Sunday, March 2, 2008

La Primavera: Well, I didn't miss a turn

At last year's edition of this race, I got spit out the back of the pack on the long, steady climb at the beginning of the first lap. I then proceeded to miss a right hand turn, helped only by the yells of riders behind me, but not the corner marshal. On the second lap, I was determined to not miss the turn again, so I turned when I saw the corner marshal sitting in their chair. When I got to the end of that road, I saw the start/finish line to my left, and the rest of the course to my right. I had turned too early and cut off half of the course. Disgusted, I finished the lap and quit the race.

My goal this year was to not get lost on the 4.4 mile course. Tom, my teammate who had the misfortune of following me through last year's mishaps, suggested that it may be a good plan to stay with the pack, so that I don't get lost. This sounded like a good strategy. For some reason, Tom decided to not participate in the race this year.

My sister Patti was in town for her granddaughter's birthday, so I picked her up on my way to the race. We got there in plenty of time for me to register and warm up. Since there were no racers yet on the course, I chose to ride the course instead of my rollers. This was the first time I had ridden these roads since last year's ill-fated race, and I wanted to make sure I knew where to turn. I finished my 30-minute warmup and had 5 minutes left until the start of my Cat 5A race.

My goal for the race is quickly achieved as I arrive at the top of the initial climb near the front of the pack. In fact, it seems that most of the 40-odd rider pack also achieves this goal. We spread out a bit as we headed down the 40+mph hill, which was a good thing, because I saw the bike of one rider ahead and to my right go into a furious high-speed wobble. Not only was the front wheel vibrating left to right like crazy, but the back wheel was also in serious distress. Somehow, he managed to pull it out and not crash, though I don't remember seeing him again.

Here's the finish of the first lap, courtesy of Patti (who also supplied the photo at the top of this entry):

The second lap goes pretty well. The pace seems to pick up a bit near the top of the long opening climb, but I'm able to hold on, still near the front of the pack. I do have one brief scary moment when the guy in front of me throws his bike backward as he gets out of the saddle. I'm able to avoid hitting him, and I now have a second rider to be wary of. I hear someone mention that the pack is starting to break up behind us. Things are looking pretty good, but it's still early.

Lap three sees the pack blown apart on the initial climb. I can no longer hang on, but I'm not alone and I manage to get into a small grupetto. As we're going down the hill before the lap's finishing climb, we can see deer crossing the road, from left to right, on the climb. There are women on the right side of the road, waving at the deer and yelling at us to slow down. I can see that there are more deer coming from the left as we begin the climb, but feel confident that I can navigate through them. However, the rest of the grupetto starts to slow, so I choose to do the same, and touch my brakes. I suddenly feel someone run into my rear wheel, and then hear him pay the price for doing so, as he goes down.


Lap four is uneventful, as I pretty much ride it by myself. I do hear Richie call out to me and spot him as he drives in for his later race. After I finish the fourth lap, and ride through the parking area to begin the fifth and final lap, I look for Richie to see if he'd like to finish the race for me, but to no avail. As I shift down from my big ring for the last helping of long climb casserole, the chain comes off, and I can't get it back on using the derailleur, so I decide that this would be a good time for a short break. The Masters 35+ peloton passes as I'm putting my chain back on, and the two kids acting as corner marshal there refuse my offer to finish the race for me, so I soldier on.

I soon hear someone behind me, and as he comes beside me, I see that it's another Cat 5 rider. "Oh, I didn't realize there was anyone left behind me," I say.

"Yeah, there are a few back there. Some who had flats and stuff," he replied.

"And the guy who ran into my back wheel on lap 3 and crashed," I added.

He asked me if the rider was wearing the same Power Pedal jersey that he was wearing, and I reminded him that the rider was behind me, so I didn't see him.

We continued on for the rest of the lap, and as we got near the end, I was on his wheel, and he kept looking back at me. "Don't worry," I said, "I'm not going to try to outsprint you for 25th place." "Aw, it's all fun," he replied. Staying true to my word, however, I let him finish ahead of me.

Ok, I couldn't keep up with him on the finishing climb, but shhhhhhh!

I did, however, end up in 25th place. :-)

As I was waiting for the results to be posted, Vic, the Power Pedal rider, found me and told me that it was his teammate that crashed behind me, but that he was ok. I later found him and told him that I was sorry that he went down, and he had no hard feelings. Those Power Pedal guys seem like a class act, and I look forward to riding with them at Fayetteville in two weeks.

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