So earlier this month I recapped my bike training and some race plans coming up. Training has pretty much been the same, still going reasonably well but still not getting the volume I'd like. I did my first criterium race in ~25 years on March 19th, the Black Hills Crit at Black Hills Park in Maryland. The day started off decent; I woke up on time, ate a decent breakfast and got to the site early enough to do one lap to remember the course and register. After pinning on my numbers I set up my trainer by my truck and warmed up while watching the juniors race. The warm-up was not all that I wanted it to be, but it was something. Packed up my trainer 20 minutes before my race was to start, went to the restroom and started heading towards the start...without my sunglasses. So I rode back to my truck and quickly searched for them, in vain, before I had to bolt to the start to avoid missing it. As a result, I was at the very back of the group of 50 racers, and this race started at the bottom of the main hill leading up to the finish; yay!
The whistle blew and I was off. The back. Really, really badly. A group of four or five guys formed about 100 meters in front of me, one of which was a teammate. I chased them for two laps and caught them in time for the group to shatter into pieces. My teammate Tom and one other guy rode together for several laps before Tom dropped on the next to last lap of the race. This was near the bottom of the finish climb and also about the time that the moto ref came by and informed is that the leaders were about 30 seconds behind us. I picked it up a notch hoping not to get lapped but was caught and passed by the leader on the descent after the finish. Soon after that the main front group came by, but I could not hang on to them for long. In that main group was another teammate of mine who was doing his very first race ever; he wound up getting a podium spot in 3rd place.
No idea where I actually finished (scored me 23rd but that is wrong) since they had some scoring issued in our race. During the race I set new personal bests for power in the five minute and 20-minute brackets which indicated that I needed to bump my FTP up some. That means I'm making progress, which is good, but I still have a long way to go. Looking at my data after the race and comparing it to the data of other teammates who were in my race, it was very evident that you gain a HUGE advantage by being in the pack. Next race for me is April 17th, the Carl Dolan crit. The course here is not as hilly and I have every intention of turning myself inside out to stay in the main pack as long as I can.
The start of daylight savings time at the end of March meant the start of the notorious Glenelg Gang training rides. This is possibly the fastest, baddest ride in the area and I've never felt up to being able to do it, although I had tried once or twice in the past. The first GG ride was to be March 15, but I elected to ride solo from the house due to questionable weather. The following Tuesday I showed up to ride and feeling quite good. After having been dropped off the back right at the gun at Black Hills I was determined not to suffer the same fate at the GG ride, so I rode on the front of the train for five of the first six miles. I pulled off about a mile from the first climb of the route, the climb that splits the pack of between 20 and 40 riders into two or more groups. I was feeling really good as the pace line rode by and was looking for a hole where I could fit in, but it never materialized and I wound up at the end of the 25 rider line. As the front of the group hit the hill gaps started opening immediately so I got out of the saddle and tried to make it up to the lead group of 10 or 12 guys since my objective was to ride with the front group as long as possible. I almost made contact but was caught by traffic on one of the major roads the route took us on. I tried working with some others but ended up getting a stitch in my side and riding the majority of the remainder of the ride alone. Overall though, I was very happy with my effort and was looking forward to the following week.
March 29th came and again I headed to the GG ride, this time hoping to be a little bit smarter. I wasn't feeling quite as good as I had the previous week, but was feeling good none-the-less. I sat mid-pack for the first five miles at which point I was sitting 3rd wheel, which I thought was just about perfect as I would be near the front when we hit the hill, allowing me to fade back a bit during the climb and still be with the leaders. Then something happened and I wasn't sure what to do, but I think I chose poorly. The guy on the front of the line took off and was chased by the 2nd wheel leaving a gap in front of me of more than 30 feet. I chased, feeling it was my responsibility to close the gap I had let open and this proved to be a mistake. About a quarter mile before the hill both guys sat up to regroup, and while I was at the front, I was also spent. I pulled off and drifted back to the back of the line...again. I worked with one other guy for the next 12 miles or so, each taking turns pulling, and we kept a pretty good pace. At mile 19, the front group, having added an extra 1.5 miles to the cuesheet, caught us at a stop sign. I rode with them for a while before being dropped and riding back with a couple of other guys. Another very good effort in comparison to almost every ride I've ever done in the past, solo or with a group.
That's about it I guess. Our team kits came in today and we are all getting together on Sunday (Brady's birthday!!!) to pick them up and do a team photo. I ordered a jersey for Brady as well and he's excited to be a part of the team. Looking forward to more training and more improvements!
Here is an edited video of the Black Hills race. Since I was shot out the back from the start it doesn't make for very exciting stuff, but it's what I have. Enjoy!