They say you never forget your first time. I’m inclined to agree. My first USAC sanctioned road race was so full of firsts that it will probably be burned into my memory for a good while.
Last Sunday, I went up to the rolling hills of St. Francisville to compete in the Felicana Road Race, hosted by GeauxRace. I’ve been practicing going fast on a road bike for a few months, and for a few weeks have been attending Tuesday Loops, a group ride that I thought felt a lot like racing. But having never actually raced before, I had no idea what I was in for.
Never before had I ridden so fast, so close to so many people. Never before had I hit 53 mph on a bike. Never before have I coasted so much on a ride. Early on, every break from the pack felt like it could run forever and go all the way to the finish
A Brief Breakdown of the Race:
Mile 0: Cat 4/5 riders are called to lineup and be checked in. The official calls Christian Fontaine, “Christine.” All laugh. Good joke. Race starts. Clusterfuck of riders forms. Begins to make sense over time.
Mile 3-7: Make my way to the front, following “Christine.” This would become a trend for much of the race. We go off the front for a good while. I am perplexed this is possible. Peloton pulls us back several miles later.
Mile 8: Mike Rasch and another rider jump off the front like nobody’s beeswax. They are neither seen nor heard from again for much of the race.
Mile 11: I go onto the centerline of the road. Its rutted texture ejects my water bottle full of gatorade. Thankfully no one is killed.
Many Miles: I figure out how the peloton moves and rotates as we lackadaisically “chase” Mike and the other breakaway rider. I seem to find myself pulling at inopportune times, and being dropped to the back of the pack when it is least convenient (like right before the final sprint).
Mile 33: Reported sighting of breakaway riders, a 800 meters off the bow.
Mile 38: The pack catches the breakaway
Mile 40: Will Sheftall goes off the front for a short time.
Mile 43.7: Having busted arse trying to maintain a spot at the front of (or in front of) the peloton, I am pulled back and dropped to the back of the first pack of riders, just in time for the final sprint.
Mile 44: I gain a lot of positions, sprinting around a lot of the pack for the final 200 meters, to take 12th place in a field of 45 Cat 4/5 riders. No trophy, no flowers, no flashbulbs, no wine. This is the glamour of Cat 5 racing. Free beer and jambalaya follow, most excellent.
Yeah You Ride