Not only did I finish the race today, but I got 10th place! I’m not sure how many people started the race, but it was something like 20-25. My result isn’t that impressive when you consider that I finished in the middle, pretty much, but when you remember that in my last race I made it only half way before getting dropped, it sounds much better.
The day was about as cold as my last race (which was four weeks ago), but it was much less windy, and that made for a much nicer ride. The race started off pretty fast, in exactly the same manner as the last one did, with a fairly smooth pace until the bottom of the hill when a couple women attacked and we all had to haul ourselves up the hill as fast as we could. Those two women stayed at the front of the pack and pushed the pace whenever they felt like it, and before too many laps went by, they had broken away from the main pack. We chased after them for a while, but eventually they got far enough ahead of us and the pack gave up. After that, it was a race for third place.
I was only vaguely aware that there were two people off the front, though; I was spending every moment concentrating on making sure I got up the hill each and every time without getting dropped. Two things helped me out; one is that we had a prime lap early on, before I got tired. In the last race they rang the bell for the prime a little over half way through when I’d begun to wear out, and when the pack took off, I couldn’t keep up. This time I wasn’t as tired, and the pack didn’t speed up quite as much, so I had no trouble hanging on. The other thing that helped was that once the pack gave up chasing those two women off the front, it slowed down and I had a chance to rest. A couple times I looked down at my heart rate monitor and saw that my heart rate was 155, which is low for a race.
So I found myself in the middle of the finishing sprint, which has only happened a few times in my race experience. I didn’t really know what to do. There are strategies to follow, such as positioning yourself in just the right place to get the best angle heading up the hill to the finish line, or starting your sprint at just the right place so you won’t wear yourself out before the end but won’t get left behind by those who started earlier than you. I’m aware of these things, but I don’t really know what to do about them. And I don’t really know what kind of sprint I have — how much I’m capable of accelerating up the hill at the end of a race. So I just did what I could to keep up with others around me; I think I passed someone on the hill and someone else passed me, but for the most part I was in the same place at the bottom of the hill as I was at the top. I got 8th in the field sprint, which meant 10th overall.
I’ll learn about sprinting with experience, of course, and hopefully I’ll develop more power to get me up the hill faster. I suspect my strength might be sprinting, if I were a strong enough rider to have strengths, which maybe I will be one day; at any rate, my strengths do not include hill climbing, that’s for sure.
Our speed was slower than I thought it would be: 20.6 mph. The category 5 men rode at something like 22 or 23 mph. Perhaps riding with them wouldn’t have been the easier option after all. For the curious: my average heart rate was 169, my maximum heart rate was 181, and our mileage was 16.9.