CCCX circuit race #2, Cat 4/5 35+
By Benoit Pelczar
BikeTrip teammate George Janour picked me up and we discussed our race goals as we were driving to Ford Ord. We had no clear plan, just wanting to get another race experience, especially for me as this was my 3rd road race ever. Both of us were pretty nervous. George was familiar with the course and he described it to me. I was surprised at the slow pace of our start, thinking that the cat 4/5 45+ group starting 5 minutes after us might catch us fast, until I noticed my heart rate was abnormally high. “Relax”, I told myself, “relax”.
At the start of the first climb, a SJBC rider goes hard. I check him, decide that he does not look the part and do nothing. Within 20 seconds, another rider goes for the bridge, he does look serious so without more thinking, I jump myself. Soon the San Jose rider is history and I am still trying to get on Robert’s (as I would find out later) wheel. He is riding very hard and I am still a couple of bike lengths behind him. I am trying hard to bridge the gap but do not manage to do so until the long descent. By then, I look behind and inform Robert we have a good gap.
Robert and I work very well together, sharing the load, Robert riding very strongly on his pulls. We cross the finish line, once, twice, three times with a good lead. “Two more to go” I tell Robert, ‘we can do this,” as I try to motivate him and convince myself at the same time. I must have felt he was fading before my brain processed the thought, as the chase group is now gaining on us and not far behind. “We are going to get caught” says Robert. “If they catch us, we are done” I reply, “ let’s keep trying” and he agrees.
I am riding hard, trying to fight the chasers when a lone rider I had not seen passes us on the left. Within seconds, the pack engulfs us. I am readying myself to get spit out in the back, like I have watched so many times on TV, but to my surprise, the group eases its pace. I am glad to see George in good position. I am thinking he must be fresh. (I was unaware that he had ridden by himself for a full lap while trying to bridge the gap after finding himself ahead of the pack at the top of the climb).
“Maybe we are not done after all," I tell Robert. A lone rider tries to escape but gives up quickly when nobody goes to help him. He is visibly irritated and asks if everybody is going to sit, to which the reply comes back “Yes.” I take notice and think that it may give George or I another chance to escape. Soon, I attack again, thinking that I may at least tire some of George’s competition and determined to try everything to avoid a sprint finish.
Pretty soon, we are down the last descent and I am in good position. I am moving up the group fast. A rider cuts me off after crossing the whole road from right to left! I avoid him and resume my effort. I take the last right turn in the lead, stay there for a couple of seconds before a swarm of sprinters goes by me. George is there, maintaining his position, and we are done.
The results have George in 6th (first Cat 5) and I am in 12th.
Lessons learned: - I need to be more aware of what is happening behind me. This is not a triathlon or running race where looking behind can show a sign of weakness. If I had known George was trying to bridge, I could have waited for him and increased our chances with 3 riders instead of 2. - No real reason to be so nervous before the race and at the start. - Can’t wait for the next one!