Gasp! There, I said it!
I love riding bikes. I love racing bikes. But I dislike bike races. What's the difference, you ask?
In particular, I like sports where your final standing is more a direct reflection of what you put into it, not necessarily dependent on luck and timing. In the age group ranks, you could have a super sub-par day and ride poorly and still win because you sat in the pack correctly or caught the right breakaway and put in a zippy effort for the final win. Somewhat related, I also dislike that you lose the aspect of "racing against yourself" that is possible in triathlon—since cycling almost entirely comes down to pack behavior and racing against others.
Also, I admittedly have zero patience while racing, which seems to be a critical thing to have if you want to be a half decent cyclist.
I came to these conclusions yesterday during my first-ever road race, down in Greenville at the local Hincapie Spring Series. Fun Fact: according to Heath, this is the 25th year or so they have been running this series and a lot of the same old guys are still around. I can only hope that I'm still out on my bike several decades from now, doing my thing.
Heath in green looking at the camera, looking bored out of his mind:
But I drove down to Greenville to check out the bike scene and see if I could get in a good hour at threshold as part of the 3.5 hour ride I had scheduled on Saturday. I was pleasantly surprised when I showed up and there was a field of 20+ in my race. "This will be a cracker," I thought to myself, excited to push myself and get some practice pushing big watts for an extended period of time... something i don't get to do while racing save for the rare Olympic or Sprint.
Well, we get going and we're soft pedaling. Power barely cresting above 160. Occasionally someone will make a lame breakaway but the pack reels her in within seconds and she drops to go sit on the back for a few minutes.
I had a few tips heading into this race that I had running through my mind the entire time:
- Don't wear a sleeveless jersey. Check
- Actually wear socks. Check. (Ridge Supply, duh)
- Don't complain about having to race only Cat 4. (whoops)
- Don't be a triathlete and pull everyone the entire race only to be out sprinted at the end (managed to restrain myself... some.)
Love how these were all geared toward the "stereotypical triathlete". Yikes, guess we crazies have a type.
So we're rolling around and I'm literally YAWNING because it's so boring/easy (well, and maybe also because I was out late the night before with Maggs... oh well).
I literally have no idea what I'm doing but I'm pretty sure I did okay at blending in minus a few moments of sitting in the wind (but not at the front) and riding like the dumb blonde triathlete I am and then there was one time I went for the break-away on lap #2 of 3 because I wanted some kind of workout and all the soft-pedaling was getting boring. But of course, after my brief breakaway, the group reeled me back in and everyone was all too happy to just sit on my butt and bide their time. So I dropped back and did as I was told by a number of cyclists and waited for other folks to make a move.
Aside: there was this one girl who sat at the front a lot and was weaving from the far right side of the road then over to sit directly on the yellow line and then back again. My guess is that her moves were supposed to be tactical but personally I thought it was just stupid, reckless and a waste of energy. Yet another reason I'm skeptical of bike racing. My two cents: you should win based on your athleticism and talent, not your willingness to ride like a dick (this is probably why I'll never be a successful cyclist—no way I'm willing to do stuff like that and piss people off.)
With about three minutes to go, you could feel the pace cranking up watt by watt and girls kind of looking at each other, playing chicken as to who was going to make the first acceleration. At one point I got stuck kind of far back in the pack and started to get really nervous that I would get boxed in, losing any opportunity for a sprint. So I dropped back even further to find the outside and then, with a mile to go, a number of girls just went for it.
I followed suit, cranked the legs and pulled ahead. While I was working hard, it wasn't terrible and as Heath made fun of me later, "you were grinning and not even out of your saddle while the rest of the girls looked like they were in pain." Hah! Guess this slowtwitch athlete has some work to do on how to actually push hard at the end!
But crossed the line in first place, at my first bike race. Not too shabby!
I'm sure some of you might be considering hopping in a local road race to test your cycling strength and handling skills and I say, by all means, do it! Triathletes, whether beginner or advanced, could always learn more when it comes to bike handling and riding in a pack! It was a great experience and interesting perspective seeing the tactics and riding styles that road cyclists have to deal with versus our non-draft world. Okay, so as you can probably tell, maybe I don't hate it after all.
But I do have a lot of learning to do—mostly about where to sit in the pack, which side of the road to ride on depending on the wind direction, how to actually determine the wind direction, etc. etc.—hopefully I can start to share some of these across the next few weeks with you as I try my hand at bike racing.
Next up: race #2, probably next weekend back again with the Greenville Spring Series. See you then!