Monday, 1 June
Saturday was the OBRA masters road race. Old biddies like me (and ones a lot younger than me too) got to race two laps (32 miles) on a hilly course just across the river from Longview. It was a perfect afternoon for a bike race, maybe a touch warm but that was just conditioning for the hotter races ahead this summer.
Since there were three age groups racing together in my race, I wrote the numbers of those in my age group on my arm before the start so I could keep tabs on them. The course goes up and down a bunch early on, but we stayed together. About miles 4-7 are mostly up and finish with the second most significant climb on the course. That's where a pair of riders (one in my age group) split the race to bits. Two of us managed to stay with them and two more caught back on. So we were a group of six for the descending portion of the course, and we worked well in a paceline to keep the speed up. Unfortunately, the last two to get on got popped for good on a roller about two miles from the end of the lap.
The 16-mile loop finishes up a 1K climb that's nice and twisty and not severely steep. About halfway up, I realized I was not exactly holding on to the wheel in front of me and before I knew it, they had a gap. Blah. I figure I should bury myself and work on closing the gap, but they are driving it up there and all I can do is keep the gap constant. Blah. 16 miles to go. Three ahead, two immediately behind, the rest who knows where. TT time!
The first mile of this course has stunning views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams, but I promise I did not see them during the race. The three ahead were in sight and I was trying to at least hold the gap constant. Up and down, twist, turn, and they're out of sight simply because you can't see very far. Somewhere out there where I'm trying to pretend that I'm motoring along and holding off the riders behind, I pass a sign at the end of a driveway that says "small engine repair." This is exactly what I need! Clearly I do not have a large engine, and clearly it needs some tuning up so that it can reach higher RPMs and thus have better acceleration. I make a mental note to consult the yellow pages when I get home and see what can be done.
I knew I would lose time on a group through the downhill stretch, even more when I realized how much of a headwind there was. Pedal, pedal, pedal. This is where I figured out that this entire race was going to take me less time than the climb at training camp from the John Day River at Clarno up to Hamilton. That climb had been hard work too, so a little mental self-flagellation convinced me to keep the pressure on and try to hold off the field behind.
Somewhere around about mile 2 or 3 of my second lap, I realized that the official for the race was following me. At one point, she went up the road to check on the front group, but she came back and followed me. So long as she was right there, I figured there were no riders close behind her or she would've pulled over to let them pass. I also figured she wasn't giving me any time splits to the riders behind in order to keep a fire lit under me. :) After the race, she told me I was the "first chase group" (a kinder phrase than "last one to get dropped") and hence that's who she was following.
There's a flat straight bit of road before the final climb, and I couldn't see anyone behind me. There was a photographer just after the road tilted up, and when I asked he said he couldn't see anyone either. I didn't exactly soft pedal the finishing climb, but at least I didn't have to try to hold off a closing stampede. So I finished 4th overall, 2nd in my age group. I don't think the order of finish would've been much different if we had just done 16 miles. Turns out the break of three was probably the biggest group on the road--the field behind was shattered into onesies and twosies with huge time gaps between.
Since 32 miles seemed a bit short for a day's effort, I rode the loop backward after the race. Funny how the pitch of a road looks so much different going the opposite direction. And how you see so much more when you're not oxygen deprived with race blinders on!