I did my first cycling road race last weekend... and I made it through! It was a two-day stage race with a 46 mile road race and 6.6 mile time trial on Saturday, and a 49 mile road race on Sunday. The Fayetteville Texas Stage Race. It was a huge victory for me to even get there, much less stick out the tough times through the three events. Last summer I was totally averse to riding with people, and never imagined that I would do a bike race. I was happy riding by myself to train for triathlon biking. I realized that I need to ride with faster riders to be a faster rider. I train my swimming like a swimmer, and my running like a runner. No doubt that explains why those are my strengths (and maybe my naturally long limbs). This year I am doing what it takes to make biking a strength too.
Ok, so the race itself. I went in with the strategy in the mind to just stay towards the front of the pack and stay on someone's wheel. Well, this is good unless you can't do it. We started off slow, so slow that I wondered if I had it in the bag. I had no idea how fast Cat 4 riders ride. When we got to the first massive hill, a few riders put it down and started to sprint. I was in the front and quickly fell to the back, and then dropped off the back. I was not expecting that sprint and sprinting up a steep hill is tough. They kept going and I had to give it everything I had to get back with them. It took a mile or two, so that was a huge effort expended. While I was sprinting, they were resting. When they took off again, I was spent and couldn't catch up again. I rode the rest with a few others who were dropped and then by myself. It was a good learning experience. I didn't let it get to me. The time trial was no big deal, since I am used to that. The road race the next day was more of the same, but I was able to stay with the pack for a few more surges because I was anticipating them. I knew I had to be ready to go 100% at any moment. Again though, I rode most of the day by myself.
Did I have fun? Hmmm. I guess so, but some parts weren't very much fun. I know these will make me a better rider and a stronger rider mentally. So in that sense, it was a satisfying experience to learn a new way to get better. I will do more races. In fact, I am planning to do another one in two weeks. Maybe I will have more fun when I get strong enough to do more than just fight to stay alive. Cycling is a grueling sport. Weak people need not apply.