Central Park Vets race this morning: 6:30AM start, it's still dark. 43º or so, clear, roads wet from the rains the previous night. The first thing I notice @ registration is that the crowd is less than half the previous week. This is my second race in 8+ years, and as soon as we take off I discover several things:
• A smaller field makes the race much harder, not easier. A couple of reasons: the only people who show up to race on wet roads in the dark tend to be the hard core participants. Fewer, faster riders means when the pace gets hot and the paceline strings out, there are fewer wheels to grab before there is only empty space between you and the last man.
• A wet road made me fearful of riding close to the wheel in front of me, particularly on descents. Combine that with the above and it's a sure recipie for getting spit out.
• At the end of Lap 1 a crash almost takes me out. As bicycles and riders slide down the road next to me @ 25+ mph, one of them JUST missed me. Last week's close call didn't phase me. This near death experience scared the living **** out of me. I was waiting for it with the wet roads, but that didn't make it easier. All you can do in these situations as the mayhem unfolds near you is stay calm, hold your line, and don't panic. Particularly on a wet road. If that crash has your name on it you're going down. I was very lucky today.
• This week they were chasing a breakaway. The lactic acid in my legs from Saturday's 76 mile ride reared its head: I thought it might. At mile 8 or so I wasn't so much gassed as my legs were hurting too much to put out the watts I needed to maintain the 28mph speed, the 10 yard gap became 20 yards, lights out. Had the peloton been twice as large I might have grabbed a wheel. Not this week. By the time I came off the pack was down to 25 guys or less. Very small field.
Oh well. That's how racing can be. And of course, the 3/4 race came behind me and as they approached the lead dude screams 'SLOW RIDER!!!!'. Yeah, like, I know. Don't rub it in. Moral of the story: the next time the roads are wet, I'm going for a nice, safe 3 hour ride through the hills near home : ). And no more hard 5 hour rides the day before a race. Duh. I knew that yesterday when I did that ride. Sometimes I know this stuff, but I do it anyway. Frankly the 5 hour ride yesterday was more important to me than the race today. Never should have raced today, but I'm so psyched about racing again, I made a dumb decision. Live and learn.
Of course any race you can walk away from wasn't all bad.