First one of these in a while.
I was really excited for this race, the only Cat 2 only road race in the fall road race season. Fitness and training had been on a general upwards trend since the beginning of August. I was hitting targets, personal bests and could tell out at the Driveway every Thursday. I was racing stronger with stronger guys, in moves I didn't previously belong in. All positive indicators.
This course is just a good hard course, lots of rollers with 5 very distinct and challenging hills and small rollers and fast downhills in between, as well as some false flat before the finish. We were racing 99 miles, 3 laps with ~60 starters. Last year I was 2nd, but in the Cat 3's with only 66 miles. It was going to play out and work out differently than last year.
I was looking forward to using all the various things I had learned in races this year to use and to hopefully get a result (the latter didn't happen but I'm happier with the former than I have in most other races this year). That meant: chilling out more, eating and drinking more, not trying to do everything on my own. With the length of this race all of these would be extra important.
First lap I saw a trio of a ABM1 rider, Jacob Schofield of Bicycles Heaven, and a RBM ride up the left side of the road and take off. My immediate reaction, both from racing hard early recently in support of our strong guys in 1/2 fieds and cat 3 race experience was "these are pretty strong guys, I should go with it". But I put a lid on that quickly, being aware of the moment, watched them ride away and ultimately pull out a gap of about 2 minutes while the group rode pretty 'tranquilo'. On our way back down towards the start finish straight the pace started to pick up, and I made sure to be up front before the right turn which often has some harsh cross winds, but they were not to be found today. I ate some food, drank a little over half a bottle. Times were good.
Rolling into the second lap, my stumoch hadn't settled, not from food but nerves. I felt a nervousness in the field of some sort, and made sure to have a spot to get out in case any of the people I had noted as particularly dangerous made a move. On the last climb on the way out I saw Paul Carty move up the left, grabbed his wheel just in time for him to jump up the side. Coming over the top we had. a group of about 8 guys, all of whom looked at each other: 'Who wants to ride??' no one. Came back as quickly as it went out. This awakened the beast though. Attacks started flying full fledged, and it was in this moment that I played my hand a little bit too deftly. Both big climbs on the way in, I put in pretty hard digs on. Groups formed, and again no work pulled back. A big part of the problem, I think, was when and where I attacked. Everyone has to work hard to follow the attacks on hills, no one wants to work and the downhills after them played into the hands of the field. You really needed to push over the top and keep the throttle down. I could have used a little more discretion in my efforts, but I just had this gut feeling that the group could perhaps shatter. A gut feeling that was wrong apparently.
Third lap, I rolled into feeling hot. I needed a bottle of water to cool myself down. I didn't have great positioning rolling through the feed zone had to really slow down to grap the bottle and meanwhile the front had hit the hammer. I got my bottle and took off to catch up. Coming from being a little bit down, hot, and going straight into chase mode hurt. It was only a couple minutes at threshold, but at the wrong time. From that moment on I felt pretty blown. Over the big hills back out I made sure I was up front and sag climbed them. Hoping for no moves to go. None did on the hills, but on the way out a ABM1 rider took off solo and not too long later TC Porterfield put in a move and was joined by one other to get across. It was beautifully timed, we were slowing content with the on the road situation and no one wanted to chase down this duo... but they gained ground to make a trio quickly. I saw it go, thought it was dangerous and tried to get some leash for myself and another, no luck and I didn't have the legs to go it alone. Michael Dawdy started trying to make moves to go across and I went with those as best as I could. I was feeling another kick coming on, either that or everyone else was also slowing. Probably both.
When we started to head back into town I checked my sensations and thoughts about them and was essentially telling myself 'yes your legs are pretty jacked, but everyone is jacked. Race smart, race hard. You can still get something. I can't even remember where but Dawdy finally got away with 2 others. Over the first climb on the way back I positioned myself up front and fell back a little but not too much. I put myself in a position where I wasn't throwing myself into the red, but was also capable of making sure nothing else went away without me. 2nd climb I held well until the steepest section had to make up just a bit of ground. No steep hills from there... golden. Legs were in a weird state were short sharp accelerations felt fine, but sustained efforts were terrible. It meant I could at least jump onto moves. Numbers in our field had significantly dwindled, the group was just about 20 strong. Then there were the 6 up the road. The six presented a problem, most of those left had either teammates up the road or were individuals. No cohesion in work to get things back. Somewhat guilty, but generally the group just attacked itself. Instead of putting in an organized chase, we attacked and slowed down. We got very close to catching the group and then people stopped working.
We hit a small rise, someone put in another one of those prolonged digs that hurt me so much and I was out the back of our little group. Game over. I rode it in from there, no one passed me I didn't see a person. Finished 28th. It wasn't a great race, but it had some high points. I pushed myself hard, could have raced harder.
Numbers: NP 200w, AP 146w, 23 'matches' of efforts greater than 2kJ over threshold for 83kj total in matches, 1010 kJ of W' Work, 2282kJ, 306 TSS, TISS Aerobicity 95%, 75% of W' used.