Well, training for this year got off to a flying start. Besides getting on the bike about 2 weeks earlier than I had thought, I was actually able to stay pretty consistent with my days. I knew this year I wanted to put in about 50-60hrs of base miles (something I really didn’t do last year) with some good Tempo, Hill work, and group rides. Just trying to apply as many layers of base paint as I could, to develop the strength I didn’t get last year.
Things went pretty well, despite a head cold that took out half of my third week. After the first three weeks, it was time for a rest week that was leading in to my first race of the season; the Sunny King Criterium in Anniston, AL (Masters B). This would be a return of sorts for me as I last raced here as a Cat 2 in 1994 (I believe, hard to remember that far back). So we packed up the car and started the long drive from Idaho to Alabama where we would be splitting the next two or so weeks between my mother’s house in Dothan, and my bother-in-laws fishing camp in Georgia.
The drive went well, and finding myself just outside Kansas City, MO on Wed., I decided to get out on the bike to stretch my legs. It was a great day to ride and would be the first ride of the year in shorts and a short sleeve jersey (time to work on the tan!). The riding in Missouri is good; decent roads, well behaved motorists, and good weather, but after an hour of riding I felt like I was at a catholic wedding…stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down…repeat! I’m not sure there is any flat ground in the whole state. I remember reading about Christian Vandevelde being super frustrated one day at the Tour of Missouri due to the endless little hills; I get what he means. The other exciting thing about riding in Missouri (and everywhere in the South I would learn) are the dogs. On practically every ride I did after that, I would end up trying to out run or squirt one of our rabid four-legged friends. It got a bit comical after a week or two as I was basically bringing three water bottles with me on rides; one to spray the dogs, one to spray on me, and one to drink.
The course is a 1k rectangle of slightly dusty, older, bumpy cement, that rises 33 feet on the front stretch and back down on the back side. I had prepared myself and warmed up well, but looking around at all the tanned and very fit legs, I wasn't sure this was going to be a pleasant return to big time crit racing for me.
And I was right.
The gun went off, and I got a good start...then immediately went on the limit. I was a bit timid as we screamed down the backstretch and I lost a few places, beginning the climb in around tenth place. This where I deployed a age old tactic used by heavier riders when confronted with a hill...The Fat-Man Fade. The idea being to bomb the decent to gain places, starting the climb at the front and gradually slide back to the back of the field by the top of the climb, still within contact, and repeat.
This worked for a few laps, but due to the fact I was still a bit rusty on my pack surfing, I wasn't able to get to the front at one point and once I had to start the climb from the back, it was all over. So, I started training, instead of racing. I don't like to pull out of crits unless they pull me, so I sat up, waited till they came back around, and got back on.
I would repeat this process 2 more times, eventually finishing at the tail end of he field. Not the most glamours start to the season, but necessary. I need these shocks to the system to get it ready for the real racing that lies ahead. My time will come.
It was really cool to line up at a big race, feel the flow, and begin to fell that I belong a bit.
Gonna be a good season folks, I can feel it.