Hey everyone, I had my first race this past weekend and wanted to share the experience with you guys. I did the Union City crit which is part of the Georgia Cup championships. I was really nervous going into it because, not only was it my first race, but I haven't been able to ride as much as I would have liked to because we've had a really bad winter even here in Atlanta (I can't tolerate real cold temps).
So, my goals for this race were to 1) stay as close to the pack as possible 2) don't get dropped and/or lapped. I rode the course beforehand and got a feel for it. The finish/start straight was slightly uphill, probably 2%, with two sharp right hand turns leading into the back straight, which was pretty much flat. Then there was a really fast right hand turn leading into a 4-5% grade hill, then another right hander which led up a steeper 6-7% grade hill. Two things stood out, the wind (it was really windy) and that hill were going to hurt. I warmed up for about 30 min before the start, but I now realize that wasn't enough. I think with my nerves going full blast and the wind, I should've warmed up for at least 45min. That's one thing I learned. We started at close to a full sprint. I couldn't believe how fast we started off, it shocked me to some degree. One thing I noticed, which I didn't expect, was that close to half the field (31 riders) was made up of teams. I didn't think that would be much of a factor in a cat 5 race, but I was wrong. The top placing guys were all on teams. I haven't joined a team because I thought team tactics in a cat 5 race wouldn't really occur. Anyway, about 15 min (30min race) in I'm still with the main group so I try an attack and go wide to the left on the front straight and actually end up getting in front of the group, but couldn't get away enough to make a dent. Then at the first turn I got shut out of the line I wanted to take and couldn't get back in to get on someone's wheel. So I was in the wind for some time and the suffering I felt was magnified tenfold. That's when I felt like I was going to crack. I kept looking at my HRM timer and was thinking, "Holy crap, I can't keep this up for another 10mins, I'm dying here!" I will never keep track of time in a race again, it turns into a psychological test as much as a physical one.
At any rate, I kept trying to get back onto someone's wheel, but was just a few seconds off, but being in the wind by myself it was next to impossible. There was one other guy that was with me, but being the newbie that I am I didn't even think to try to get him to work with me to get back on the group, which I think if we would've worked together we could've caught back on. One more thing learned. So to make a really long story a little shorter, I sort of accomplished my goals. I didn't get dropped too bad and I didn't get lapped (I actually lapped some people). I ended up finishing 15th out of the 31 rider field, which I'm pretty proud of. I think that if I take what I learned and apply it to my next race (in a couple weeks) I can do better. It was a great experience, in more ways than one and I can't wait for the next one. Sorry for such a long post, but I've learned a good bit lurking around on here so I wanted to share it with you.