Baraboo was on my calendar since i decided I'd be doing road races. I'd heard about it last year – read blogs, saw pics, etc. At race time a year ago I think I'd been the owner of a proper road racing bicycle for a week or so. Anyway....
I woke up the Thursday before the race with that dreadful feeling that I was about to get sick; you know the one. I had that little spot of dryness in the back of my throat that I have come to identify with head colds. Despite my best red-faced grunting and fist clenching attempts to kill the virus before it took hold, by Friday morning I was miserable.
I had already made arrangements to stay with Tim in Racine. I had already tuned and tweaked my bike. I had already amped up my ‘training' in aspiration of a little better form. Mucus be damned – I was going to race.
I slept heavily friday night. I went through about a half box of Kleenex on the way to the race. I jokingly and rhetorically asked if ingesting an antihistamine was considered doping. I kitted up for the winter-like conditions.
Before I went out to do about a 1.5 mile warm-up, I dropped the entire remnants of my electrolyte tabs on the wet ground after mixing one into a bottle. This was a precursor.
The fields were small, which I took to mean that a crash-threat would be significantly less. The roads were wet though. The gun went off and the pace was slow; with a good amount of justifiable braking in the turns and on descents.
I got dropped by the pack on the first climb. I simply was not prepared for an ascent of that magnitude. I managed to catch back up to the pack quickly and stayed with them... inching ever closer to the front. Got spit out the back again on the second climb but managed to keep the peloton in sight for the end of the 1st lap.
I figured I was about 45 seconds behind the lead group and still felt like I could bridge. I rode up on another dropped rider and asked if he wanted to catch them. He declined and I motored on. Then came that climb again. This one put me in a bad place. As I reached the summit, I could no longer see the lead group... just my fellow dropees...
This is where the sequence of race event gets fuzzy. There were obviously a lot of factors that could have contributed to this. The first event (and subsequently the one that would really end the race for me) was that I went off course. I can't say for certain that this is how it transpired, and it is ultimately my sole responsibility to be aware, but I'm pretty sure that an official did not signal a turn for me... I was by myself amongst a highly increased wind. I was dripping snot out of several orifices. I had not quite recovered from climb number three. But I'll be darned if this official didn't just stare right at me – not signaling my turn – even after I had turned the wrong way and kept looking at him.
It cost me a place or 2 for sure, but I didn't care. I kept riding at as fast a pace as I could. Then i noticed that some rider – or motorist with a horribly crude palate – had discarded a wrapped package of nutty bars on the road! I seriously thought about turning around to pick them up. A mile or two later I stopped and turned around – to pick up my expensive sunglasses that had been blown off my face.
After that I barely rode the final climb without dismounting to walk, I descended more than once in 53 x 15 against a headwind as wicked as I had ever experienced in all my time cycling, and I attempted to finish the race with a sprint because that's what you're supposed to do but I half-assed it over the line for 14th of 20.
Regardless,it was a good experience. It gave me time alone in a race for the first time this season... which obviously made me think of 'cross. But it also made me think about road racing and what I'll do differently next year (I won't give away my secrets... HA!). Soon enough it's CX.... which will hopefully be nothing to sneeze at.
- Kevin Clark