Here it is.
The most anticipated road race of the year! The Vuelta a Miami. With the winner getting $1000 and 14th place getting $100 this thing attracted the big guns. Frank Trevisio (winner of NRC Pro12 races and Las Vegas USA Crits) and Yosvany Falcon (NRC podium finisher) were present. Other Pros came out of the wood work to stake claim to the cash prizes.
No race like this has ever taken place in Florida. A road race starting and finishing within the City limits with a serious rolling enclosure on heavily used roads made this a MUST event for all serious Florida racers.
This is Miami so the race went off with some prerace drama. USA cycling has this 72 mile road race listed as a criterium and there were not a lot of details available regarding how the support vehicles would work, whether/where there would be feed zones. To top that off they ran the race with P1234 and Masters 35+ together. The original flyer had P12 together and 3/4 and Masters beginning 5 minutes afterwards. The original flyer also had a field max of 300 riders. A later flyer had all categories together and a max field of 200 riders. The second flyer turned out to be the way the race was run and the field max of 200 riders had been met. All of this prerace confusion led to USA Cycling sending an email to registered riders at 5 pm the day before the race saying the permit had been cancelled.
Oh I forgot the mention, they chaged the course last minute too (albeit, this new course led to a much safer but more challenging race).
Like I said, this is Miami, so the race went on as scheduled!
All week the weather has been partly sunny with periods of mostly cloudy and seriously windy conditions. Intent on making the Vuelta a Miami akin to a Ardennes spring classic, mother nature saved the best for the race. The race conditions were as follows: Temp: about 80 degrees, mostly sunny, Wind: from the E at 22mph with gusts up to 35 mph! Yep, if felt like springtime in Belgium (save the temp).
The Course is a 72 miles out and back loop which starts out heading west and slighlty south and west again for the first 5 miles. Then it runs North and slighly East and North again before turning back. So, the last 5-7 miles are directly into the headwind. Lots of fun! The first five miles were run with speeds reach over 38+ due to the tailwind. The we turned into the wind.
Prior to turning into the wind I moved up into the front third of the field knowing that once we the wind hit us the field would split quickly. And boy did it split. Barely 20 minutes into the race a breakaway with about 8 pros got off and the peloton as shattered into chase groups. We were strung out across both lanes (this rolling enclosure thing is nice!) and I as in the gutter of the first chase group of about 30 riders with the next chase group about 40 seconds behing and various groups formed after that. We were going 29 mph into a 22 mph crosswind and I was getting no protection from the wind in the gutter. At almost 6' tall and 148 lbs, I'm not built for these conditions! My HR was at 190 (my max for my age) and I was praying for a couple echelons to form... Wait, this is Miami, these guys aren't thinking about setting up echelons! Actually, to give them some credit, not many people can think while eduring the death march that the Vuelta quickly became. I could not continue at that clip so a sat up and jumped on the next group... and then the next. I quickly discovered that most of the people who I regulary race with (Cat 3s) got caught out behind my and I was rolling with the Pros before my heart almost exploded in my chest! from here (mile 20 or so I was just trying to pull my weight and get this thing over with! The Wind (yes I capitalized it) never let up. I was one of 3-4 people actually taking pulls and we would shed riders and pick up the leftovers from the chase groups ahead...and then shed those riders.
Eventually we saw the leaders come by us on the other side of the 4 lane highway seperated by a large grass ditch. I thought to myself, at least I'm almost half way done. The Wind continued to batter people all the way back and then we hit that 5 miles directly into the wind. All I can say is... not fun. I started to pick up the pace about a kilometer out from the finish and sprinted got passed and tucked in behind the guy who passed me and sprinted again across the line (this as a seating sprint since I had almost nothing left in the tank. I have no idea where I finished, but I know it couldn't be worse than 40th.
Takeways from this race include the following: 1) If you are going to do a race like this, in these conditions, don't start your base training until AFTER that race (I haven't raced in about 2 months and haven't done any intervals or any VO2 or any efforts above my LT during that time. Had the wind not been an issue that would have been ok, but...the Wind an issue); 2) Depsite all of the naysayers and the questions leading up the race; this thing went off without a hitch and as a joy (in a painful way only bike racers understand) to participate in. Its the new Florida one day Monument race, and I glad I was able to participate in the race and that everyone made it back safely with no crashes...maybe only a broken HR monitor ; 3) I'm going to kill Cat 3 next season...