Sunday, July 17, 2011

Roadie training for Pisgah?

   Every MTB’er knows the best way to get in base miles is on a road bike because it’s much easier on the rest of your body and often more convenient than riding the trails for hours on end.  I like to take it a step further and race the occasional criterium or road race in order to get some serious intensity training.

   The French Broad omnium has one of the few road races in this area that has a pack-splitting climb in the middle and a mountain top finish.  It’s only a 40 mile race, so you really have to stay on your toes the entire time.

   The race started in Marshall, NC.  In addition to the 70 other CAT 4 racers, we also raced with about 30 of the Masters 50+ category.  So, all 100 of us roll off and quickly the road turns uphill.  The first 4.5 miles have a lot of climbing.  All the non-climbers want to be on the front so they don’t get dropped, everyone that thinks they have a chance to do well wants to be on the front and it’s generally easier and safer to race at the front.  This is not the Tour de France, so the roads are not closed to traffic and we are required to stay to the right of the yellow line.  I generally ride on the yellow line in crowded conditions in case there is a crash I’m not blocked in.  I count 6 riders that pass me left of the yellow in the first 2 miles.

   We continue through some more-or-less chaotic twisty climbs where the field tries to invert itself as the front of the field starts a climb and the rear of the field is drafting down the hill from the last climb.  There is one crash as wheels overlap, but everyone continues on.

   Around mile 20 we get to the first big climb.  I’m usually a pretty good climber, but this is a struggle.  I decide to settle in to my own pace.  I start the climb with about 60 riders ahead of me, but they drop away rapidly.  I keep the leaders in sight, but about 20 riders or so go over the top ahead of me.  It’s a steep downhill after the climb and the lead group quickly distances me in the few moments they crest the hill and are going over 40mph descent while I am along at 8 mph.  It’s also very tough to make up ground on a very fast descent.  But I know that the winner will come out of the lead group and I need to be in it.  A few of us stragglers hook up and begin to chase in earnest.  We hit speeds approaching 50mph, trying not to slow for any corners, trading turns up front and hammering whenever the road turns a little flatter.  We close in on the pack, but they always seem just out of reach.  Finally, after entertaining thoughts of giving up chase and conserving energy for the next climb, we reach the pack and settle into the pace of the lead group, enjoying the opportunity to draft along at a sane pace.  Looking back, I probably chased a bit too hard and could’ve fallen back to a bigger chase group and done less work to catch back on, as another group caught us a bit later. 

   After a few miles of recovering as much as possible we get to the final climb.  This climb will determine the finishing order.  Every rider your pass is one more position.  Everyone knows this.  We all put forth every bit of energy we have left.  It was disheartening to see some folks ride away at the start of the climb, but I stay on pace and eventually them all back, plus a few more.  Alas, as I am about to reach a large group of riders the finish line approaches.  I roll across in 17th.  I am a little disappointed in my overall standings, but glad to have finished without issues after having mechanical issues in previous years.  After a hard week of training and no real tapering for the race I suppose it was a respectable result.  It was a rather satisfying race in that I worked hard to put myself in a position to be able to win and put forth all of my effort at the finish. 

See you on the road trails!

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