Race Report: Merco Foothills Road Race, 2010-03-07

One bit summary: 0. One word summary: “meh”.

It was a beautiful, sunny spring day with mostly calm winds for my first every Pro-1-2 road race. Though the course was mostly flat with some rolling hills and a few climbs, the CF2 still felt too slow and heavy. Our race was 5 24-mile laps, giving 120 miles in about 4 hours and 30 minutes.

After a relatively slow first lap, things really picked up in the second lap. Team tactics played a role as teams sent one person up the road and used the other five to block. I was in a good position to latch on to one of the chase groups, but just didn’t have the legs to bridge. At that point, I knew the race was over: the break would stick and it would be a pack finish. I was right.
The remainder of the race varied from medium to fast pace, and we managed to whittle down the lead group’s gap to 60 seconds, from 115. My usual fueling strategy worked perfectly. I felt strong at the end of the ride. A few rolling hills split the pack in the last 5km. I hung on with the group and finished 33rd, out of probably 120 starters.

Racing in the Pro-1-2 field is very different from collegiate racing. The field is much bigger and the races are longer and faster. The average age and experience level is much higher. National and World champion, and Olympians, comprise much of the field. There were the usual Pro field road race antics, too. Teams sent a representative to the feed zone to get a musette bag full of goodies for other riders. Teams conspired to control the pack and send people off the front. There was chatting when the pace was low. Some guys took a, er, “break” while riding, often with the help of a teammate pushing them along. It was fun to see. It was also frustrating: without any teammates present, I had no help in the pack.

It will be very hard to impossible for me to get any Cat 1 upgrade points in races like this. I need to target races with less decorated pro riders, and I need teammates. For these reasons, I’ve decided to skip the Madera stage race next week in favor of local races.

Compared to collegiate, the personality of the field is different. There was shoving and elbowing as people pushed their way through the field. At one point, I was at the front of the pack trying to help catch the break, admittedly not doing a perfect job of pulling through. Someone told me to “pull through and get the f*** out”. I’m sure my relative lack of experience played a role, but I certainly wasn’t making many friends today. Collegiate racers, in comparison, are usually gentlemen.

In any event, it’s good to know that I can hang with some of the fastest fields out there in cycling today. This weekend provided valuable data and experience that I will use to calibrate my racing routines. This is all a learning experience, after all.

Jane got 2nd in her Cat 4 women’s race. That was her last race as a 4. Congratulations, Jane!

One of the pro riders this weekend – Rashaan Bahati – has an eponymous team and foundation that helps kids in need get scholarships and racing help. It sounds like a good deal, so make sure to check out their Web site: http://www.bahatifoundation.org/