Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hincapie Spring Training Series - La Bastide

Saturday's training called for a hard 3:00 training block  The weather was to be cold, rainy and miserable.  I didn't relish the thought of logging 3 hours on the trainer, so it seemed only logical to do the Hincapie Spring Training Series at La Bastide - North of Greenville, SC.  For the 40+ class it would be six laps of 8+ miles with a big climb at the start/finish (and every lap).  If I'm going to be cold and miserable, I may as well be racing...

It rained for the entire drive to La Bastide - a winery/Motel deal of some sort.  Very hilly.  After some creative parking I began to prep for the 11:00am race start.  It had stopped raining, although the skies were certainly not clearing, it was warming a little bit.  I opted for a few less layers than Southern Cross last weekend.

At race start they notified us that the race had been shortened to 5 laps and that the Masters 40+ and Masters 50+ would be combined, and that we were racing for one payout instead of paying both classes.  So this is road racing.  Not that it had any significant impact on my race.

The race started with a neutral roll out on roads that would stay wet under the chilly conditions, but it never rained for the duration of the race.  At an intersection at the bottom of a fast descent, the racing began in earnest.  Two-thirds of the triangle-shaped course was flat or rolling.  The remainder was a substantial climb or rapid descent.

The first lap was pretty hard as breaks and chases were being worked out at the front of the field.  I had one good friend, but no teammates in the race.  I know I can't get off the front so I decide to let the tactics play out, carefully watching to be sure the pack doesn't split in front of me.

The first time up the hill is hard.  I'm a climber, but I'm used to climbing at my own pace for the off road events and I excel at the really long climbs.  This was neither.  Fortunately the pack was large enough on this first ascent that the immediately following descent was long enough to stay in contact with the strung out group and the now, somewhat smaller, group rolled around to the climb again.

Apparently we didn't hit the hill hard enough first time.  We hammered it pretty hard for lap two.  I was in good position though, and knew I could recover most of the rest of the lap.  I was able to stay in contact once again.  While I was recovering near the rear of the pack, two riders rode off the front.  I had no answer for them.

The third time up the hill was painful.  I struggled mightily, as did many others.  When the first few riders crested the hill, they kept hammering.  I did all I could to limit my losses.  I was going to have to chase them back down.  Fortunately a few others caught me and we managed to paceline and catch back on.  It was all I could do just to catch the group, but in the shelter of the other riders I was able to start recovering again.  In the mayhem a few other riders had gone off the front.  I'm not sure if our little group of about 15 is the peloton, or the chase group.  Either way, my optimistic but resolute plan was to hang onto this group until the bitter end.

I wasn't sure what was going to happen the fourth time up the hill with this smaller group.  I hit the climb in the front of the pack with the plans of climbing it at my pace and see what everyone else did.  Although there was some concern on my part as several blew by at the base of the hill, my plan worked well as my steady pace saw me able to catch them all back in the steeper final part of the climb.

The last lap was pure energy conservation pace as nobody wanted to drive the front.  The final results would be decided this last time up the hill.  My legs felt OK, but lacked the snappiness I was going to need to stand and mash the pedals for the final 200 meters.  My only hope was that the others were in worse shape than me.  As it turns out, some were.  Some weren't. 

At the base of the climb I was encouraged when nobody took off immediately.  I knew they were feeling the effects of the earlier climbs as well.  My goal: stay on my buddy, Chris Sugar's' wheel.  He's a strong rider and a good finisher.  We pass a few other riders as they begin to drop off.  The final 200 meter "sprint" is the steepest part of the finishing climb.  Chris stands and pumps the pedals, I try, but to no avail.  Sitting and spinning is all I have left.  I do manage to hang on to be scored right behind him, so a good effort for sure.

Two of the riders ahead of me were in the 50+ class, so my top 10 finish is scored 8th in 40+.  It was a hard day.  But that's why I was there.

See you on the trails!

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