Last weekend I entered my third race of the season.
As you may recall, my first one was a self-inflicted bust before it even began since i entered it with the grand idea that I would spend the whole race at the back of the peloton and just "sit in." Well, the accordion effect that's worst at the back snapped me loose after only one hour into the race.
My second race was an "open" mens criterium attended by world champions, belgian champions, U-23 studs and others with impressive legs suited for thoroughbred horses.
The third took place in Holland. It was a criterium event - 42 twisty, turny laps totaling 60km. This time I was smart enough to start near the middle of the field of over 60 riders. My plan worked for the first two minutes. But thanks to my lack of timing, lack of racing rhythm, lack of time spent at the top end of my heart limit, I was back in last place by the end of the first lap.
In addition to the exaggerated accordion effect after every turn, I had to deal with riders in front of me losing contact with the peloton. Every time this happened, i had to sprint around them to re-claim my last place in the peloton.
One of these attempts to reattach to the peloton just about killed my race! I had to chase for a whole lap. Even though each lap was only a couple of minutes, in those two minutes I went through intense HELL! While cruising behind the peloton at an average race speed of 39kph, my body was in pain, my mind was in shock - it was so easy - and so tempting - to quit at that moment.
But then i thought about how i'd feel if i quit AND how much gas money would be wasted (keep in mind, our automobile fuel is not subsidized by the government. It costs 1.58 euros per liter here.) I never worked so hard for last place in my life!!
While I was in the back praying to the criterium gods to keep me in contact with the peloton while my body adjusts to racing again, a group of ten gals went off the front. This group contained the eventual winner - Cyclo-Cross Extraordinaire Reza Holmes-Ravenstijn.
Finally after about twenty laps solidly in last place, my racing sensations returned. My timing out of turns improved, I started to look for opportunities to move up in the pack. Even my legs recovered from the racing shock and started to feel spunky again. I made the switch from reacting to moves to anticipating the race. As my coach puts it, I raced the race i was in. I felt like a bike racer again.
On the last lap, I moved to the front of what was left of the peloton so I could enter the technical S-turns safely. Well the gals let me hang out in the front for almost the rest of the last lap. Going into the final straightaway they all swarmed around me. Last again. I finished 21st out of 21 finishers. (the other 40+ racers were dropped and pulled out of the race.)
I may not have won the race but i did get some valuable racing rhythm which will prepare me for this weekend's back-to-back racing. As goofy as it sounds, I just can't wait to race again!
Afterwards, we drove over to the Westerschelde (a really wide river that empties into the North Sea) for a picnic. While enjoying our pasta, salad and wine we watched the birds play in the wind and even saw what looked like a pirate sailboat.