McLane was going to be my first race riding without my trusty teammates. I made a point to arrive the day before the race so that I could either drive or ride the course, time permitting. That was a good move, because finding my way just to the start of the race was not as straightforward as it appeared and it was definitely good to scope it out. I recognized several of these roads as the ones that I had raced on just the week before at Snelling. And Snelling was a tough race for me. If anything, this hardened my resolve to stick to my two goals for McLane Pacific - don't get dropped and stay safe. I managed to drive the course loop (there would be two 23.4 mile loops during the race) with just enough daylight remaining to get a sense of the route and its challenges. From the vantage point of my car, the two key critical spots looked like the climb starting at about the 17 mile mark, and then the twisty roads and cornering in the 1-2 miles heading to the finish of the loop.
The morning of the race, conditions were near perfect. Almost no wind and probably the first day in a long while that I did not need my knee warmers. As I was getting ready to head out and warm up, I met Melissa from EMC who kindly (and very diplomatically) suggested I may need a bit of help readjusting my numbers. Thanks Melissa for preventing me from taking off with parachutes on each side of my jersey!
The race started out at a good pace at least 15 minutes late. After the debacle at Snelling the week before, where my legs had the strength of overcooked spaghetti after mile 7, I had a much better sense of what to expect.
I had heard that there were 70+ riders in our group. I'm still not sure if that is the case (as the official results are STILL pending and it certainly did not look like 70 or so riders to me), but I can tell you that riding in that particular pack was eery; I did not want to be anywhere in the middle of it - if that meant riding off to the side or off to the back - so be it. And thats what I tried to do for most of the race.
The first set of corners we approached did have the huge accordian effect with the corresponding huge expenditures of energy after each to keep up and not lose the wheel in front of me. I could tell that this would get old very quickly. But as each new corner came up, it became easier to anticipate the bursts and I actually caught the rhythm to it. Also, on the first straightaways, around the 10 mile mark, there were a few attempted breakaways - each one caught by the pack. Then the hill that I had anticipated would be a crux; at the top of it, hey wait - I still felt good. Now for those upcoming corners which I knew would test my beginning-level technical racing skills. Everyone around me rode into those corners well and held their lines. What a relief at the end of lap 1 - still with the pack, riding safe and feeling strong! OK, now for lap 2..
Lap 2 started out with a rider's tire blowing out loudly - definitely jarring some nerves. No one went down, and all was safe. During this lap, there were several more breakaway attempts. One rider alone, another breakaway in a small group - each caught by the pack. As we headed up the climb on the second lap, the pace was picking up and at the top of that climb there was a sucessful breakaway of what looked like about 10 riders - they were off charging it. Then another breakaway group that I managed stick on to, of about another group of 10 or so riders. We stuck together through the the upcoming twisty roads. As we headed to the last mile of the race, the pace was picking up and we were getting caught by the other riders behind us. As we head into the finish, I was so stoked to be feeling this good and finishing with the pack that I had not set myself up well for a nice push at the end. I was blocked in.
Just yards from the finish line, I heard a terrible noise behind me - not the standard "bike hits ground" sound that I heard in an Early Bird, but something different. Holding my line, I quickly crossed the finish line with my other goal attained - staying upright. Unfortunately, not too far behind me, a crash had taken place impacting several riders. As it turns out, the crash so impacted the field, that the results from our race have not been officially published yet! Hope that those riders are ok -
All in all, it was a good race and a great day of riding. Congrats to Jill and John for strong finishes in their categories!