They called this one the "Independence Valley" road race. I know one is fooling oneself to think that rain might be avoided while racing in the Seattle area, but today was -really- wet. I woke up, threw my race wheels on my bike (such as they are,) made coffee, and stepped out on the porch. When I noticed the deluge, I thought, screw this, and put my training wheels back on. Ksyrium Equipes, plus Michelin Carbons, heavy tubes, and tire liners. I briefly considered bagging the whole thing, because I am a whiner, but then I yelled at myself for whining and suited up.
The race was in Rochester, Washington, about halfway between Seattle and Portland, and the Oregon calendar had a big goose egg for the week, so there was a pretty solid mix of OR and WA talent present at the rainy start. As a plus, it wasn't even that cold. I saw some folks kitting up like it was a blizzard or something, but I rocked shorts, knee warmers, a jersey, and arm warmers. C'mon, guys, it's 50 degrees out. A few people suggested that maybe the reason I showed up was because there were hills in the race, but they were more like speed bumps. Each one had about 250 feet of gain, and since they're at mile 2 and mile 11 of the 20-mile loop, it's not as though they would be the decisive factor in the race. A few teams had brought half a dozen soldiers to the fray, but for the blue and white it was only Yours Truly, a striking contrast to the armada that clogged up the field for me last week. C'est la vie. I mused about this with Speedy Young and Curly at the start, and then suddenly he realized he had a flat and rushed around to change it before we rolled out.
On to it: we're rolling along at a pretty slow pace, and a few people are jawing about in the peloton about needing to "take pulls" or "go faster," which I will never understand why Cat 3's feel the need to do. If you are not attacking, and there is no one off the front, who the heck cares how fast the group goes around and around? But I guess some guys feel like it isn't racing if we're just puttering around, but don't actually want to attack because that would mean a bunch of work, or something. I don't know. When we got to the first climb I pushed the pace a little bit, decided my legs felt like crap, and then looked behind me to realize I was kinda alone, so I just rolled down the descent and tried to get an idea of where people would start crashing when the pace lit up. I heard the Crash 5's lived up to their name earlier.
Second climb, same kind of a deal: just keep it in the big ring, ride tempo, and kinda sorta drop the field. I don't REALLY want to drop the field and solo around for the whole lap and blow up, but it would be nice to soften some people up going uphill and maybe some people will get the message and get a break going. No one does just yet. Over the next lap, there are some more little moves, and I find myself being pretty active at the front, which I am okay with. I'm not going to be a super chump and never get on the front, just because I have no team, either. I AM here to get a workout, at least! Nothing goes anywhere, really, a few little gaps open up here or there. On the last climb of the second lap, I have a glance back and it looks like the field has thinned out a good bit. The weather, and the surging around, might've had something to do with it, I'm not really sure because going down the other side people decide it is a great time to crash.
So, wet chip seal doesn't have a lot of traction, y'know? Someone a couple of wheels up figures this out and crashes, the guy behind him stacks into him, and I run it into the dirt to avoid them. That's the idea the guy behind me has, too, only without so much of the braking, and he runs into me from behind. I just sorta clumsily put a foot down, end up halfway on my side, and have to hike a few steps out of the ditch and play Dorothy with my Speedplay cleats to get the mud out. Right, then, attack from the back! I mean, chase time.
It takes about two matches but I catch back on. A guy at the back waves me by, and says he's glad I got back. Well, he reconsiders, I mean he's not glad for HIM, but he is, you know? I don' t see the lead car, so I ask about the situation, and find out three guys are up the road. Someone is saying something else to me but I decide I've got to get back up to the front. As I'm working my way through the pack, I see someone else jump, and he's moving away pretty well. I'm still pretty cooked, so I try to get a chase going on, but all people do is half a turn and squabble around a bit. Whatever. Time to attack.
That hurts a bunch, and I'm kinda hoping I'll get a bridge group will get together, but it's just me and one other guy, and then it's just me. I get to the little hill which is actually kind of steep, and make sure I stay well within my limits going up it -- I'm starting to learn about how my gas tank works, and it's pretty low. There is a blur of pain for a while, but I remember seeing the lights of the lead car in the distance, and I remember blowing by 2 of the previous 3 guys that were up the road, who had basically given up the ghost as the guy who attacked just after I got on passed them. There's still one more guy up the road, in the pale blue, yellow, and white of one of the other large teams in the area. I catch up to him in another K or so, and at this point I'm on full gas. As I pass him I realize that this guy is Tony, and he was in the break with me in my first race. He looks over and laughs. "Oh, great, you again!"
"Yeah, unfortunately," I manage, "hop on." Tony says he's pretty cooked, and is mostly going to have to sit on. Well, okay then. We're at about, what, 10K to go? 15? I just keep going. I don't look behind me, because that would be information that I don't want to know. Tony takes about 2 pulls for 15 seconds, to take a bit of pressure off, and I ask him how big the gap is.
"Uh. Not ... very big." Crap. I drape my hands on either side of the stem, pseudo-aerobar style, and hammer, hammer, hammer. I upshift, and hammer, hammer, hammer. It hurts, I can feel myself starting to rock all over my bike, and honestly I don't think I'm going to make it but there's nothing to save for at this point. When I FINALLY get to the last corner, I know the 1K to go sign is coming up soon, and I throw one quick glance under the elbow. At that point, I think, I just might make it. Maybe. I also see Tony's been popped off. That last K is a big cave of pain, but at the 200 to go sign I manage a full look behind me and notice I've actually got a pretty solid gap.
I think someone thought "200 to go" means "100 to go" based upon where the sign was, but, in any case I feel reasonably satisfied with 2nd considering what had happened, though of course I wish I'd been at the front to go with the winning move when it had gone down.
And that's a wrap.