So today I competed in my first race after joining the team (I have done one other race... but didn't finish it due to a crash) with Kevin. I was very excited about the course for the first crit of the ABD Fall Fling series. It is basically an oval. There is only one turn that could possibly be called a corner and it was super super wide. So coming into the race, I was confident I would at least finish and not get taken out in the last corner on the last lap again (sigh).
The only notable course feature was that there was a pretty wicked cross/head wind on the second half of the course. We knew this was going to make the race a lot slower than it would have been otherwise.
There were 31 riders in the Cat 5 race. I saw a few familiar faces from the Wednesday night CCC rides but that was all. Anyway, now for the race..
The start was very, very tame to say the least. There were a couple of have hearted attacks in the first couple laps, but each was quickly reeled back in when we hit the wind on the backstretch of the course. I got squeezed out to the outside for the first couple laps so I couldn't really draft off anyone, but the pace was so slow I didn't really mind. On I believe the 3rd lap the pace picked up a fair amount when we hit the tailwind and I realized it too late and fell to nearly last place. I started to accelerate to maintain contact at the same time that everyone else was hitting the wind on the backstretch and slowing down accordingly.
I decided to just go for it. I stayed on the left, maintained my pace, passed the entire group, and went alone off the front. I was a little concerned coming around the last turn as thats where the worst of the headwind was and my heart rate immediately spiked. For the first time during a race I switched my bike computer to show my power numbers so I could start pacing myself.
I assumed that I would immediately be chased down as it seems Cat 5 racers always chase, but I think a combination of the headwind and Kevin blocking kept the group at bay. I got a decent gap pretty quickly and decided to just dig in and go for it. I rode 3 or so laps solo before another rider bridged up. Soon after, another rider bridged and the 3 of us rode most of the remainder of the race alone.
This is where I made a really significant strategic error. I kept getting suckered into taking my pulls on the last turn, where the worst of the headwind was. My break started about 6.5 minutes into the 30 minute race, so each of these pulls really added a lot of work for me. The guy that would eventually win the race took almost all of his pulls where we had the tailwind. I should have either made him work more in the wind or attacked again to make him work to close the gap. Live and learn.
By the point we got to the last lap I was pretty gassed. I tried to sprint at the end but couldn't really do anything. Someone managed to bridge at the very end of the race and apparently beat me at the line, so I ended up fourth rather than 3rd like I thought.
All in all, I'm happy with how the race went. Who knows really what the race would have looked like had I not started the break as I did. I don't think that ~25ish minute threshold power is really where my edge is right now, but I'm glad I gave something different/hard a shot. It is definitely motivation to do threshold work in the offseason. I'm also excited to have Kevin and other teammates racing Cat 5 next year so we can work together to get some good results. I think we will be very strong. :)
My garmin file is visible via the team garmin connect page, if anyone is curious about details.