A disappointing seventh

After finishing somewhere around 13th last week, I was looking forward to getting out on the course at Fork Shoals and giving it another try. I learned somethings during that race and I wanted to put those lessons in action this Saturday.

Number One: Get to the starting line on time! This week I warmed up by going backward on the course to check out the finishing stretch. I made sure I was back in plenty of time to get to the front. I lined up right behind the Cat 5 34- riders and so I was on the front row when my group came to the line.

It was nice to get at least one of the lessons right.

We were in a neutral zone until we made the first right turn. Though I started on the front row, I didn’t want to stay there. Thankfully, after the turn several riders went around me and I started working to stay in the top ten.

The new wheel set and Force components — if nothing else — made me feel more confident going into the ride, but the shifters were my undoing on the first lap. It happened soon after we turned onto Stockton Road.

I was staying in the top ten and then a rider slowed in front of me. As soon as I eased up behind him several riders accelerated and formed a gap. I moved to cover it. The SRAM was awesome as I shifted from the small front ring to the 50. I moved around the slower riders and bridged the gap in no time.

Then I hit my first problem. I went to shift back to the easier gears. When I shifted I jumped down to the easiest rear gear and the easiest front! Just like that I was pedaling along at 180 rpm. Needless to say, they moved away from me like I was standing still. By the time I got things corrected, I was dropped out the rear of the field!

Don’t panic, just get back on — and don’t try to do it too quickly. By the time we reached Hillside Church Road I was catching the rear of the field. Now it was time to work my way back toward the front.

The good news is that I was feeling much more confident with my riding. I wouldn’t say I was being aggressive, but I was owning my space. There were a couple of times it got dicey. Primarily when we started to climb. Some riders have a tendency to start weaving back and forth and in a tight group you have to time things just right to get past them.

By Dunklin Bridge Road I was back with the top ten. Things were pretty uneventful from that point until we reached the start finish line. I was running seventh as we started the second lap.

I’m sure I used some energy trying to get to that position, but for the most part I was feeling good. Had I stayed smart, who knows what might have happened. As it is, I think I made a fatal error in the second lap.

Because of getting trapped in the pack on the field sprint last week, I wanted to make sure I was in position to 1) break away should the opportunity present itself or 2) be in a position to find a lane in a field sprint. Where I think I erred was getting it in my head that I needed to do this at the start of lap two!

Several riders really picked up the pace and I moved to cover the acceleration. I stayed with these riders up through Cedar Falls Road. Right before we turned off of Dunklin Bridge Road onto Cedar Falls, the front accelerated again. I was there to cover, but so was a group of about 15 other riders.

On Cedar Falls Road things went back and forth. I could tell people were regrouping for the final sprint. It might have been a good time to go, but I was doing the same thing! Looked like it was going to be another field sprint.

As we started up Turner Road I got shuffled back a bit. This time I was on the right hand side. I saw Chris Chapman go flying by on the left and I knew things were starting! We were about 500 meters out at this point.

There was a little window of room along the “white line” (on this road there actually aren’t any lines) and I decided to jump through it. I stood and by the time we got 400 meters out, I was starting to pass on the right. Then with 300 meters to go, the window closed.

Dale Earnhardt would have been proud. I didn’t even let up. When the guy moved into my lane I just eased off into the grass and got around him. 200 meters to go and I was running in the top three!

“I just might win this thing — or at least place!” I thought to myself. At this point I should have gone down in my hooks and thrown my heart rate to the wind. Well, I didn’t go down to the hooks, but I did try to give it my all.

Then I started seeing riders move around me. I knew my legs weren’t doing what they should. I hit a max speed of 27 mph in the sprint. My heart rate only hit 189, but my speed just dropped. I crossed the line at about 22 mph.

I saw a guy coming up behind me on my left. I knew he had a chance to take me at the line, but I just couldn’t seem to get the legs to turn the crank fast enough to hold him off. Right at the line he did me in — by about the width of your tire and wheel rim.

I was disappointed and I am still discouraged. I know I goofed by riding too hard during the early sections of the second lap. However, I don’t think that would have made all the difference. It is my training that needs to step up. Unfortunately, I only have a week before the next race and there isn’t much I can so in that amount of time.

Bottom line is I have got to extend the time I can give an all out effort. I know the bright side is that I improved from 13th to 7th from my first race to my second one. Hey, maybe if I improve that much next week, I’ll win! 🙂