Yesterday I rode my first road race of the season, the Snelling Road Race. It's quite a bit east and south of us, on the eastern side of the Central Valley, at the foot of the Sierra foothills. The almond orchards we drove and rode pastare in various states of flowering, some with the petals like snowflakes on the branches, other with petals on the ground, also giving the effect of snow. There are ranches, feedlots, chicken farms, and many kinds of fruit and nut orchards. The area is prettier than I thought, but certainly remote.
We picked up my teammate at 4:45 a.m. and drank coffee and chatted as cgallagh drove the many miles to our destination. We had an 8:40 start time, and the promoters were using chips, so we had two lines to stand in, three if you count the port-a-potty line. That, and my forgetting my pre-filled bottles (Chris scrambled to get me a freebie and Cytomax to fill it), left us with no time to warm up. Although overcast, it wasn't cold by most standards, maybe 50* at the start.
While we were lined up to start the official shared that the Women's Category 4 was so big they had to create two fields, a historic first for this race. The women cheered enthusiastically at this news. How cool that women are taking up racing in bigger numbers than ever!
So here's the line up:
We're sporting our new kits. The color is based on my bike's color, pistachio. You know how OCP I am:
And we're off:
Once we got underway I found myself in the middle of the pack, and not liking it. So I jumped on the wheel of someone moving up on the left side of the pack, and got to 4th from the front. I liked it there -- the pace was just right, and I had lots of room and could see the road ahead. I stayed here for about 6-7 miles:
Then we hit a sandy, gravelly turn for which I didn't properly prepare, and I was gapped, and ultimately dropped. Sigh. I briefly toyed with the idea of dropping out while saving face (riding over glass, for instance) but then decided to use the race for training. So for the next 5-6 miles I practiced time-trialling, and actually passed people not changing flats or waiting for medical help.
Just into the 2nd lap I met two women from my group with whom I could work, and so we did. One of them had an asthma attack and dropped out. The woman who was left was riding an Orbea Onix, had red Sidi shoes, was in her 2nd year of racing, and is 6 mos. older than I. We celebrated what we shared, as well as being the "old broads" on our team and worked well together. We picked up another woman on the 3rd lap and had a nice paceline going on for a number of miles.
On the last turn of the last lap, with 200 m. to go on an uphill finish, we hit a sprint and I thought I was going to lose that bottle of Cytomax I drank. My partners finished ahead of me by 1/2 bike length. My teammate said we weren't far behind her. I joked that I finished in the bottom 5, but really, I celebrated that I finished. There were many who didn't.
This was a challenge on several levels. My training for the spring classics is off, I'm carrying more weight than this time last year, my riding has been curtailed most of this month due to extra work commitments and weeks of rain. On the other hand, I had great fun: I learned I really like riding at the front (and so need to develop the skills to stay there), I got in valuable training and handling skills, and I made a new friend. I rode hard and hurt the rest of the day, the kind of hurt you get from major exertion. All in all, it was a terrific day. And since I've been watching the ATOC, I'm inspired to want the rest of the pack to enjoy this view the next time I race: