I haven't posted a road race report in a while, but today was my first race in the Cat 3's so I decided to write about it.
The race was 64 miles, with 4 laps of 15 miles, then another 4 miles to the finish, halfway up a big hill. There were 2 major hills on each lap, one was about 700 ft (the finish was 400 ft up this climb), and the other was about 300 ft. I don't know the field size, but I'm guessing it was around 70, with 7 from my team. The first lap was pretty relaxed, but felt a little faster than Cat 4. A couple guys tried solo breaks, and one was caught at the start of the second lap. On the second lap climb 3 guys broke away and bridged to the other breakaway guy (I would later find out that one of the bridgers was a teammate of the breakaway guy). In Cat 4 & 5 I always rode near the front and never let a breakaway happen without me in it, but I was the new guy in the Cat 3's and I was riding a little further back in the pack than I usually do, so by the time I worked my way up to the front, 4 guys were gone. For the next 40 miles I rode near the front (against the advice of my teammates who were trying to have me save my energy for the end), taking short pulls with about a dozen other guys, covering breaks, and a few of us were trying to organize, but never got it together. We'd go hard for a mile or 2, then no one would want to pull, so we'd slow. The 4 man break was long gone, so the pack was racing for 5th.
As we went by the start finish line with 4 miles to the finish (about 3 flat then a 1 mile climb), I was leading again and took a look back. It looked like everyone was still right there and I was exhausted, a couple guys took off on solo breaks here, I was too tired to cover the first, but managed to get on the wheel of the second, but this only lasted about half a mile before we were caught. I slowed a bit and a speedy guy from Squadra Ovest went by and I got on his wheel. He took a really long hard pull to the base of the hill, and then about 10 or so of us started climbing the final hill like crazy racing for 6th. We quickly caught the late solo breakaway, and now the race was for 5th. By the top of the steep part I was in a group of 4 as we headed for the false flat to the line. I gave everything I had over the last 200 and was 2nd to the line, finishing 6th. The guy who beat me in the sprint rode for the International Christian Cycling Club, and their guys had done a lot of work at the front of the peleton, so I didn't feel too bad about it.
Overall I was pleased with the result, but I wish I had got in the 4 man break, just to see if I could have hung with those guys.