So the beginning of my HHH experience this year started slowly. Jess, Grant, Wrigley (the dog came too)and I weren’t able to get out of Fort Worth until 5 p.m. Therefore, we hit traffic and it took us about 3.5 hours for what is normally a 2 hour trip. We rolled into the hotel, unpacked and the next thing I know it was almost 11 p.m. I planned on getting up at 5 a.m. to eat and ride to the start line for 6:15 to 6:30 (the race was scheduled to start at 6:50 a.m.) . The picture above is Grant and I at 6 a.m. right before rolling out. Since I haven’t joined a team yet, I wore my ThinkCash kit – which is a pretty good-looking kit (keep in mind I’m biased since I designed the jerseys).
There were 100 racers in the Cat 5 race and there were a couple teams with mutliple riders; however, team tactics rarely work in a Cat 5 race, so I didn’t expect any organized attacks. After a quick briefing by the race official, we rolled out shortly after 7 a.m. The pace started quick and we averaged 26-30 mph for the first 10 miles or so. We got a good tempo going and average 25 mph for the first 40 miles. There were only about 50 of us left in the lead pack and several riders were really suffering and would probably soon drop-off. But right about that time a break-away from the 45+ race (we had earlier caught and passed the 45+ field) came up on us and the race officials had us go neutral for a couple miles (going neutral basically means you stop racing and just soft pedal for a while). This let everyone that was struggling recover, so I knew we were now looking at a large-pack, sprint finish.
The next 20 miles were into a 15-20 mph headwind, so no one was willing to attack and fight the wind alone. Finally with about 4 miles left we turned out of the wind and really picked up the pace to 30 – 35 mph and basically shed all the remaining struggling riders. There were now about 35 of us in the lead pack with a couple miles to go. My legs felt good and I decided to make a move to get in the front of the pack; however, when I went my legs felt really strong and I decided to go for it – I could see the final overpass into town ahead. I’m a decent climber for my category so I though if I could get a small gap and maintain it until the overpass, no one would catch me on the climb and then it is downhill with a couple turns downtown to the finish. I shot passed the lead riders and opened up a gap of maybe 50 meters or so. No one had made a strong move all day, so everyone in the pack got very vocal as I shot passed and started to chase me down. The front group did get organized and managed to catch me just as we reached the overpass. I didn’t have much gas left in the tank, but I managed to get back in the pack as we rolled into town. My legs had no juice left, so I was a non-factor on the last couple of corners and the sprint to the finish, as a result, I finished 29th – 15 seconds behind the winner. That’s racing – 63+ miles of racing comes down to 15 seconds.
In hindsight, if I would waited and made my move just as we reached the overpass, I probably would have had a good shot at the win (or at least top 3). But considering this was my first road race (my other 9 races have all been criteriums), I’m OK with the results. Plus, Jess and Grant got to see me at a finish line for the first time. It was great – just as I crossed the finish line I could see the two of them on the left, cheering me on. I even got a “Go Daddy” from Grant.
You can check out the race profile from my GPS unit here. We finished the 63+ mile course in 2:45, averaging just over 23 mph, so it was a pretty good pace for a Cat 5 race. I’m moving up to Category 4 this week, so this was my last Cat 5 race. That means next year I’ll be racing the full 100 miles . . . can’t wait!