Up until a few days before the race, the fires in Bastrop were spewing a tremendous amount of uncertainty into the air along with the plumes of smoke, blanketing the capitol in a acrid haze. Chappell Hill is the perfect chance to get race miles in the legs to polish off preparations for the state championship road races at the Ft. Hood Challenge, although the added intensity is not worth the risk of tearing up the lungs by riding through smoke. On Friday, the weather reports were looking favorable so I started to ask around. The decision to race was last-minute, and I finally decided to green-light it when Trickey confirmed that he had room in his car to drive up the morning before the race. “Be at my house at 4:35 am.” Ouch.
On Sunday morning, waking up early was the least of my pain. The race was fast from the gun as riders attempted to form a break, averaging 27 mph over the first hour of racing and the pace didn’t let up until the field finally let the break go 90 minutes into the race. I use the term “break” very loosely. The final selection usually starts as a 3 or 4 man breakaway from the main field, swelling as riders make the jump across the gap. Eventually everybody that is strong enough to bridge makes it across and those that couldn’t settle in for the ride home. In some cases, as was mine, the ride home even proved to be too much in the long run, as I got dropped in the hills leading back into town, only 4 miles from the finish, ultimately finishing 23rd on the day.
I’m not disappointed with this result at all. I raced aggressively and made the winning break, although I got dropped by it after only 10 minutes. The energy expended to ensure that I was in the position to make the split probably cost me the rest of my race. Despite this fact, I would not change the way I raced on Sunday. I emptied my proverbial matchbook; I had none left when racing really started in the chase group. I suspect that had I not raced as aggressively at the onset of the race, I would have had more matches to burn in the later stages.
Hunter Allen defines a match as anything over 120% lactate threshold power for one minute. Using that simple criteria while analyzing my power files from Sunday’s race, I popped off 18 matches during the first third of the race. What’s worse, I couldn’t manage a single effort that met that criteria during the remainder. Anything approaching that effort level sent me straight backwards. When the break picked up the pace slightly on an uphill on the back side of the course, I got shelled. When I was attempting to bridge to Beau Edwards when he attacked from the chase group, I made it half way and stalled out. When the chase group hit the final run-in to Chappell Hill, I completely died. Each of these were efforts I could easily have done two hours earlier, yet I just didn’t have a 19th, 20th or 21st effort in my legs. This should not come as a shock to anybody that has ever raced a bicycle.
I certainly could have raced smarter, but now that most of my races are with the P/1’s, where the race is decided by a selection in the first hour (usually) of racing, the experience of being there when it happened will prove to be invaluable in the future as I continue to make progress.
edit: I can’t believe I just realized the irony of starting a post while talking about a forest fire, and then continuing on to talk about “matches” during my post. The connection just slapped me in the face. I mean no disrespect to the victims of the Bastrop fire, and have them all in my thoughts.