Saturday was the start of the road race season here in Texas with the TBi Copperas Cove RR. Copperas Cove is just outside Kileen, TX, so a 2.5 hour drive from Fort Worth. I rode down with Brian (one of my Mortiz teammates) for a noon start. The turn out for the race was huge:
A P/1/2/3 field of over 60
Two Cat 4/5 races, both with 75 racers
35+/Women’s race with about 75 racers as well.
All of the races started within 30 minutes of each other, so you had about 350 racers milling through the parking lot all morning – checking their gear, eating bananas or Clif Bars and trying to stay warm (it was 27 degrees in the morning, by race time it was in the high 30’s).
Unfortunately Brian and I didn’t get to race together (he was in the B race, I was in the A race), so this would be a solo effort. The race was 54 miles, consisting of a 9 mile, hilly, out-and-back stretch and a 30+ mile loop. The winds were strong out of the north (20 mph+), so I assumed everyone would stay together for the first half of the race and then things would really open up as we had the benefit of the tailwind.
My inexperience (this was only my second road race, and my first as a Cat 4) did not serve me well. I got stuck in the back of the pack early and had a difficult time moving up because we had such a large field (and the centerline rule was being heavily enforced). When you are at the back of a 75 person pack every little action up front gets magnified in the rear. As a result, guys in the front keep a pretty consistent pace, but those of us in the back are forced to constantly brake and accelerate to stay with the pack. There were definitely early season nerves (many guys were all over the road and there was a lot of hard braking), this translated into two different wrecks in the A race. Luckily I managed to avoid both of them (the second requiring me to spend some time in the grass to avoid the pile-up). I never felt “at my limit” during the race, so I just waited for the hills in the last 6 miles of the race as my best chance to advance. Luckily this worked and I was able to move up the field and then solo and bridge up to a breakaway of about 6 racers. As soon as I caught up to the break I realized these guys were gassed and we weren’t likely to hold everyone off. Sure enough, another group of about 12-15 guys bridged up to us.
Me (Racer 822) in the breakaway
So about 22 of us rolled into town together and got strung out single file before hitting the two right-hand turns (basically a U-turn) into the finishing straight. I’m not a great sprinter, so I just held on to my place – finishing 18th. If I would have known the course better, I probably would have attacked on the last little climb before we turned into the finish, but such is racing – lot’s of ifs and buts. Overall, I’m pretty pleased and it wasn’t a bad way to start the season – nice little 54 mile ride at 22 mph. I also raced with my PowerTap, so it was really interesting to look at the file after the race and see how the power efforts were compared to my perceived exhaustion at different points in the race.