Hey! It's a headline, they're supposed to grab your attention. Here's my take on this year's State Finals Road Race held at Fort Hood. As usual, since I always leave time for the unexpected, I arrived at race headquarters with an extra half-hour of piddle-time. My plan called for thirty minutes of warm-up starting forty minutes before the race start. I checked in, received my numbers (the pink one on the back, the white one on the left side), and returned to the car to attach them to my jersey. By a stroke of luck, I captured a parking spot close to check-in and the porta-potties. Both were essential, in that pre-race jitters had me going often and check-in had the only available shade on a very sunny day.
I glue my numbers on, an onerous chore single-handed. More luck, Carolyn (my Bicycle Sport Shop Road ((as opposed to 'Cross or Tri)) captain) happened by to chat. Her race started twenty minutes after mine. She helped affix the numbers. She left to start her pre-race routine and I twiddled my thumbs as long as I could, but eventually got on the bike.
Experience has shown it really takes me thirty minutes to loosen my legs and lungs for any serious effort. The available road was pretty rough and had a few hills, but I completed the warm-up and returned to the car and checked the time. Dang! Twenty-five minutes before start time. I had hoped for ten. Chagrined, but not upset, I dawdled a bit and made last minute preparations, then went off to the start line to linger and circle around and chat with the other old guys in our group. My friend, Dean, had signed up at the last minute but hadn't arrived (he didn't).
My race plan was based on the registration information that the 70+ guys would race with the 60+ guys, but be given a five minute head-start. This is because us old guys really can't keep up with the younger ones when they hit the hills. We would rather have our own race, but given the numbers, understand being grouped this way and were grateful for the extra five minutes, which would get us over the first two hard climbs before being over-taken. Well, as things transpired, just before the start the race director gave us our own category. Great! Except for one thing: once the young guys catch up with us, we are not allowed to draft them. Bummer!
The course starts with several miles of downhill before the first big climb. Richard (last year's winner and acknowledged fastest guy in our group) got a gap and pulled away and the new guy (most of us know each other) jumped up with him. I knew this was suicide because the wind was pretty strong in our face, and the five of us could rotate the lead and bring them back with ease. Except one of us got dropped like a stone and the other three refused to rotate through and chase. The lead slowly grew. At the second hill a few miles farther I powered up the climb and left the three about twenty seconds behind, setting off to see if Richard and friend would slow down. They didn't, but Fred and Tom chased back to me. Well now, if they were willing to chase me down, but not Richard, then I would let them pull me the rest of the way.
We finally turned, after sixteen miles into the wind, and had mostly a tailwind. The hills were much more manageable. According to my Garmin, we had six climbs over 10% and a bunch of others. In the next hour I did a few downhill pulls, but mostly just sat on their wheels. Then, on a downhill, Fred got a cramp and pulled his leg out of his pedal to try to work it out. Tom and I kept going and between the cramp and the next double digit climb, we put a significant gap on him.
Fred beat me, quite handily, the last two years even though he is ten years older. He races with national champion stripes on his sleeve. I felt no remorse as I then took the lead and hammered as best I could. Tom followed. Tom and I have raced against each other for ten years. I know he is easily the best sprinter. But Tom broke his pelvis in June and, needless to say, is nowhere near his best form. One climb before the last turn, two small climbs after, then a slight uphill incline all the way to the finish line. Predictably, Fred gained on the flats, and with 1k to go had more or less caught back up.
I put it in the big ring, smaller cog to start my wind up and with 200 meters to go, dropped it down and powered as best I could. We finished together, but I took third and Fred fourth. What an exciting finish!
Although being miffed at the guys letting Richard go, he and the other guy would have beat me in the sprint anyhow, so I have no complaints. Now it is time to get into time-trialing mode for the Tour de Gruene in November.