A few weeks ago, I entered my first stage race. It was actually three races – a 35 minute criterium, a 22 km time trial, and an 84 km road race – over the course of 36 hours.
Riders received points based on how they finished in each race (15 for first, 12 for second, etc.). At the end, the points were tallied and an overall winner declared. Simple enough.
What wasn’t so simple? Beating the shockingly cagey 14-year-old in my category.
The crit was first up on Saturday morning. The race was on a (rundown) 400-metre oval speedway that looked a lot (exactly) like this:
That’s me again, but closer.
Since the track was an oval, there were no corners per se. Sounds great for me, as far as crits go, right?
It probably would have been, but guess who tried to go long and got caught (quite handily) by the group. THIS GUY! BOO YEAH! WILL I EVER LEARN?? NO PROBABLY NOT!
I finished eighth out of 12 in Cat 4. Woot, 41st percentile!
Guess who won. The 14-year-old! I don’t know how he managed to out-sprint the crop of much larger dudes pinning it in the final straightaway. He is/was the size of an average 14-year-old. But he did. And it strangely gives me hope for the future; tactics can obviously trump sheer power, to an extent.
The Time Trial:
Now we’re talking. Just me and the clock. None of these pesky competitors hunting me down en masse.
The course was a mostly flat out-and-back, but it did have a bit of elevation at either end.
I passed my 30-second-man (i.e. the guy who started 30 seconds ahead of me) on the way out and never caught a whiff of the guy who started 30 seconds behind me.
The most cathartic part of the race was the fact that my 30-second-man was the 14-year-old. Crushing that child made me feel really good about myself.
At the very end of the day, I wound up second. I say very end because the organizers screwed up the timing for a lot of people and originally had me first. They then snatched my victory away by adjusting someone else’s time. (It was all terribly dubious. But I wasn’t too distraught finishing second to a guy with aero wheels and bars.)
The Road Race:
This one was absolute heartbreak. Sort of by accident, I shot off the front with 1.5 laps to go by gunning it to the top of the lone hill on the 9 km course. The hill was short (about 1 km) but steep, hitting 15% in places. I really just wanted to get it over with; I wasn’t trying to start a solo break. But, when I reached the top with a gap, I wasn’t about to sit up and wait.
The 14-year-old tried to track me down on his own for a lap, but he eventually got reeled in by the bunch. Then, with 200 metres to go, they caught me, too. 😦
For most of the final 5 km, I was pretty sure I was going to win. I could see the group behind me on certain straightaways and thought I had more time on them than I actually did. Either that, or I thought I had more energy than I actually did.
Either way, I now know what it’s like to get caught in sight of the finish line. I had a hunch it would suck. It sucked. I’m something of a soothsayer.
A few of the riders offered their condolences after the race and asked if I’d like to come out and ride with their various teams. (One group assured me that, if I had been part of their team, I would have won. It was a good sales pitch.)
As it was, I wound up seventh out of 21 in the road race.
Guess who won. The freakin’ 14-year-old! He also won the entire stage race as a result.
Ugh. Monsieur en dehors!