Today I raced my first ever road race, a 64km flat course from Longford to Campbell Town, in Tasmania. As part of my preparation I looked up the course profile (flat, bar one small climb about 10km from the finish), and prepared a comprehensive list of excuses, which I understand are an essential part of a road rider’s preparation. Two of my friends, Phil and Rob, were also racing. We’d all ridden a lot together in Hobart and Rob and Phil had raced in Hobart. But we had heard tales that riders from the North of the state (Longford is in the North) were tough and fast — there are 5 or 6 riders in the Pro peleton from those parts — but I don’t think we really appreciated just how fast and hard they were!
Phil and I are roughly comparable in racing ability, as far as we could tell, and as Phil raced B grade in Hobart, I naively decided that was the grade for me. Rob decided to stick with D grade — a sensible choice I think! The lower grades started out a few minutes ahead, with 1 minute between C and B, and 3 minutes to A. I snuck a look at the registration sheet before the race and there were only 6 or 7 riders in B, and 20 or more in each of D, C and A. I was starting to get worried because that meant much more work in the wind, with less recovery time drafting other riders. All too soon our grade was up to start and immediately we hit 40+km/h. It seemed that some of the riders wanted to catch C grade before A grade caught us. Within 5km, we were sitting on 45-50km/h and my heart rate was on 175 as I frantically tried to hold my position in the bunch. I glanced at Phil and by the look on his face he was in trouble too. All too soon the inevitable happened — we started to drift off the back of the B grade group, and my heart rate way up high I knew I didn’t have that reserve to claw my way back on.
One other B grader dropped back with Phil and I and no more than a couple of km later we heard a toot from the chase car informing us that the A grade pack were flying up behind us. We jumped on the back of that bunch and the shelter from the wind helped a bit with recovery, as it was a much larger group. My heart rate dropped below 150 and I started to think I might have a chance to hold on. Phil and I sat on the back of the group and stayed out of the paceline. Then I made a big mistake… I thought I was doing okay and so thought I’d give the paceline a go… Oops. As I worked my way up to the front, my heart rate went right up again and I was struggling. One of the other riders glanced at me and suggested that I should just sit on the back of the bunch. I was inclined to agree…
So back I drifted and then we passed some other riders, who left a gap, and I couldn’t get over the gap with my previous effort and off the back I went. And that was that. For the next 45km I rode with one other rider, a C grade girl who had had the same trouble as I had. We worked well together and it helped… About 15km from the finish we caught Rob and 4 of us crossed the line all together at the end. It was still the fastest 60km I have ever ridden, by a long way!
My wife and daughters were there at the finish to cheer me over the line but I think they were a little surprised by how far back was!
Edit: Strava ride is now online:
I’ve got a new 10 minute power average: 355 watts… I am not surprised. At 22km, we had to walk across a wooden bridge (instant disqualification if you rode across…) You can spot that in the speed graph pretty easily!