Last year, I was brand new to bike racing, taking corners at speed terrified me, and I had no clue how to race strategically. Through the season, I became more confident at cornering and slowly learned how to hide from the wind, how to properly launch an attack, and how/when to do work at the front. I did some work in the fall and winter and added some more power. I knew coming into this season I was much more prepared than last, but I still wasn't feeling too sure of myself. Then, a couple weeks ago on the team ride, as we approached the Judson/Green Bay Rd sprint, I didn't feel like I wanted to sprint, but was feeling good about providing a lead out so that everyone else could duke it out. Turns out, though, I ended up riding everyone but Dave Hudson off my wheel. At that point I thought, "maybe I can do some damage this year."
In the week leading up to LPC, I decided I wanted to try (for the first time) doing a mid-race attack, and not one of those, creep-up-the-outside "attacks" that are so common in the 4s, but a real, out-of-the-saddle, big gear attack. I decided on the Masters 4/5 race to try it and visualized the attack many times. The visualizations were helpful, but also somewhat worrying, as my heart would race and my legs would tense up every time I did so...is that normal? I began to get worried I would psych myself out.
Masters 30+ 4/5
Although my plan was to try my attack about mid-way into the 40min race, Rob Curtis announced a prime on lap 3, and I decided I might as well try; I had never won a prime before, after all. So as we came around the first turn and approached the bridge, I up-shifted, got out of the saddle, and hammered it up hill. I quickly opened up a sizeable gap, sat down, and fell into a strong rhythm. I took the prime with ease (free month at FFC). Eventually another rider bridged up to me without towing the field with him, and for a brief moment, I thought the winning break was forming, along with my ticket to my first podium. I was half correct; it was the winning break, but I didn't stay in it for long. He quickly rode me off his wheel and about five laps later I was caught by the group.
I managed to slot in about 4th wheel and stayed near the front for most of the rest of the race. I'm terrified of crashing and know that the 180 on the LPC course can get hairy in the last lap, so I knew I wanted to be first into that turn. With two to go, I moved up from about 8th wheel to 4th, and as we came around the 1st turn on the last lap, I attacked again and rode out of the saddle all the way to the top of the bridge, and continued hammering down the other side. I made it through the 180 quick and clean. Andrew Nordyke from Cuttin Crew had gotten off the front a few laps earlier and as I continued to hammer it down the finish straight, it appeared as if I was going to catch him - he was toast. It was too little too late, though, and I also got nipped at line by one other rider. I ended up 4th for my best finish ever, and first time in the money ($20!). I was disappointed that I couldn't hold on for the last spot on the podium, but was very satisfied with the huge improvement over last year's performance at this race (33 in the masters race, and got pulled early).
The second race of the day was the Cat 4s. It was several hours after my first but my quads were killing me all day after the first effort, so I didn't think I would play a factor in this race. After a very easy spin warm-up, though, my legs felt better. I started the race with a plan to just sit in and see what happened. Johnny immediately went off the front and Kevin, Jim, and I went to work blocking the field. Andrew Nordyke and Thomas Gaines of Volharden didn't seem to like that much and eventually put in an attack and got away. Johnny was far enough away (he ended up lapping us) that we didn't need to worry about blocking anyone else, so I tried to organize a chase of the other two.
No one seemed to want to help, though, so I decided to hurt them a bit. There was a strong cross-wind coming across the finish stretch from the NW, so whenever I was on the front coming across the finish stretch, I guttered the group on the right side along the barricades so that any attack would be forced to go out into the wind. What was interesting, though, and played to my advantage, is that no one else used that tactic when they were at the front, choosing instead to ride all the way to the left, the "inside" line. So after my turn at the front, I'd drift almost to the back of the pack to recover, and then when I wanted to move up again, I'd just wait for the finish stretch and use the entire group to block the wind as I moved up (rather easily) along the right side. Coming into the bell lap, I was able to use this tactic again to move from the back of the pack to third wheel without much effort. As we came around the first turn, I saw Kevin over my left shoulder and immediately started thinking "lead out!". So once again, I ramped it up out of the first turn so that Kevin and I could be first into the 180. It turns out, however, I inadvertently gapped Kevin, so he decided it would be better to not tow the group back up to me and let me go instead. Unfortunately two guys that didn't do much work most of the race were able to latch on and came around me as we exited the 180. I tried to ride their wheel into the sprint, but I was toast and couldn't come back around them. So with three guys up the road and third in the field sprint, I ended up 6th.
Two top-10s in one day, a result I never thought I'd achieve. I've been joking since I completed my 10 Cat 5 races last year that I would be a Cat 4 for life, but I think I showed some signs of life at LPC, and now am hopeful that a Cat 3 upgrade is within reach, possibly next season.