And now...it's back to racing!
Today was my first race since returning from my tour. The race was in Ravensdale. Where's that, you ask? Yes, I too, had not heard of this town (I'm still not convinced there is much of a town). What there is of it is about 7 miles the other side of Covington, which is just off Hwy 18. The road out to Ravensdale is through the 'burbs until we passed the Kent City Limits sign. Then it was more rural.
We raced early this morning at 8:39. The Cat 1,2,3 gals started just 3 minutes before us (I thought they would lap us, but they didn't). The course was a 9 mile loop that we would do 3 times. Maria, Jean and I had a plan that we had worked out on last Thursday's group ride with Michelle's assistance. The plan was that Maria would lead me out, because it was an uphill finish. My job was to stay with Maria, be behind her on the first hill of the finish (there were three), then shoot past her after the 200m mark and sprint to the end.
We had about 30 gals in our race (28 finished). We rolled out and were racing after passing the fire station (never saw a fire station). However, what I've come to determine as normal, we weren't going that fast. We went up the first hill of note without too much trouble. Everyone was settling in (maybe people were realizing we would actually have to go up this hill 4 times). I was mostly working to keep Maria in my sight. After the first corner, the course was mostly downhill. I saw Maria out on the front. I had an opportunity to go up the yellow line to give her a break. I stayed on the front until Maria told me to go to the left. I did and some gals came by on the right. That was fine.
At the bottom of one of the downhills, and I think the beginning of the next lap, we had a very sharp right turn. Of course, we slowed down. On the second lap, at that corner, one of the gals yelled, "Slowing...Slowing...ALOT!" As we made the corner, everyone sped up. I said, loud enough for that gal to hear, "Going...Going...ALOT!"
On the last lap, I purposely stayed off the front because in the second lap I was on the front from the finish line to the first turn. If I was supposed to sprint at the end, I needed to save some energy.
When we came around the sharp corner in the last lap, Maria, Jean, and I (and Debbie too!) were all together. As we started up the big hill for the 4th and final time, I moved up behind Maria like we planned. I was right on her wheel, waiting for her signal to "shoot ahead". Near the top, Maria slowed down and moved slightly to the left. I thought, okay, this means I'm supposed to go now! As I'm coming up on her right, another rider comes up on my right and effectively squeezes me between her and Maria (seriously, I'm a Lycra sandwich here). Handlebars started twitching. I leaned more into Maria to keep us both from crashing (like we learned in the Cycle U class). We managed to stay upright, and I went ahead (but, others had already passed us). As I'm trying to give it all I've got, another gal comes up on my left and clips me. Again, I manage to keep the bike upright, but, at that point, I'm done. I'm not risking a third contact because, well, third time being a charm and all (in this case, a crash), it's just not worth it. I coast in behind Maria, Jean, and Debbie, slightly rattled, but pleased to have played bumper bikes and not crashed.
Turns out, Maria was NOT executing the plan. She slowed because she kept hearing someone yelling her name. Oh well...that's the way it goes...
Two good takeaways from this race--I made serious contact with other riders without crashing, and Debbie didn't get dropped--she even beat me! Oh, and our average speed was 21.5mph--not bad!