Matt Donahue

Monday, July 18, 2005

Girro di Coppi - First Road Race

I was a bit nervous about this race, it being my first road race. I had also ridden the course the weekend before and been pretty surprised at how hilly it was. You can check out the course and it's profile here. Advice from my road-racing friends was to stay near the front at all costs, "If a group leads out, follow a wheel." I took it seriously and staying focused on that advice; it is probably what kept me in the game on Saturday. I thank Curry and his fellow Coppi teamate Joe? for that advice, it worked.

The rolling start was nice- always a good way to start a race, no sitting at the line worrying about who's going to get into the single track first... oh, yeah and no single track. It was neat to have a group of CBers in the peleton, it gave the opportunity to follow someone I knew, and share a few words with here and there.

The first lap was surprisingly slow, lots of braking, and general confusion. It seemed like no one was willing to take a chance and lead out (I certainly was not). Fellow teamates Mike and Brian were putting in solid efforts, even leading the pack at times. I was content to watch from always more than 4 riders off the front.

Lap two changed things up pretty drastically. On the long uphill following the downhill start, the group started breaking up. It seemed as if every wheel I followed continued to slow down on the climb, while a lead group kept putting distance into the rest of us. Finally toward the top I just gave up on following anyone and struck out after the lead group. It was a rolling section and it took some time, but eventually I merged into the back of this group just before the second turn in the course. Ezra was there as well. Once in it, I was able to stay with this group. About 5(?) miles and a turn later Ezra remarked that it looked as if we had dropped a lot of people, I turned around, and there was no one in sight behind us. My reaction was a combination of fear and excitement, fear that I may be next off the back, but excitement that somehow I'd managed to hang on to the lead pack for almost 2 laps.

Lap 3 proved much faster, as the group of about 18 or 20 did a lot less braking and occupied less space on the road. It seemed like folks were less sketchy about position. As we approached the final climb the pace started to ramp up and people got in position to sprint the uphill to the finish. At the approach, the group was still tight- and after some bumping into another rider the sprint was suddenly on. It started with just less than 200m to go. Ezra aptly described it as a tunnel vision, only seeing the finish line and the lane that you were taking to get there. I don't remember much of the sprint; I do recall seeing Ezra cross the line a few riders in front of me, I was just hammering up that hill. As I regained the ability to think, I wondered, “was I in the top 10?” nah, must have been at least 10 guys in front of me… I ended up in 8th.

I like the road racing. It’s pretty damned cool. I’ll do that again.


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