It's long, skip to the end if you want. This is for the Cat 4 race.
Lesson learned, if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. The day started pretty inauspiciously. I had alloted what I thought was a reasonable amount of time for the journey from Chicago to Wisconsin. I left at 9am, for my race at 12:10. Wrong I was. The drive time nearly doubled, due to a number of fresh auto accidents. Something about the weather makes drivers crazy, or something.
So, I arrive at the race with 20 minutes to spare. Luckily, the pre-registration line is moving almost as slowly as the same-day registration line. Tick, tick, tick. 10 minutes to go till race time, and I run back to my car and quickly throw on my bib and jersey. Warmup? Nah.
I run to staging area with minutes to spare. As I'm standing around with my fellow racers, I notice a sound - a hissing sound. My tube has started leaking air from around the valve stem. Damn. Run back to the car, and change the tube faster than I've ever changed one.
Make it back just in time. Course in 6 miles, four corners. Some smaller hills, and a longer, steeper one right before the start/finish. We do a neutral rollout up the hill the first time. I notice one guy is having trouble at the neutral pace, and he is slowly fading on the hill. Not going to be a good day for him.
Things are very relaxed the first lap. Biggest team represented is XXX, from what I can tell. Funny thing happens on the backstretch of the first lap. XXX guy is behind me and a little to my right. I'm on the shoulder of the road, with a guy's wheel in front of me. He yells, RIGHT SIDE! I reply, "Yeah?" What is it about calling out right side or left side that makes people assume that it's some sort of directive.
Anyways, each time up the climb is great for me, and I'm usually cresting it in the top-5 or top-10 riders. By the third time up, I'm starting to feel it a little. Throughout the race there are attacks here and there, but nothing gets away for long. On one of the climbs on the backstretch, XXX is trying to make something stick. They send one of their guys off, and another guy yells to him as he's going that "It's ok, I'll block." Alright, you block. I go around him and bridge. We have a gap on the field, but we aren't going anywhere.
On the last lap, people hit the hill hard. I crest the top with the leaders, and it's there that a Vision Quest guys goes. I think about going with him. I'm a bit winded, but if I dig in I can make it to his wheel. I don't, and fall back and wait for everyone else to recover from the hill. This mistake later comes back to haunt me.
Turns out this Vision Quest guy is pretty good at staying away. People try to get organized for a chase, but nothing really gets going. Really surprising considering XXX has about 8 people or so in the top part of the pack. I sit in and conserve my energy for the ineivitable sprint finish. Wait, sprint finish? What am I thinking, my sprint sucks.
I have good position coming into the turn going to the final hill. Somewhere in the top 5. Someone goes hard, and everyone else responds. Those who have the legs move up, those who don't start sliding back. I make a good effort, but start to fade with the top just in sight. Looking at the powerfile of this section, it's pretty clear I just don't have it this time up. This is where I'm passed by about 4 people. I come into the finish not able to pass anyone, but letting no one behind me pass me. I can barely turn the pedals. I waited forever for the results to be posted, but left before I can check it.
So, some lessons learned. First, I need to work more to take advantage of my strengths. With an FTP of 4.3-4.4 w/kg, but a (new personal best) 1 minute of 7.66 w/kg, my wins won't come in the sprint. I actually held my own the first five times up the hill fine, but the last time up I faded hard. Also should be more aggressive. The guy who went off the front had it right - attack, attack, attack. Good news the variable efforts filled in my mean maximal power curve. After going from about 146-140 lbs, everything but the top end is still intact. Couple months ago I used to be able to hit 830 watts, now nothing above 760 in a while. But everything below neuromuscular power is the same or better.
Also, I like road races a lot more than crits.
Work: 1250 KJ
TSS: 153 (0.958)
Norm Power: 268 (Average: 208)
Distance: 38 miles