My first road race came four years ago in central New Hampshire. It started with a steep climb in the first mile and I, along with the half of the Cat 5, 35+ field, was shelled. I eked out 26th out of 50 starters, but never saw the front of the race again.
The Virginia State Age-Graded Road Race last Saturday was my second real road race. This one was set on a 15-mile course of rolling hills in Midlothian, west of Richmond, in ideal weather: mid-70s at the start and dry. The 40+ field was stacked. One of my teammates called it the strongest 40+ fields he’d ever seen. I lined up with J-Law, Greco and John M, worrying that this race would be over for me as quick as my first one. The pace didn’t start easy, but I had little trouble hanging in the pack as it pounded along, accordioning in on the hills and at the turns and out on the downhills and flats. After a lap, I’d gained some confidence and moved up figuring I’d try to block if a teammate got away, but the field wasn’t letting anything get away. At best only one or two would escape and dangle maybe 250 meters up the road, frying.
By the third lap, I thought I might try my hand and moved further to the front, jumping whenever a particularly strong rider from Charlottesville did. I was basically covering his moves, but so was the rest of the field. No one was letting him get away. I drifted back early in the 4th lap, hoping to recover, then picked my way toward the front along with the other 60 riders as the finish neared.
I sat maybe 20th as the pack turned onto Genito Road, maybe 2.5 miles from the finish. The pace was pegged around 30mph and I just kept trying to hold my position and move up. Maybe a mile from the finish two guys suddenly tangled just to my right and started to crash. I braked and scooted all the way to the left to get around the carnage. Meanwhile, the top 15 guys roared off the front. I closed the gap with great effort, tacking back on the end maybe 500 meters out – about where that church is in the picture above. But I latched on just as the leaders started to sprint and I had nothing left. I guess I finished about 17th. You can sort of make out my yellow helmet about 100 meters back in the photo, ripped off from the Dawg. Greco nailed 6th place!
Aside from the nasty crash and occasional dodginess in the pack, the race was a success for me. Yes, a better placing would have been nice, but I’m new to this level of racing and it was a stacked field. And finishing with the group had been my starting goal. One amazing bit of trivia: We raced 60 miles at an average speed of just over 26mph.
Afterwards, D-bo took my bike and left me behind (at my request):
My Mom and Millie came and picked me up moments later and we drove to Fairfax for my nephew/godson Sebastian’s 2nd birthday. Good weekend.