Mario Races Bicycles

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11th Jan 2017 - HCC Crits B Grade

I had only managed to get a couple of training sessions in last week after 2 weeks off the bike; last week I decided not to race due to a lack of training and so didn’t want to put it off another week! Goal for tonight was to figure out what B grade racing was like as it was my first time, stay upright and last at least 10 minutes of the 35min + 3laps race.

I knew the pace was going to be quicker than usual, a fast race in C grade could be a 39km/h average and I knew that B grade was 40+. That doesn’t sound like a big difference but with the constant climbing and descending each lap 40km/h was very quick around the teardrop. I was also looking forward to not having to sit up and let the faster bunch go through, B grade races at the same time as D so now we would be the ones overtaking.

For the first 3 laps of the race I sat near the front, I immediately noticed how different the bunch behaved, gaps between riders were smaller and the bunch was more fluid, you had to be much more alert about riders on either side as it wasn’t as static as the lower grades. I found myself having to concentrate much more just to keep out of trouble. Although riders would move around more they were much more predictable when they did, deliberate but steady, so that was good.

After 3 laps, ~ 5 minutes in, I had been pushed out to the back, I was struggling to hold wheels, not because I wasn’t strong enough just because the gaps were tighter and I was giving up wheels all the time. On the descent in lower grades I would usually not pedal at all and let my weight catch me up to the riders in front, but I couldn’t do that anymore, the gap would just grow too big; not only that but on some laps I now had to pedal around the corner going downhill when usually a good aero tuck would be good enough.

As my goal was only to last 10 minutes I didn’t mind being up the back, as the bunch was much more behaved it was actually much easier out there than usual, we would corner around the hairpin faster so there was less of a yo-yo effect and I knew I just needed to do that for another 5 minutes to hit my goal. My recent poor quality of sleep and an involved day at work meant that I didn’t want to have to mentally focus as hard as I needed to if I was further up the bunch.

10 minutes in and I felt good, new goal 15 minutes; 5 minutes later i’m more tired but still going well. 20 minutes, 25… still good. Now the sprint lap hits, I thought for sure that would be it, but no i’m still sitting last wheel at the end of the bunch. I kept lapping until 35 minutes in and 3 laps were called. I was surprised by how good I felt actually. A bunch sprint would have been a great result for me but placing my first race would have been ever better. I couldn’t find a good place to move up on the 3rd last lap, the pace was fast and there wasn’t many gaps, I’d wait one more. 2nd last lap and the pace up the hill is fast making it hard to pass.

On the back straight for the 2nd last time I saw some room around the outside, I thought that if I could move up and get half way up the bunch that would position me well for the last lap. The pace wasn't too quick and I found some clean air and pushed hard, surprisingly I went all the way to the front. I hadn’t planned on going off but I was there and I felt good and ended up going through the hairpin in front, looking down and my garmin said 43km/h which is faster than I thought I could hold around there, I touched the brakes, pushed the bike hard into the ground and went around.

Up the climb for the second last time I was still pushing hard but I wasn’t going all that quick, I was tired and really starting to feel it; I thought that surely someone was going to come around, but they didn’t. Descending around the back corner and i’m still in front. The road starts to flatten out and I go to push as hard as I can, I look down; 37km/h; way too slow, that’s not going to hold. I look to my right and there’s a train of riders about to launch, they storm past, the peloton follows, i’m out of energy and by myself out the back all within a few seconds. I rolled around the final corner very gingerly, rested a few seconds and then decided to sprint up the hill for the last time, not because I’m in with a chance of finishing well, just because sprinting is awesome and I can. I passed 3 riders going up the hill but finished behind the main group still.

Tonight’s race was so much fun, weather was perfect, the bunch was perfectly behaved, the racing was good and fast.

Moving Time: 00:39:16
Distance: 26.39 km
Average Speed: 40.33 km/h
Climbed: 327 metres