Monday, March 23, 2009

Bike racing: Mason Lake #2 and Tour De Dung #2

Tour De Dung #2 Road Race

Wines of Washington Cat 4 Women are lined before the start of Tour De Dung #2 on March 22, 2009 in Sequim, WA.

Bike racing season is here! I've been in 2 road races this season so far.

Last weekend (March 14 2009) I did Mason Lake Road Race #2 in Mason Lake, WA. Weather was miserable! It was freezing rain the whole time. There were 2 x 12 mile loops around Mason Lake. The roads were wet and slippery and it was hard to see due to rain coming down heavily. Everyone was being cautious and just trying to be safe. No one made any big moves to try to break away. It was my first road race ever, so my goal was just to finish with the pack and not crash.

First lap was mostly just cruising; I stayed in the back of the pack. There were a few attacks on the second lap and I even got out in the front a few times, but none of the attempts succeeded. By the end of the second lap I was so cold that I was worried that my fingers were too numb to slam the breaks if had to.

With about 1 mile to go there was a crash right in front of me. It was too fast to understand what happened. I just saw 1 person go down and 2 more pile up on top. I veered to the right and came to a complete stop at the shoulder to avoid the crash. I realized that 2 of the girls that went down were my teammates and I hesitated for a few seconds before I clipped back in and went on. Since I've never been in this situation before I wasn't sure what was the right thing to do. Turns out, you shouldn't stop even if your teammate goes down - that's what the support car is for. I passed some people after I got back out there and ended up 22nd out of 34 who finished the race. After I finished I just got back in the car and sat there with the heat at full blast for about 20 minutes before I could start doing anything.

Yesterday (March 22 2009), I did Tour De Dung #2 in Sequim, WA. We were lucky enough that it didn't rain, but it was still pretty cold and windy. Our team had a bigger turnout this time - 9 or 10 Wines Cat 4 ladies were there. This time there were 3 x 12 mile loops.

According to Cat 1 women who were watching us from the support car, this was one of the faster and better Cat 4 races they've seen. We were definitely going way faster than at Mason Lake the week before. The field was quite a bit bigger and there were plenty of attacks throughout the race.

I tried to stay in the front of the pack for most of the race. I felt strong and pulled lots. Whenever there was an attack I tried to jump on their wheel so that I could be in the breakaway if it happened. A couple times we had a paceline of 4-5 people going, but the pack always ended up catching us.

At the end of the second lap I watched a very scary crash. We were going downhill pretty really fast and I saw a woman at the other side of the pack totally loose control of her bike. She swirled from one side to the other a few times and then went down, taking down another racer who turned out to be from our team. It was hard to tell what was going on because of how fast we were going, but I am pretty sure I saw a bike flip in the air and then hit the ground a few times and create sparkles as it hit the pavement. It was really scary. I found out later that she ended up getting pretty hurt. My teammate is better of - she is really sore, but didn't break anything and is getting better. The scene of the crash stayed in my mind throughout the race.

I made a mistake in the last couple miles and didn't hold on to my front of the pack position after the last turn. The last mile or so, the road became really narrow with no shoulder and it wasn't possible to move back up to the front. I ended up finishing in the last 3rd of the pack. It was pretty annoying given that I definitely worked harder than the average person in the pack given the percentage of time that I spent in the front.

I am still not 100% down with this whole bike racing thing. Seems like luck is too much of a factor in the end result. You can make all the right decisions throughout the whole race, then make one mistake and you end up at the back of the pack with those who barely hung on to the pack in the first place. Triathlon is more fair this way. You place depending on your ability.

Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun to be going so fast in the pack and be part of attacks and counter attacks in a real race. I think in the future, a key to success for me would be getting into a successful breakaway. I am strong enough to maintain a pace harder than that of the pack, but I am not too strong at sprinting really hard at the end. I am looking forward to next weekend's race. It's supposed to be pretty hilly, which will play to my climbing strength. I will need to try to break away on one of the uphills.

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