Today I raced the Ravensdale – Cumberland Road Race, a lovely 2-loop, 58 mile course between Ravensdale and Cumberland, WA. This is the same course we scouted last week, and so I felt reasonably prepared. At the start, I found a bit of news — because the Cat 4/5 field was so large, they decided to split us up into Cat 4 and Cat 5. Well, since I hadn’t seen any Cat 5 only rides after early May, I hadn’t bothered to request an upgrade even though I’ve now hit the 10-race mark. Oops… so in short order, I’m the only Wines guy in the field, as the others have upgraded already. Turns out Steve, another rider, upgraded right after Mutual of Enumclaw as they split the Cat 4s and Cat 5s as well (I raced Masters C/D in that race, so didn’t think of the issue at the time).
Going into the race, I wasn’t too worried. It was well into the season and I’ve been riding well, and I should be more than capable of showing well against the Cat 5s than a mixed field. I had a strategy: stay in the front until the first time through the wall, get over as quickly as possible, and see what opportunities present themselves. I raced to the plan until the wall, and was towards the front when we went over. At this point, a number of other climbers sped past me, but I was OK with this as I knew I was towards the front and just needed to hang on. There were no crashes or big stalls from what I could see. We muscled to the top, hit the short straightaway, and then headed downhill. At this point, I noticed that there was a decent gap between the group I was with and the front group. The pack had split about in the middle.
At this point, I now realize why it’s bad to race with the 5s. There are two classes of 5s: those who have been racing with a good team and have a clue, and those who haven’t. By now, most of the racers on good teams have upgraded, leaving very few racers in the 5s who have a clue. This became evident when we attempted to get a rotating paceline going. Aside from this guy Ryan, neighbor of Trish, one of Wines fantastic Cat 1 Women, and an Oberto junior, none of these guys knew how to ride in a paceline. So, we gave a crash course to a bunch of Native Planet guys and a few other noobs on the basics… such as staying on wheels, slowing down when crossing over into the slow line, accelerating to hop onto the wheel of the last rider in the fast line, and so forth. But this was painful, and too often the rear pack was happy to sit on any rider (usually one of the stronger ones, like me) who was trying to take a turn at the front. Miraculously, at the end of the first lap, we caught up to the front. Seeing the thumbs-ups from the guys in the follow car was great as we passed back into the rolling enclosure.
We then went back up the initial hill and grabbed some water at the feed station 2 miles into the first lap. The field had slowed tremendously, as it seemed people were OK to take a breather until the second pass through the wall. I was happy to sit in for a bit and recover. However, here’s another trap for the 5s, as well as for riding with teammates. When you’re riding with teammates, you try to clump together, and you yell at one another when things happen. When you’re solo, you have to always pay attention, and when you’re tired and recovering, this can be tough. The pace of the front group picked up suddenly and I found myself with about 6-8 riders gapped. As I saw the gap widening, I tried to ask for help as I wasn’t going to be able to sprint my way back on. However, everyone behind me seemed more than happy to sit on my wheel until it was too late. The front pack had a huge gap, and nobody was coming to help. So we tried a smaller rotating paceline with 6 and eventually 8, and while this was more technically sound, we were all going slower than we needed to be going. I believe most of us were in the chase group, so turned out that we were all pretty much low on gas. At this point I knew my race was over, as I wasn’t going to be able to catch back on with this crew. So, we went over the wall fragmented, and had a lovely ride back to the finish line. I ended up catching a Native Planet guy and we rode into the finish together (I was slightly in front, so I wasn’t DFL!), but boy, was I tired.
Prior to writing this, I sent in my request for an upgrade. There aren’t too many road races coming up, but I’m going to make sure I can race with a team versus being all by myself with a bunch of guys that can’t even do a rotating paceline properly!
For your entertainment, the HRM report: