It feels like forever since I rode my bike, raced or even updated this blog. After such a long cold winter with almost zero riding since November 2013, I was not feeling very optimistic about my first race of 2014… the Good Friday Road Race. Last year I had stayed with the pack until the final surge for the finish, then my legs gave out and I got dropped, finishing more than 30 seconds behind.
Up until today I had only been on my bike 4 times this year for a total of about 250 kms. The only preparation I had for this race was time spent in the gym spinning and cross training. I actually joined a gym for the first time in my life last September. I attended 3 or 4, one hour spin classes a week, and I rode my guts out every class. I also attended Boot Camp and tried to work on overall strength and fitness. However, the first actual bike ride of the year was still a shock to my system and my legs felt like rubber.
As I drove down to Ancaster I was feeling a little nervous. My weight is still up a couple of kilos and I was feeling out of it.
After signing in and picking up my numbers I got ready and took a short warm-up ride before heading to the line 15 minutes before start time. I looked around and saw a few familiar faces, but overall it felt like a whole new experience. I will definitely miss racing with Andy Mill after spending the whole season together last year.
The weather was cloudy and cool but the rain would hold off and we had good conditions for the race, with temperatures around 8 Celsius.
I was lined up close to the front and I made an effort to stay there. The whistle blew and we started off on the gravel section out of the fairgrounds. I was feeling pretty comfortable throughout the first lap. Unlike last year, there was no slamming on the brakes and hammering it over and over again. I don’t know if this was because I was at the front this time, but it was a lot more relaxed. I also noticed that there was a lot more room to move.
At the end of lap 1 the pace ramped up as people jockeyed for position going through the fairgrounds into the gravel section. This was the toughest part of the race except for the final sprint. We were strung out in a line and I was fighting to keep contact. I managed to stay on but the pace soon slowed down again and it all came back together.
Lap 2 was pretty comfortable sitting in the wheels but it was looking like everyone was content with staying together for a bunch sprint. This situation would not suit me well and I decided that my only hope of any success would be to try and get away and take my chances in a breakaway. I attacked near the end of lap 2 and got clear of the field but everyone was sticking together. Realizing that I had no chance by myself I decided to sit up and stay in the wheels.
From that point on I just sat in until the end. Half way through the final lap everyone was trying to move up and I did my best to stay at the front. With 2 km to go I was in a good position in the first 15 riders but the pace was shooting up and guys were fighting hard. When we turned unto the final approach to the fairgrounds I was going backwards again. The sprint was on and I was trying my best to hang in. I did manage to regain some of the ground that I lost but the field was too strong and I finished two thirds down in the bunch in 41st place.
It was a huge group of 62 riders that finished together. I actually felt pretty good about the result… Compared to last year it was an improvement and I finished 9 minutes quicker.
The first race of the season was encouraging at least. More than anything, it just felt good to be back on the bike.