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Last weekend I finally did my first road race. 3 years ago I do not even own a road bike and was still under the mind set that I never would. A lot of my local riding buddies were much faster then me and swore that the road riding made a big difference and made the MTB more fun. After a few months of having everyone wait for me at the top of all the climbs I finally broke down and got a road bike…A MERLIN. :cool: It was very awkward at first, and then slowly I started getting used to the road bike and actually enjoying it. Fast forward to today. I spend about half my riding time on the road bike and love it. I’ve always been to chicken to do a road race because I’m not used to riding in a big pack, so I’ve been waiting for the race that starts with a big climb and that’s what I did Saturday, The Patterson Pass (Corroll Hollow) road race.
First I have to say that I have never been so calm before a race. I think being 44 in the 35-44 group kept my expectations pretty low. Also I knew that to be a great road racer is not just about how fit you are. Everyone has told that you have to know when to go hard and when to take it easy and sit in the draft. This being my first race I was figuring I would finish mid pack since I have no idea what I’m doing.
The race starts with a long climb and I was right with the top 5 guys all the way up the first part of the climb. Then things flattened out a bit and a few more riders get ahead of me. The climb turned to a wall, real steep. I’m just about at my max, but I got out of the saddle and gave it all I had to stay with the pack. Finally we start to head downhill and I’m with the lead group! So far so good. Were on a fast decent and I’m trying to recover and bunch more riders pass me. No problem right? I can draft them on the flat….right?? As were heading down the course goes off to the right on a false flat then up and up to another wall of a climb. The lead group is already heading up and over the next hill. I go as hard as I can but there is no way to catch the pack …I let too many people get ahead of me! We head downhill and on to the flats, I can see the lead pack, they are right there, I’m spinning as hard and fast as I can but there is no way 1 person can catch a pack in a windy area. I’m f&cked!! :( But I keep on trying. Finally another group of 5 catches me and we ride the last third of the first lap together. After a few minutes of riding with these guys I’m totally rested and feel like were doing nothing. Like a dumb MTB racer I kept on going out of the front doing really long pulls still thinking we could catch the lead pack. We cross the finish line of lap 1 and start the climb for lap 2. As we head up the climb I realize the situation is worse now. The lead pack is now going up the hill and the Cat 3 woman are between my chase group and the lead group. I ask one of the guys I’m riding with if he thinks there is anyway we could get through the cat 3 woman and bridge the gap to our group, “no way” ….I still try to go hard up the climb and start to pull away from my chase group. After 5 minutes I realize I’m wasting my energy, so I rejoin the group and try to let the other guys do as much of the work as possible. By now the wind is blowing. I forgot to mention the race is where the Altamont pass is, Tracy California…they have windmill farms here and you could see them spinning. So I do everything I can to keep out of the wind. The 5 of us end up finishing in a sprint, something I’ve never done, and I was completely surprised. By the end my legs were toast! 44 miles, 4,000 feet of climbing, avg speed 19 mph, 2:21 ride time, avg power 260 watts.
So how does it compare to MTB racing? Because the road race has the critical moments: where you either make the break, stay with the lead group etc, you have to go 110% or you done for the day. So that makes it harder at those moments then an MTB race. But then when you get the draft you get to recover and it’s easier. Most MTB races don’t have the critical moment. You go as hard as you can and usually the strongest rider wins. In the road race the rider who is strong but also knows how to read the race and know when to go hard and when to let others do the work wins the race. I can see now why so many road racers kick butt in MTB races. It looks A LOT easier on TV!
All in all it was a blast and I can’t wait to do another one. BTW, the results have not been posted, but I’m pretty sure I finished around 20th out of 50 or 60 that started.
 

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Way to go indeed! Great ride.

The best thing is you learned a ton about road racing in just one race. I can tell by your account of it. Keep up the learning and you'll be in that front group in just a few races. :D

Cheers!
-Ian
 
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