On Sunday Isaiah, Zach and I made the drive out to Burlington, Wisconsin for the Spring Prairie road race. This is the road state championships race, and as such WCA gave us Chicagoans our own 4/5s non-cheesehead field. The course is about 6.5 miles through rolling country roads with a steepish longer climb right before the finish. The short up and down course reminded me of a circuit race, our field was doing 6 laps.
After our neutral rollout the race started on the "big" climb. The pack made its way up very slowly. The course was 4 corners but with enough twisty bends up/down and sideways that one could get away. And they tried for the first two laps, setting a rough tempo.
It was obvious that this would be a race of attrition, the pack would lose a couple of guys every lap on the climbs and descents. Although all of the elevation gains were only rollers they were enough to send guys out the back with their breakfast in their throats.
Coming in with good form and fresh strong legs I was able to hang on to the back with Isaiah and Zach. In the first couple of laps, Zach got popped out the back. After the first big climb there was a fast descent with a turn into another roller at the bottom. It was around here that I found my way off the back with a couple of riders including Isaiah and a Spidermonkey rider. I led them out to a Tower Racing fellow who was going back also. After a couple of shouts of encouragement from me and others it was obvious that I would have to dig deep into my suitcase of uncertainty to catch back on. With the desperate knowledge that if we didn't close the gap our race would be over, I put my head down and got aero on the hoods. Not wanting to wait for anybody else I took a big pull to bring us back to the pack.
Hoping that I hadn't burned too many matches, the pack settled into a much more relaxed pace for the middle laps. Conversational at times, it gave Isaiah and me opportunity to talk about our plans for tomorrow, and how surprised we were that we were still here etc. Not having had a great 1st half of the season I used this race to brush up my pack riding skills trying to move up ride more conservatively.
Once we started the bell lap I was feeling confident, at the big finishing climb I was always starting from the ass end of the pack but was able to move to the front half during the climb. I could probably make a big move and move up a bunch of places at the end. I also noticed that I had stayed in the big chainring the whole race except for the finishing roller. Hmm, I thought maybe I should try riding in the small chainring to let my legs rest a little. Big mistake. I shifted down to the 39 while we were on a flat section. My timing couldn't have been worse as the pack descended. A mental lapse cost me big. I went out the back at a bad time.
Just as I reached the bottom the pack was cresting the next climb. I tried for little bit to catch up, had this happened earlier in the race I might have had a chance.
So I finished by myself. Upset that a simple mistake made me miss the fireworks at the end, I was also feeling kind of good. I had managed to stay with the pack almost to the very end and accomplished my race goal of finishing with the 1st half of the pack. With my legs feeling this good in already I can't wait until August.