Of the five road races over 50 miles this year this was the one that didn't kick my butt the most. But that's not saying much.
We rode out of San Ardo P-I-A-N-O. I kept waiting for someone -anyone- to go up and make things fast. After 30 minutes of excruciatingly slow 18 mph "racing" in two very neat lines with no one taking paces or doing anything at all I went to the front and eased the pace up to a wopping 20 mph. I looked back and found one guy on my wheel and the pack 200 meters behind. A few minutes later and there were three of us and the pack a little farther behind. I say "pack" but it was all of maybe 17 guys. We got a moderately well running three man paceline going but not really pushing hard. That only lasted about five minutes and it was gruppo intacto again. One of the three of us was a Taleo guy and he pretty much spent the rest of the race riding at the front with EVERYONE more than content to just sit on his wheel and stop pedalling anytime there was the slightest threat of putting their noses into the wind. This frustrated the HELL out of me and I wasted all my energy for 60 miles trying to do my share to hurt some of the barnacles or riding slowly off the front then hoping someone would come with me. But everytime it was the same damn thing. I'd see shadows or hear riders behind me, look over my shoulder and there was Taleo-Man pulling the pack back up to me. What a load of crap! I really don't understand that dynamic at all.
As we began the last 20 mile loop the pace went up and some fresh faces finally showed at the front. Of course this was about the time my legs decided they were tired. Staying in the pack and being the ONLY guy (other than Taleo, "no no let me chase that down for you"-man) to make pace on the little hills was still easy but the tell tale signs of legs-about-to-crap-out-on-you were there. Sure enough I got the first signs of quad-cramps with about ten miles to go. I tried to suck wheel and give them a break but they were simply not hearing it. I had a couple of near lockups but was able to keep my legs spinning.
Going into town we mixed in with another pack and the cat-5 shennanigans of death-gripping stiff scary-bike-handling guys riding up on top of each other began. We made the turn up to the finish and I just tried to keep my legs spinning as best as I could with no hope for sprinting.
And I was pissed. Pissed, dissappointed and wishing I hadn't ridden so stupidly.
In hindsight, I should have just sat in and waited three hours for the sprint. I'm perfectly happy to do that in a 45 minute crit but that's simply a waste of time to race a road race like that. Despite the shorter distance of the regular E5 race I really wish I had done that instead. I think the younger guys would have actually been racing instead of merely riding along and only raising the pace when someone managed to make a small gap. Typical California negative racing bullshit. Now I remember why it was so annoying way back when...
I guess I should stick to the track, mtb, cyclocross, criteriums, and road races that create real attrition.
I probably wouldn't be so bitter if I hadn't been targetting this race so much. I'd probably be less bitter if I'd done this race with more of a sprinter mentality than a fighter mentality.