I can’t believe that these posts get earlier each year, but yesterday I pinned on my first number of the 2014 race season. Unlike years previous, where I’d been in snow chasing mode, I decided to pursue some bigger races around the country this year. The US Cup seems to have been resurrected with a big investment of cash on the line, and there’s lots of buzz around the Cross Country scene again, too. With all this going on, I wanted a slice of the action. The first of the series is next weekend, the 1st of March, in Austin Texas. Racing so early meant that I had to get my body in race mode. Training is all well and good, but it all comes down to making yourself hurt a lot. I’m quite good at that, but you can never make yourself suffer as much as when someone else is the one controlling the pain dial. So, I thought an early season road race was the answer to awaken the legs and put a little hurt in the system before the real racing begins next weekend.
Bryan and I had waited till the day of the race to decide whether to register, simply because Colorado weather in February is a little variable, and we didn’t have any intention of lining up in a blizzard. The weather was actually great though – close to freezing with a blustery wind, enough for some adversity without too much masochism. We had to race in the Cat 3’s though; the ludicrousness of USA Cycling not allowing pro Mountain Bikers to upgrade into the upper categories. It’s not an ideal situation for anyone, as the guys who are really trying to chase the road racing thing don’t want to racing with us who just suck up all the upgrade points. The 3’s race also has a reputation for being an unruly bunch of newbies and renegades – not much experience on the road leads to sketchy moves and frequent crashes. We stayed out of trouble all day by keeping at the front of the bunch.
So with my firm discriminatory views of road racing set in place, I lined up towards the back and watched as the race strolled gently around the course for the first of three 18 mile laps. I was amazed by the lack of urgency in the field – the first race of the season seemed to be more a chance for old faces to catch up and talk about the winter past than make each other suffer. My energy for the first couple of laps was spent ensuring I didn’t get crashed into, and asking Bryan whether I could do any racing yet. He kept responding with the negative, but eventually I enticed him to put a little pace up at the front; it was more of something to do than an actual tactical move, but it had an amazing effect when the field started to split apart in the cross wind. If no one else was going to make me suffer, at least I could get satisfaction in watching others hurt.
By the final time up the climb, the group had whittle down to a good size, and a final chunk of pace over the top ensured we had a race on our hands for the last run down into the finish. At this point I decided that racing intentionally dumb was better than pretending I knew what to do and failing. So I put in a couple silly attacks that managed to draw only a handful of people with me, and from there I just did a lot of pedalling until we came up against the the finish line. I managed to finish 6th out of a bunch of six people.