|OC Velo Reprezent|
He was referring to the Tuesday night criterium at El Dorado Park in Long Beach. Last week Ian and I went to watch, and I left with the idea that I would have to give it a try soon. But I knew I would be sailing into uncharted waters - even the hour long Category 4/5 race would reach speeds close to 30 MPH and rarely would they drop below 24 MPH. Though I obviously can ride for an hour and can also ride at the race pace, I don't think I've ever gone that fast for an hour. My best bike split in a triathlon works out to be about 23 MPH, and that was on a sprint course where I was on the bike for 25 minutes. And though I knew that today I could tuck myself into the draft I still wasn't sure I could hold on. I'd like to think that my ego is little, but even so I still have a little bit of an ego. The thought of potentially (probably?) getting spit out of the back was a bummer.El Dorado Tonight?
I looked at the text again.
El Dorado Tonight?My iPhone screen was definitely calling to me. I could easily make the 6 PM start. I still needed to go to the bank and my race wheels needed a tire change, but it was doable. Yet I still had lingering doubts. But then I asked myself "What would Amanda@runninghood do?" Mind you, there are no doubt about these two things: 1) Amanda is very wise; and 2) Amanda would already be in the car driving to Long Beach. By looking at the situation in this light, it was easy to make up my mind - I was going to El Dorado tonight.
I got to the park at 5:30 and registered ($15 to enter, how great is that?). Craig showed up and we did a couple warm up laps around the 1.7 mile circuit. I noted wind direction and reminded myself that I had to remember a pretty big bump just before one of the turns. I have to admit I didn't feel fresh - Sunday I pounded the crap out of my legs on a trail run and yesterday I rode a fairly aggressive TT on PCH. But they had my fifteen bucks, so I was committed. Just before race time we rolled up to the start line, and a few minutes later the race director sent us on our way for a neutral lap.
We rode the neutral lap at a "slow" 22 MPH. The good news was that I was now feeling fine - the adrenaline that is never there during a warm-up was now there in full force. When lap 2 started the pace picked up to 26 MPH and we were racing.
If you don't mind me saying, I think I held my own throughout the race. A few of the laps were deemed sprint laps for extra points, so there where a couple of times coming up to the line where I was barely holding on. But I never got dropped. And though I may burn in hell for saying this, plenty of people did.
It took me a couple laps to find the best lines around the corners. But once I got that figured out, I found myself riding comfortable everywhere in the peleton except for the front - I figured it prudent to save that for another day. At one point, maybe on the 10th or 11th lap, the race director slowed us down so the pro race could pass and I think most of the field was pretty thankful for the 2 or 3 minute break. Ironically, it was the only time in the race when someone went down. For some inexplicable reason, a rider about 6 or 7 wheels ahead of me shot off the road into a shallow ditch.
My one and only goal for this race was to hold on. I didn't race with a strategic plan at all. In fact, I sat up for the last 200 meters to watch how the final field sprint shook out. I crossed the finish line about 10 or 15 seconds behind the lead group.
We ended up covering 26 miles in an hour and four minutes. My Garmin shows our average speed as 24 MPH, but when you figure in the neutral first lap, the mid race slowdown and the slow half lap back to the parking lot after the finish, we were going faster than that most of the time.
My first impression of bicycle racing is that it's the social endurance sport. There is no doubt that it was very competitive out there. But unlike triathlon, where the races tend to be solitary efforts, the peleton was peppered with snippets of conversation and even a few jokes. I've already got a killer joke lined up for next week. It's about triathletes.