Spring Stage Race I

I'm not quite sure where I should begin. My mind is still trying to process it all.
  
Should I be happy? Sad? Disappointed? Relieved? Invigorated? Tired? Bitter? Grateful?
 
Maybe it's all of those. Mostly what I'm feeling is the last one. I race against (ok- ride in the general vicinity of) some really great people. Even with my current state of health and fitness, I still have the opportunity to ride as hard as I can, surrounded by people who understand and support my delusions- to a degree, they share them. It's nice to have company in the nuthouse.
 
My goal was to finish the thing, push myself a bit, and hopefully get a little fitness bump out of it to work with.
 
Stage I- Super Potter Hill Climb
Without a doubt, this is the worst-named climb in the area. Sure, it's a continuation of the traditional Potter Valley Road hill climb, which was bad enough. When the road was extended with a gravel stretch between paved parts, we started racing up that too. Then the middle section was paved, and now the classic finish has been left to the lower categories and maybe an inclement weather option. Super, my ass. Super sucky. Every time we go up this hill, I bleed time. Hemorrhage time. Time pours out of every orifice. Even on what passes for form for me, I creep up each switchback while the athletically gifted and featherweight dance up the road, giggling at my sweaty heaving.
 
I knew this going in. I expected to be among the last to reach the top, slower than the last few times I raced up the hill, and I was not disappointed. Is is possible to be slower than the last place guy? That's how I felt. 11th out of 13 people in the class. The first place guy could have lapped me if he was so inclined.
 
About halfway up I was in a no-man's land between riders. I could have sprinted up to the rider ahead, but would have blown myself in the effort and been pipped at the line. With the omnium scoring, a fifty mile gap between two racers is the same as fifty millimeters. I could have drifted back for the company, but probably would have gotten passed because the other rider would have sensed weakness.
 
I rode steady. I was two minutes slower than the last time I raced up that hill, which was still slow but not as painfully so.
 
I could beat myself up about it, but looking at my files I really had nothing else significant to give. I put out significantly more power than during training rides, and that alone was encouraging. If nothing else, I didn't paperboy the whole thing.
 
Super? Not even close.

Stage II- Ruff Road Circuit Race
My first rule of race bike wrenching is never race I bike you just built up. In the spirit of my season so far, I spent the morning tearing down my race bike so I could I install my fancy new aero carbon bars and stem. At the outset, the project involved swapping the shifters over, re-cabling the whole thing, and then wrapping the bars. The bike had been ridden exactly twice since the last time I did that job, so it was due for a complete teardown. I figured a couple hours and I'd be back on the road.
 
Didn't happen that way, and I spent a couple hours learning new and interesting things about the sweeps of various vintages of SRAM Force brakes and how they interact with Trek Madone frames. I also destroyed a couple bikes in the process, adding them to my already lengthy project list. I finished the bike just in time to go pick the kids up from school, make a quick turnaround, and make it to the race. I did get one thing of note accomplished:
It's the little details that count the most.
 
As it turned out, it was a beautiful night. The wind which usually howls into a painful headwind on the longest stretch of straight road on the course was a magic tailwind. I've ridden that stretch nearly every other day since I got back on the road and hadn't witnessed the phenomenon this year. Even the headwindy sections weren't brutally long or intense.
 
After a spirited first couple laps, capped off by an insanely long prime sprint, we settled into a sustainable pace. Here and there a rider would ride off the front, dangle a while, drift back, and occasionally keep drifting. A couple riders dropped off the back, but it was mostly the same group. I tried my hand at a few pulls, but the riders behind me got tired of track-standing while I flailed. Another prime sprint went from even further off, and I while I had the gas to make the split, I didn't have the gas to hold the wheel once I got there. Each time we came back together and I wheezed for a few laps until my eyes uncrossed.
 
I knew I didn't have a shot at winning it, given how far out they'd gone for the first two sprints. That wasn't defeatist thinking, that was just the reality I was faced with. My best option was to react quickly, catch the draft, and then surf up to a respectable finish. Then again, finishing with the pack would have been fine with me.
 
At the finish, the wily Pete Johnson got a sizeable gap near the finish that I thought might stick with a little luck, but the guys leading the GC chased him down and opened the sprint. I somehow clawed my way up to a wheel and held it to the finish, ending up third and somehow tied for fourth on GC.
  
I wasn't the third fastest rider on the stage by a long shot. Chris Knott was out there tearing it up in the wind just to get some hard efforts in, not caring so much about where he placed. He came in fourth, thanks to his selfless riding and my douchebaggery. He's recovering from a pretty significantly fragmented collarbone, and if he's not at 100% I'm completely screwed. Tom Peichel, legs tanned from riding in the Lower 48, solidified his GC lead, and his teammate Matt Tabinor pretty much locked up second. The only real question was- with Chris Knott sitting the TT out, who was going to end up on the third step?
 
...but that's a story for another day.

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