I set two goals for my first ever bike race: (1) stay upright and (2) don’t embarrass myself.
I accomplished neither. (Sorry to ruin the suspense.)
Eight kilometers into the 50-km road race (comprised of five laps of a fairly flat 10 km loop), I found myself at the back of the peloton approaching the first of two small climbs.
It was raining and cold, and the roads were mighty slick. All 25 or 30 riders were still bunched together, so I wasn’t panicking about being at the back. But the pace was pretty tame and I thought I might as well put some work in on the hill, if only to warm myself up.
About 250 meters later, I was at the front of the bunch and feeling strong.
I kept pedaling pretty hard for about 15 seconds then looked back and noticed a bit of a gap between me and the peloton.
“Huh,” I thought. “Now what?”
Recognizing we were only 1/5 of the way into the race, I eased off on the mini-descent.
I eased off so much, in fact, that everyone whizzed by me – seemingly in one breath – and I ended up where I had been at the bottom of the hill: last.
As we approached the final turn of the first lap, the strung-out peloton collapsed like a slinky. The pace at the very back, in particular, slowed to a crawl, as it’s wont to do with inexperienced riders.
Except I didn’t recognize just how much the people in front of me were slowing down and, wanting to keep a bit of speed up for the second climb (which was right after the final turn), I didn’t brake soon or hard enough.
“F***,” I exclaimed, hopelessly trying to alert the guy in front of me that he was about to get an assfull of my face.
And down I went.
I scrambled to my feet, desperately trying to clip back in as fast as possible.
This is where the bulk of the embarrassment comes in.
On a course that’s running multiple races at the same time, I now know that the first thing I should have done was look behind me. The second thing I should have done was get the eff out of the way of the Cat 1 riders roaring into the turn.
“Jesus. Look out,” yelled the first one as I swerved across the road, struggling with my gears.
Luckily, there were only three of them immediately behind me and they all managed to avoid my pong-esque maneuvering.
I got my feet back in the pedals and my bike in the proper gear and looked up the road to survey the damage. I could see the back of my race just cresting the top of the second hill, about 500 meters away.
“No problem,” I thought. “It’ll take some work, but I can get back on.”
That notion lasted for all of about three seconds.
That’s how long it took me to realize my rear tire was flat.
I limped to the start/finish line at the top of the hill and, having already failed at my “don’t embarrass yourself goal,” said to the man at the official’s tent, “This is my first race. I have a flat. What do I do now?”
“Go get warm,” he replied.
Thus ended my first race.
Did I mention my wife and my mom were there?
Epilogue: With the enthusiasm only a true beginner can muster, I also registered for the 14 km time trial later in the day. Due to the weather/temperature (a windy and rainy 6° C by the time the TT rolled around), about 2/3 of the entrants didn’t start. Since I’d eaten about nine pancakes that morning – and then biked 1/5 of the distance I thought I was going to – I was eager to get back on the road. So I put on my rain gear and got myself to the start line with the other die-hards.
I was discouraged to see that I was the only one without a TT bike. But I suppose that makes sense when the weather has eliminated the fair-weather soloists.
The time trial was a simple out and back that started and finished at the top of the aforementioned final climb. The “out” was into a headwind, and my speedometer was getting so low that I questioned all of my abilities as a cyclist. But the tailwind on the way back convinced me I was the next Tony Martin.
In the end, I came second out of six in my group, about 30 seconds behind the winner. Average speed: 37.3 km/h. After the debacle that was my morning, I’ll take it! (Here are the results: http://www.canadiancyclist.com/dailynews.php?id=29168.)