This past week-end I participated in my first stage race, in Mineral Wells, Tx. In this stage race, you must complete in a time trial, criterium, and road race. Failure to participate in all three will result in zero points. In my case, I had the 7.5 mile time trial at 10:22am and the 45 minute criterium at 2:30pm on Saturday. The road race, 49 miles, started at 11:15am on Sunday.
I managed to preview the tt course and found it contained five (count 'em) hills, two of which were significant (I think three but don't want to exaggerate). Needless to say, the small chain-ring would see considerable use. As would the small cog on the downhills. The weather was good, other than a fairly stout south wind, which would be at our backs helping to neutralize the hills.
My place, for my purposes, was 2nd. My purposes are those within the 65-69 age group. Officially, in the 60+ category, I placed 11th. Since this was the tt, it didn't matter that we were grouped with the 50+ guys.
However, in the criterium, it mattered a lot. Racing against guys 18-19 years younger than yourself might be ok if you are 30 or 40 years old. By the way, I was the oldest guy racing this week-end. It took less than a minute and one climb before most of the group was ahead of me. The .6 mile circuit had one hill, four right turns and one left. I lost another place on the second circuit, two more places on the third circuit. After the fourth circuit the referee pulled me from the race. However, he also pulled the three in front of me and the one behind me. Being pulled by the official is not the same as not completing the race, so we still received points and were allowed to enter the road race. My finish was next to last.
For the road race, the wind, still from the south, picked up. Not quite howling, but very significant and about 50% more than last week in Walburg. The way the 24.5 mile course was laid out, only one short four mile leg actually had the wind at our backs. I dreaded being dropped.
And of course, since we were still grouped with the 50+ guys, dropping was a certainty. However, given the wind in their face (actually from their left shoulder), the leaders weren't about to expend excess energy on the first lap. I positioned myself on the right, out of the wind, and only about five riders back. I think we dropped a dozen riders immediately, but can't be sure because the results haven't been posted yet. Anyway, I hung on for nine miles until we turned and put the wind at our backs and a slight downhill. My speed was in the mid-30's and rpms quite high, but the pack moved away quickly. I wasn't the only one dropped at this point, but when I slowed a fraction to let my heart-rate drop back to 90%, I lost another four riders.
One of the four came back to me on the really big hill; I passed and within minutes he had dropped from view. I had one other straggler about a quarter mile ahead, but apparently he caught his second wind and once we turned into the wind, I couldn't close the gap.
Similar to Walburg, the second lap was by myself. The wind really slowed my progress, but while I never caught up with anyone, no one in my group passed me. I am now waiting to see if I really was again second to last, or if I came in the top ten.
I might be getting more fit. While tired, I wasn't near as wiped-out as last week. But my piriformis really need tlc.