This past Saturday I raced in the Giro di Coppi, my first road bike race ever. I was pretty nervous. Friends and foes warned me of close quarters, unexpected sprints and 45+ mph descents. I knew road bikers to be a pretty intense and serious bunch. I want to become the best biker I can be however, and the best way to do it is to embrace road biking and become an all-around better biker... not just a time trialist! Matias, Robbie and Dirk especially urged me to just jump in and get the experience.
Being a new cyclist, I raced in the 37.5 mile cat 5 race. My initial hope was to stick with the peloton and hang in there. I didn't expect much. Friends said that I had better speed than most of the guys there... I should go for the win. I decided that I'd hang in the middle of the pack and then attack at the end or on uphills.
Let the cowboys ride! The race started fast. As soon as we cleared the first hill, speeds were in excess of 25 mph, faster than I do at triathlons by myself. That's what happens in a group. I tucked into the middle of the pack and completed the first 12.5 mile loop. Huh, I wasn't tired... I decided to push it harder, moving into the front third of the pack. I made some more moves on the uphills and held my own on the downhills. By the end of the second loop I was well within the top 10. Could this be for real? Am I among the leaders? Crazy, but I felt like I had been doing this for a while and that I could really hang in there. I just kept it going... tuck in and draft on the flats and attack hard on the climbs.
By halfway through the final loop, I was in 2nd place! I decided to give the pack a stir and do something I definitely had not planned on... I surged on a flat! A NCVC guy decided to go at the same time, so we worked together. That was a rare moment of the race where I worked with someone. I was one of the few unattached riders, so teams were constantly trying to edge me out of the paceline to help teammates out. This made me pretty mad! I had to show them up. The pack eventually caught us, but the tempo of the race had increased, making it more competitive and exciting. I was totally into it.
My hill climbing advantage was huge here... it was a really hilly course, with the finish line resting atop a steep 200m climb. With 1k to go, I remembered this. Despite being in 3rd at that point, I decided to drop back a little and let some of the bigger guys go. It was my intention to draft off them and then break out as soon as I saw the "200 meters to go" sign. It worked to perfection. As soon as I saw the sign, I punched it (not the sign). I passed 6 guys almost instantly as I barrelled up the hill toward #3, who started strong but was really struggling at the crest. 10 meters to go, I was right on his wheel but starting to tire out. I then remembered I had 3 gears left to shift to! He did not! I shifted up one cog and that provided me with a burst of speed that got me past him within 5 meters of the line.
3rd place overall! Not too bad for my first road bike race. My strategy worked great. And Sicar, the bike, felt awesome under me. What a strong climber. Speed averaged somewhere between 22.5 and 25 mph... hit a max of 48 mph! Good showing by Matias too, finishing 6th in the 3/4 race, pacing the pack much of the way and staying strong. The next morning, Robbie won the NYC Triathlon elite age group division, and 6th among pros. Beast.
Several days later, I'm still really pumped from this. Sure, it was a cat 5 race, but I went into this race with no great expectations... an empty head. It's how I need to go into all my races. As I told Michelle the other day I took what the race gave me... I did not try to predict the outcome of the race before I got to the finish. It worked here. Why can't it work in a triathlon?
Pictures coming tonight
2 days ago