So this year I decided to race in the OBRA Road Race Championships. I've avoided this race for the last two years because they were oriented more toward climbers, which is something I'm not great at. This year however, aside from the beginning climb the course suited my abilities fairly well....the big issue was getting over the first climb with the lead group, or close enough that I could latch back on.
The elevation profile shown below gives you an idea of the course. It was supposed to go the other way, but due to some fresh road resurfacing they change the direction with the profile showing the correct view (I turned the photo around)
The race started out well enough with the pack riding together to the end of the neutral zone. From there the pace picked up and I was hoping a few big guys would jump to the front and the pack would allow us to get 30 seconds or so on them before the climb started giving us a chance to stay with them.
As expected a few guys jumped and I jumped with them. After a minute of trying to get away the field wasn't having anything to do with it and the pulled us back in before the first climb started.
The first climb turned out to be a game changer for almost every class that raced this past weekend. It was a 1.5 mile climb that averaged around 10% for the climb. Anything over about 5% I struggle on, but I knew that it was a game changer so I actually covered up my wattage on my powertap so I couldn't see how hard I was working. I stayed with the pack as long as possible and took myself to the edge of blowing up, then backed it off just a bit. I fell off the pace about midway up the climb, but then started passing others that had blown up trying to stay with the leaders. Looking back on my powertap numbers, I set a new 4 minute power record of 445 watts and took just over 8 minutes to make it over the top of the climb.
Once over the top, I felt pretty good all things considered and was able to push it hard on the downhill. As I went down the hill I started picking up riders as I passed them, thus forming a chase group. By the time we hit the bottom of the downhill we had around 9 riders that were working together hard in a rotating pace line.
We could see the chase car just up the road and we were slowly pulling them back in. After 10 minutes of chasing we had pulled them to within around 35 seconds or so, but by this time our chase group was both tiring and dropping riders. The longer we went, the more riders dropped off until we hit the turn into the side wind with 5 riders.
We were still pushing it hard, but the lead car was slowing starting to pull away. Mid way through the back side of the course we had lost our 5th man and were down to 4 riders. We still had the chase car in sight and by the time we started the 2nd climb we were no farther back than about 50 seconds. However, the other riders I was with were getting tired so I started taking longer pulls up front.
By this time the chase for the front group was over and they pulled away from us.
Through the feed zone I was able to pick up some bottled water from my wife, that was very welcomed at the time. Downing the bottle it was time for the downhill. I lead our chase pack all the way down bombing the course to the flat middle section where we started rotating again until the next downhill where I led the whole way again.
At the bottom of the hill we had just over 10 miles to the finish line. It was a gradual 2.1% average climb, so nothing hard. We started out with a good steady pace until we saw a 1k to go sign (that happened to be 5 miles or so from the finish). At that point we started playing "Cat/Mouse" games and slowed way down. We continued our slow pace for another 3 miles or so picking up one of the dropped riders in front of us and having two riders catch us from behind...so now we were back up to 7 riders.
The two that caught us picked the pace of the pack up and were pushing harder than the rest of us, so we did some small rotations but much of the pack had lost the will to pull and I think were trying to rest for a final group sprint.
The real 1k to go sign finally came into view when one of the guys jumped. Everybody else went with him and we started jockeying for position for a final sprint...just for the fun of it. Knowing I was a sprinter, most wanted me to be the first to go so they could draft off me and try and pull around. I waited for a while until another guy jumped...then went into a full sprint. I put about 4 bike lengths on him before looking back to see where he was and letting up a little on my sprint crossing the line 1st in my chase pack....but 13th overall.
For the most part I'm happy with my performance. I couldn't have done anything differently to have placed higher since I couldn't hang with the better climbers on the hill. I pushed as hard as possible on the flats with the cross wind and the downhill, but couldn't make up enough ground to catch the lead groups. So overall...a good race.
If I could have been 15 pounds lighter...I might have stood a chance :P I was a good 10 pounds over my more ideal race weight (as seen by not so thin middle section in the pic below)...so theoretically I could have been lighter, but I was in good condition so I can't really complain.