration during the race better since I could tell I was starting to daze a little bit towards the end of the race which nearly sent me ass over teakettle in the nasty crash near the finish. I didn’t really see how they happened but as I was riding past the crash along the curb (spending too much time looking at it and the motionless rider lying half on and half off the curb) I turned to find the second crash in the middle of the road directly in front of me and narrowly managed to avoid be included in the days carnage. I could tell my overall awareness of my situation was certainly not were it should have been and next time I will have to work to make sure I am in a better state of mind for the hectic finish these races are sure to provide.
Overall though I am certainly happy with my result, and though I didn’t place I finished my first road race in strong form. My heart rate maxed out at 180 bpms which is pretty low considering my max is closer to 195 and on any given climb to the finish I was really only hitting about 170 so there is definitely room for additional effort next time. I would also like to report that I believe I was the only racer out there using good old down tube shifters (though I’m not trying to make any excuses here).
Some day I’ll get my hands of one of these fancy racing bikes all these other guys are out sporting but for now my ’91 Specialized is my main ride. I’ll just have to be careful signing up for any racers that I’ll need to be shifting on the fly too much. For this race I managed to stay in the big ring and use only about 3 gears the whole way. Maybe not the most efficient spinning style but efficiency in shifting was more of a goal for me at that point.