Saturday, March 29, 2014

Not Even on the List

Although it was pouring rain when Debbie and Manek picked me up this morning, it was, at least, light out. That's a first for this season's road races (one has to look for the positives when setting out to do a tough race in the rain).

Debbie now has a bike rack, making it much easier to carry the bikes and our stuff. Since it is a 4-bike rack, she can even take 3 extra people. Today, Manek was the only additional passenger besides me. I thought ahead and covered my saddle. At least I wouldn't have to start out with a wet butt.

Debbie and I were the only members representing OOA in the Cat 4 Women. Today's race was put on by the Group Health gals. It was the Independence Valley Road Race (commonly referred to as IVRR). IVRR is a course I am very familiar with. However, this is the first time I've raced it. The start was moved to Swede Hall. Last year it was at the Middle School in Rochester. Advantage to that would have been a paved parking lot versus the puddle-riddled gravel and grass parking at the Hall. Still, Swede Hall was better. There were regular restrooms (instead of Sani-cans), and a dry place for the podiums. Most importantly, starting at Swede Hall meant no roll-out on US 12.

My first attempt at setting up my bike on the trainer didn't work out so well. Then I took the cue from Jeff and Julian who were parked next to us and turned it around. That worked okay. There wasn't much need for a solid warmup as we would remain in the neutral rollout for much of the way up Michigan Hill. I just did some high cadence pedaling and one hard effort. It was more to get me physically warm, so I wouldn't freeze at the beginning of the race.

At the start line, there were 23 of us. Not a big field. All the young fast girls were there. Not so many of us older, fast-for-our-advanced-years women. As I looked around, I thought to myself, yep, this is just going to be a bike ride. I was curious what the "neutral" rollout would look like going up Michigan Hill (a rather lengthy, with moments of steepness, grinder that is not much fun even when not racing). The "goal" was for everyone to be together near the top of Michigan where we would actually start racing. However, the race official did say that, should there be some who were unable to keep up with the neutral pace, that they may drop behind the follow car. I hoped for a truly neutral pace.

All was fine up the first part (the not-so-steep part). Then we hit the first pitch. I stayed with the group up most of that, but then on the second bit, I started dropping behind. We were still, supposedly, in neutral. Nicki (Group Health) went off the front even while we were still in neutral (that proved to be a mistake). Someone commented that a gal was off the front. Weren't we still in neutral?

Finally, the follow car beeped it's horn signaling that we were now actually racing. Right after that, the follow car went around me. Just as I suspected...dropped on the first hill. Now, I was just on a bike the rain. I continued to pedal and wheeze my way up the rest of Michigan. I was hoping, once I hit the downhill on the other side, I could make up some time on the mosquito girls ahead (as we know, weight always wins on the downhill). At least I would be able to go as fast as I wanted down the hill. No brakes!!

I reached the bottom just as the main peloton turned the corner onto Lincoln Creek. Onto Lincoln Creek, I could see them off and on, but I just couldn't get any closer. Then Nicki caught up to me (somehow I must have passed her on Michigan--I don't remember that), and, after a bit, asked if I wanted her to pull for awhile. I was fine with that! So, we worked together, taking turns pulling. We caught up to a couple other gals. Then we were 4. We were working together in a rotating paceline. We could see another gal ahead. When we got close enough, Nicki and I bridged up to her to ask her to join us. Unfortunately, the gal was not able to stay with us for long. Then we also lost the other two. 

I managed to get ahead of Nicki going up Manners, but I knew she would catch up on the other side. I flew down the other side Manners. Sure enough, Nicki caught back up to me, and we returned to taking turns pulling. Up ahead we could see two more riders. We worked our way up to them. It was Amanda (Starbucks) and a Cucina Fresca guy (we had already passed Manek on Lincoln Creek). Darn, instead of catching two gals, we only caught one. The three of us joined forces (with the dude sitting in). We left the guy behind until we were going back up Michigan. Then, he caught up to us. Amanda, being the stronger hill climber (Nicki and I being strong hill descenders) got ahead of Nicki and I. Then I passed Nicki. I knew Nicki would catch up again on Lincoln Creek, and I knew we would catch Amanda again too.

That's exactly what happened, and we began rotating again. Only this time we added a second Cucina guy. Did either one of these guys step up and take a pull? No. So, we left them behind (help us out or, adios wheel-suckers). Nicki was hammering like a machine. Amanda and I were barely hanging on. I think with just three of us, a regular paceline (as opposed to a rotating paceline) would have been better. I would rather take longer pulls, and get longer rests. In the rotating paceline, I was not really getting any recovery. It's not like we had any chance of catching the main group, but we were to the point of just wanting to get it over with ASAP.

When we got to Manners for the second time, I could no longer stay with Nicki and Amanda going up the hill. I hoped to catch them on the downhill, but that didn't happen. I could see them most of the way, but just couldn't catch up; especially once Nicki caught up to Amanda and they resumed working together. Oh well, at least there weren't anymore big hills. 

After I crossed the line, I saw Nicki and Amanda circling back to wait for me. We congratulated each other for our work together, and rode the rest of the way back to Swede Hall. Unfortunately, I don't know what place I got. Best possible would be 14th, but it might be 15th or 16th. When they put the paper up, we saw they only posted results for the first 11 finishers. I was not on that list. They will post the full results online. The top finishers were the same as for the last few races. Hopefully, they will upgrade to Cat 3 soon...

Overall, the race went as I expected. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay with the group up the hills. I did, however, enjoy working with Nicki and Amanda to finish faster than I would have alone.

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