I entered a TT in February because it was only 5 minutes from my house, did a Crit mid-April, and finally managed to get in my first RR yesterday. The TT was kind of one-timer for me as I have no aero equipment whatsoever. I entered the Crit because it was somewhat close to home, and buried in the middle of two weeks that I was taking off of work, but staying home. I knew I'd suck at the Crit but wanted to at least try as it was a relatively big local event. I got spit out the back 30% of the way through the race and eventually pulled out after getting lapped. Although the atmosphere was a lot of fun, the Crit and the difficulty of it (hilly .8 mile course) kind of stole any joy for competition out of me.
I entered the RR yesterday with hesitations and the "What the heck am I actually DOING here?!?" thoughts going through my head, but had 4 other team mates around me offering their encouragement. One of my team mates was on his first ever RR as well and so we promised each other we'd stick it out with a goal only of finishing and taking pulls once we both inevitably got burped out back. Much to both of our surprise we hung with the pack REALLY well during the first lap of 5 (6-mile circuit), but my buddy got wasted on the climb back to the start/finish and start lagging off the back pretty noticeably, and so as promised, I dropped back to help him hopefully catch back up with the pack. He was toast before the end of the 2nd lap and by then the pack was WAY out of reach, which was fine, because I probably would've been dropped on my own by the 3rd lap or so myself. I totally surprised myself with my own abilities while in the pack, while trying to chase it down, while climbing (a sore weakness of mine right now - one I'm gaining a lot of ground on, but still my main weakness), simply maintaining speed/effort/etc...
All that aside, I was really encouraged that I could hang with the pack like I did, could hold the speeds the leaders were setting (at one point doing 29mph on a flat while seated - unheard of for me!), and think that with some continued training at harder but not unattainable levels, I can finish with the pack at least once by the end of the season - especially since a number of people were describing this course as more hilly than most. After my April Crit, I had nearly no desire for real competative cycling because of the difficulty of the race, but yesterday's RR has COMPLETELY restored my desire to continue. I had a total blast (and my buddy that dropped out after lap 2 claims to have loved it and wants to try and try and try again himself) and am currently planning on at least 2 more RR's before the end of the year. Next year, I'll finish with the pack consistently. I'm sure of it. Yesterday was a much-needed confidence booster!
I am really glad I tried again. Seeing that I'm not that far away from hanging with the pack for an entire race boosted my confidence a lot. Last July/August I came off of a 10yr slump from riding bikes of any kind, sold off my MTB and steel Trek road bike so I could purchase a modern bike, got even MORE hooked, sold off a prized acoustic guitar so I could purchase my Tarmac, got even MORE hooked, joined up with a race team with 3 other team members living within 5 miles of me, and haven't really looked back. Considering that working on my training/fitness didn't truly start until last July/August and considering the hard/wet winter we had in my neck of the woods, I try not to be too hard on myself for not being more advanced right now (came into '07 kind of handicapped in comparison to others). Continuing a solid training schedule throughout the rest of the summer and into fall/winter ought to place me in at least relatively competative position for '08. All things said, I feel okay about where I am right now, but know I'll be even better next year.