Considering that a lot of the Pro's in my area (New England) are all racing the Tour of Conneticut, I thought that I might have a good opportunity to get a result at today's Lake Sunapee Road Race because of the somewhat depleted field. The race was 70 miles - three laps - with several reasonable climbs and sharp descents on each lap.
In the past I've gone out too agressive and my candles are all burned low, and any attacks I make usually don't work out, by the finale of the race. So this considered, I had decided in this race I would race conservatively, and wait untill the third lap before going crazy with any brash moves of my own. So I was just field surfing, getting sucked along in the draft of the peloton as the field (maybe 50-60 riders... not that big for a pro-1-2) rolled along the big wide major roads at about 30mph. We took the first few climbs relatively slow, which was good since I didn't warm up, and my legs felt pretty crappy for the bulk of the first lap, very sluggish.
One rider spent most of the first lap dangling about 300 meters off of the front, and as the field was about to enter the seccond lap, some of the teams present chased down the lone escapee, and the agression resumed at the front of the field. Things strung out at the end of the first lap and we flew by the start finish at high speed. I was still chilling in the middle to rear of the field, and my legs were begining to feel better as the raced progressed. I got that "frisky" feeling that my legs get when I'm capable of accelerating quickly and digging deep.
At the begining of the seccond lap I moved to the front, and on a long stretch of road I could see that a group of ten or so was just begining to move off of the front. When I noticed this, the gap was small, and I probably could have jumped across as the gap was only about 200 meters. But having told myself that I would ride conservatively at the begining, and after looking around and seeing the three strongest riders of the race still sitting in the peloton biding their time, I decided not to try and get in the break. The break slowly gained about 90 seconds and got out of sight.
Towards the end of the second lap misfortune struck, as I was caught behind a rider who had a mechanical and came back through the field very quickly on a sharp descent and right before another big uphill. I braked hard to avoid him, and I found myself slightly off the rear of the group. I chased quickly back onto the back of the peloton, but at the front the pace was very fast. The whole field was strung out all over the climb, and there was a split about ten riders in front of me. I had just been slightly anaerobic in getting back onto the field, and now I went into oxygen debt again as I started sprinting to catch up with the lead part of the peloton which was pulling away. But I had a long way to go around the riders in front of me who were being dropped, and although I was feeling OK for the day, I didn't have quite enough in me at that moment.
I continued riding hard and six of the other dropped riders joined me as we chased hard to catch back up with the field which was slowly pulling away from us. I rode hard, and two of the six other riders were dropped. The five of us remaining started working together, but it wasn't to be. Some in our chase group had already considered their race over, and weren't putting in 100% effot to get back in to the lead. One rider told me to "SLOW DOWN" as I pulled through in our pace line and tried to get the pace higher. That pissed me off. This was a race, and here was a guy who's not on my team telling me to slow down? Like I'm supposed to go easy on this guy?
So I never made it back up to the lead peloton. And as it tuned out 7 of the 10 riders who were in the break made it to the finish to claim the top honors. It made me really regret not being my usual agressive self and at least trying to be a part of that break when I saw it go. I also learned that one of the Pro's in the race, who I was marking and whom didn't go with the break, had attacked by himself late in the final lap and nearly closed the gap to the lead break. He only missed by about 15 seconds at the finish, and got something like 8th in the race. It seems that his tactic was simply to bide his time, and try to take the race at the end by bridging up to any leaders, and ripping away from the field.
Because I'm not capable of matching that Pro rider's max accelerations or hangin on to him when he guns it at 100% up those big hills, it was probably pointless to "mark" him. If a rider like me (or any rider who acknowledges he's not the strongest or most experienced in their race) has any chance of beating the Pro's, then they have to be opportunistic. In the future, I'll be going back to racing agressively to try and get away from the start of the race and animating in whatever way I can. And if I'm lucky, strong riders will come and join me.
A lesson learned I guess... Thanks for reading.