Following on the heels of fairly good recent crit results, what went wrong?
1) First and foremost, I'm just not strong enough. At this moment, the fastest I can do a solo 30 mile ride is at about 19 mph average. The lead pack, over a 30 mile course for cat 5, average around 23 mph. I estimate that I need to be able to average around 21 mph to have the general fitness to be competitive at the cat 5 level, to hang with the pack.
2) Dead legs. Over the past couple months, I've been averaging around 10 miles or less saddle time per week. This past week, the weather finally got warm. And I put in around 180 miles prior to race day.
- Saturday: 13.2 mile Willow Time Trial and 5.9 mile leisurely ride with my wife Kendal
- Sunday: 9.5 mile Ann Arbor Velo Club Spring Training Criterium
- Monday: 30.1 mile "recovery" ride with AAVC/UofM (recovery my ass!!!!!!)
- Tuesday: 50 mile solo ride
- Wednesday: 16.1 mile moderate ride with Kendal
- Thursday: off
- Friday: 26.5 mile to pre-ride Cone-Azalia course
- Saturday: 19.6 mile not-slow-enough ride with Sarah
- Sunday morning: 8.6 mile ride to Milan to Cone-Azalia starting line
3) After hearing about all the horror stories about this race from my friend Geoff, about how the course destroyed forks, bars, seatposts, wheelsets, and frames, I decided to go with indestructible gear. So I rode my 23 lbs all steel Some Double Cross with 1700g handbuilt Velcity A23 box section wheels. I had a set of 25c Continental Grand Prix 4-Seasons pumped up to 90psi. I think the tires were fine for this rough course. The pressure was fine. But my bike and wheel weight? I think they hurt me. Especially since I'm a small rider (135 lbs).
4) I started the field near the back. The rollout was pretty leisurely. But not long after we made that first turn, people in the front took off. I was in no position to latch on. And by the time I got around the people in my way, the group was far ahead. I didn't have the strength to catch up. So I rode a lonely solo ride, with minimal help.
5) The course was tough. Plenty of wind. And lots of gravel to pavement transitions. I'm not a strong enough rider to fight the winds myself. And I didn't feel great about the turns, so I'd take them at sub-10 mph. Lots of potholes too. Even if I had managed to be with the group...I'm not sure how comfortable I would have felt latching onto someones wheel, not being able to see the obstacles in front of me.
I still believe the biggest factor was just fitness. I think I need to figure out how to train, instead of just going on rides. I have three weeks until my next race. Hopefully I can at least finish with the pack!
On to better news regarding this race though! My friend Charles entered this race at the last second (day of registration). He's been sick for 2 weeks and hasn't been able to train at all. And, he hadn't slept in way too many hours (he came straight from his graveyard shift at work to the race). He stayed right up there with the pack, and was leading the group for large a large portion of the last lap. But after the group turned onto the straight before the finish, they thanked him and left him. He managed to hang on for 11th place!!! Well done, tired man!!!!
And my friend Sarah, racing in her first road race, finished 2nd among the cat 4 women!!!! She almost texted me this morning to tell me she'd be skipping because she felt so uneasy about the race...but decided to show up anyway. Good decision! One of the other girls, a pretty strong local rider, attempted a solo breakaway with 5 miles to go. Sarah and another rider decided to work together and reeled in the breakaway rider with probably no more than 1 km left to go! Good job!!!!
As a side note, after I got back home, I mowed my lawn. I mean this: mowing the lawn was WAY harder than Cone-Azalia!!!!!!! I really need a propelled mower or a riding mower or one of those Husqvarna robot mowers. I also need to not let it get so long. And I need a smaller lawn.
Now...get on your bikes and ride!!!! :)