|Passed a few of these today - owned!!!|
I had no expectations, and a large Indian buffet and a few pints last night at a wedding didn't exactly set me up for success.
As soon as we got to the "race on" point, the front guys hammered it... and the group splintered. There were a few climbs, too, which landed me waaaay in the red. Not a good start, I was very worried I'd be riding 133km solo.
In fact I ended up in a very small group, just 4 of us. We took turns but if this was it, this was going to be a pretty long day.
Fortunately we began to collect people, from both ends - some large faster groups caught us, and some folks getting popped came back to us. It ended up being really great - this would be the group I'd be with the rest of the day.
My buddy gave me some advice - to be at the front at the hills so if my climbing pace wasn't up to snuff I would not lose touch by the top. This helped a lot, I managed to stick with the group on every climb. In fact by the end I was leading us over the hills!
Big moment #1 - a guy swerved into me and our handlebars locked together. I thought I was going down, fortunately neither of us overreacted and we managed to stay up and get separated. Whew!
Big moment #2 - on a climb my chain popped off! This was at a horrible time - things were just kind of gearing up for the finish. I was near the front but even so, in the time it took me to stop and get it back on, everyone had passed... I killed myself going up the hill, and then on the downhill, even going so far as to draft the car that was trailing us! But I made it back to the group... whew.
Coolest moment - sprint finish! We got to the final 1km as a big bunch, I managed to get myself near the front, flew down the final descent and then absolutely hammered it Cavendish-style to the finish... as we battled for the very coveted 143rd place. Still, it was cool. Felt awesome.
Result: 3:46:27 (35.2km/h) - 148/258.
Thing I Did Right - it was a hot day, probably hottest so far this year... I brought 3 bottles with me but that was not enough, so had to depend on the aid stations. At about the half-way point I saw one ahead, so I got myself to the very front of the group - managed to get two bottles of Gatorade and stuff them in my jersey. A guy joked that it looked like I was "running a convenience store"... I bet by the end he wished he'd thought of it though! Grabbed another bottle at a later aid station, so 6 bottles total - and I drank every drip of them.
Despite the cool moment, I didn't actually enjoy most of the race. I felt tense for most of it, always having to anticipate what the people around me were about to do (and sometimes that was impossible as they did some craaaaazy things!).
Worse than the unpredictable people were the self-appointed group leaders, with their little unwritten rules... and instead of sharing those rules with the obvious newbies in the group, they just bitch at them.
I had one female rider get pissy at me because the pace line (that only existed in her head) didn't go the way she thought it should... I didn't go as far forward and take a pull like she thought I should. Except there was no pace line, it had fallen apart several kilometers ago. Besides, I was in this group to suck wheels, not to pull! P.S. if you're reading this (you're probably not) - I beat you in the sprint for 143rd. Suck it.
So that was my big realization today - I don't really like this group road riding with random strangers thing. I'm more suited to the lone wolf triathlon training, or the off-road stuff.