Newbie race report
Packing the bike into the car isn't something I do regularly, took an hour to get everything organised. Ended up taking pretty much every piece of cycle clothing I owned due to the inclement weather. Rained the whole way up to Broadford, fortunately dried out as I pulled into Tallarook (where the race was to start).
Number 42 was handed to me from the race organiser/handicapper. Explained I'd never raced before, but did a 'bit' of riding, in hindsight I probably should have pushed this point more. Wasn't exactly sure what handicap group I'd end up in, just content to make sure I was near the start line at 1:30. Walked back to the car and got dressed, base-layer, jersey, arm warmers seemed to be 'the go' based on others. Also removed one of my bidons as no one else was taking two. Rolled up and down the main street trying to get the legs warmed up, I'd been told that these races start quick. Quick pre-race nature stop and I rode over to the start line.
My name was called out for the limit group (first to head off), I lined up behind the four other riders in our group. There were a few other new-to-racing types, all with a few more races under their belt than myself. Asked a few questions as to the route, needn't have worried as the corner marshells did a great job. With a wave of the hand we were off and racing. Not clip-stacking in front of everyone on the start line was a small win in itself.
I did seek some pre-race tactics from a few of my more experienced mates. Don't burn out too soon, work with the group, try to latch onto a faster group when it comes through. All sounded good to me.
I sat fifth wheel for the first km, after which we saw our first crest which promptly opened up a gap of 30m between myself and two guys up the road. Feeling comfortable I rode back onto the lead group, didn't see the other two we started with till the finish line. Five was down to three, I stayed at the rear while the two guys in front took a decent turn each. We were about 10km in when I decided I should really help out, rode up to the front, flicked the cap, reached for the drops and put the head down. Quads tightened up pretty much instantaneously, "damn, I'm in trouble" was echoing through my head. Looked over my shoulder to find no one! Eased off the pace to let the others latch back on whilst simultaneously kicking myself. Easy goes. This point was reiterated by one of the locals in our group, "we're 20km in to a 60km race and we've still got some decent hills coming up" (really only the one hill, but we looped around it twice).
We hit the climb, dropped into the little ring (probably didn't need to) and set a steady pace. Climb couldn't have been more than 2km at around a 4% gradient. Looked over my shoulder to find one rider not too far back, the other, well he was now a long way off. Let off the pace a little to let the nearest rider back on. Still not even halfway through the race and I really didn't want to go it alone. Unfortunately he wasn't up for pulling a turn, and when I dropped him on the same climb the second time around I figured I may as well just leave him. So there I was, 20km to go. . . solo.
And a miserable 20km it was, started raining, back was having a few issues (I've never pushed so hard, so long in the drops before). Had absolutely no idea how far behind the other riders were so pushed out a pace I thought I could handle till the end. Couldn't see anyone behind, but with guys like Shane Miller chasing me down I figured if I looked back and saw him he'd be past in no time. Even had that trail of slober/sweat/rain hanging from mouth to top-tube at one point, glamorous stuff! Legs had pretty much stopped working, slightest rise would see my speed drop below 20. Tail wind was much appreciated on the run back to the finish line, although I'm not sure who that helps more. There was at least on point where I swore my rear tire was going soft.
Rounded the final bend to see the checkered flag ahead, quick look back put my mind at rest as I crossed the line. Won my first bike race, which was great, just not as great as if I'd been back a few groups. Not sure if the guy on the finish line was serious or not, but "welcome to B-Grade" sounded a little ominious. Either way, next time will be 'interesting'. Second place went to the local I pulled around, third to Shane who'd eaten 10-15 minutes into our 18 minute head start! 4th went to the other starter in our group who'd made an unfortunate wrong turn that may have cost him 3rd. We apparently opened a bigger gap on two of the groups starting after, those others guys are due up a grade too I reckon.
Rode back into town, chucked the bike in the boot and pulled into the local pub where all were gathering for the presentations. Had a chat to the locals and other Melbourne racers, they didn't seem too annoyed with me, something about making up for it next time. Felt a little bad taking the $20, wasn't expecting any prize money. Had a great day out, I'd do it every weekend if the opportunity presented itself. If you're thinking about having a go I'd just do it.http://app.strava.com/rides/10396765
34.5 km/h average speed is faster than my usual rides, a quick one without traffic lights is usually about 31km/h although usually a little longer with a few more hills. Still, there's an extra kph or two that came out for race day.