Whew – what a tough race. 138 starters, 53 finishers and unfortunately I wasn’t one of them. It started out well with my first call-up ever in an NRC race and first time in front of Kristine. I had a great start, and was cruising through the first two laps in very good position. Then coming through the start/finish line on the third lap, I heard the sound of clanking metal and saw out of the corner of my eye riders going down on the far righthand side of the peloton. Since I was all the way on the left, I thought “whew, I’m safe”. Then, catching me totally by surprise, and with an amazing suddenness that is indelibly etched into my mind, the Globalbike rider immediately next to me was dragged straight down to the ground with such forcefulness that I nearly fell off my bike out of shock. Fortunately for me, he was dragged to the right so I did make it safely through. With the speed we were going, riders from behind piled into the wreck and quickly blocked the road behind me. Less than 30 riders out of a pack of 138 had made it through. It took nearly two laps for them to be inserted back into the race at the pit, and unfortunately the officials decided to insert all 100 riders in front of our group. There was yelling and cursing like you wouldn’t believe from our group, but we had to deal with it and I went from being in the very front of the race to the very back of the race. The slingshot effect was terrible, and for the next 50 minutes I was in the single file line at the back of the group going nonstop around the course with no real place to rest. I tried everything I could to move up, but whenever the group bunched up in front of us, it would take too long for us at the back to make it up to the bunch who had already started to accelerate again. The image of it was terrible – you would see the front 50 riders bunched up at the top of the hill with the back 30 or so by this point still strung out single file. Just as we would start to make it to the front group, they would have accelerated again into single file meaning that we were riding the whole course single file with very little draft. I lasted much longer than I thought I would, and pulled out while still barely hanging on at the back just because I literally couldn’t take it any more. Hard to think straight, and I am somewhat regretting the decision now to have willingly pulled out instead of waiting to get dropped at some point later in the race as there were only 18 laps left when I quit. Who knows maybe I could have recovered and hung on to finish? On a positive note, for the few laps I was at the front, it was a very fun course, well-organized, and there were thousands of people lining the course. Also, I only lost two positions in the USA crits overall, and I’m currently still in the top 10 in 9th. Next race – Chris Thater Memorial in New York!
We’re still driving back to Birmingham at the moment, and I’ll post my heartrate data when I get home. Here’s my prediction – low zone 5 at the start, dipping down to zone 4 after the wreck, then shooting up high into zone 5 all the way until I pulled out one hour into the race.