Winter Series Road Race #1
Category 5 (Club category, not USCF)
Field: 72 total starters, 68 finishers
Place: 3rd (Category 5), 17th Overall
Teammates in my group: Josh and Roger
This was my first race, so I didn't really know what to expect. It was not a USCF-sanctioned race so the categories aren't the same as USCF categories. (There were 6 categories instead of 5).
Roger, Jim, and I rode the course the previous Tuesday. So I knew where the potholes, turns, and "The Wall" were located.
The race had a staggered start with the 6's going first, followed 5 minutes later by the 5's. Four minutes after our start the 4's left, etc. The idea of the handicap is to have every group reach the finish line around the same time.
It was 35 degrees when I got to the staging area. It warmed up a bit by the time we got started but it was still pretty chilly! Our plan was pretty simple --- keep away from the Category 4 riders for as long as possible. I went out to the front a few times when I felt the pace was slackening. We dropped a few riders before we got to the first turn onto Oak Glen. Roger suggested I get to the front of the pack as we headed to the one major hill (aka "The Wall") on the course. I went over first, closely followed by a guy named Luis, and Josh. Josh talked us into pushing our advantage on the downhill. The three of us worked together and finished the first lap together in the lead. Eventually Roger brought a group of about 10 guys up to us. Some of the folks didn't contribute much to the pacemaking so about six of us probably ended up doing most of the work.
The second time up the Wall, Josh and Luis got out ahead of me. Right at the top, I started getting caught by riders from the 1,2,3,and 4s. I latched on to the group that formed and managed to stay with the lead group as we made the turns onto Watsonville Rd. and then Uvas Rd. Some guy in a pickup truck came down the road in the opposite direction just as I was crossing a narrow bridge on Uvas which unnerved me a bit. Not being much used to racing conditions, I unfortunately let myself fall back a bit on the run-in up to the uphill finish line. The group began to pull away from me but I could see at least a couple of them slowing down. So I decided to give it my best shot and managed to pass at least two riders just before the finish line.
In retrospect, I probably should have checked behind me at the crest of the hill the first time over to see if there were any other riders close the our group of three. If we had had a larger group we may have been able to push a faster pace on the second lap. That might have been enough to get us to the finish line before the groups that started later could catch us.
My teammate, Josh, who recently joined our club at the last meeting came in first in our group. Another teammate in a higher category came in first overall.
It was a fun, unthreatening intro to racing.