Monday, May 19, 2014

Morgul Race Report by Eric Welch

This race review is a hodge podge collection of my thoughts as they randomly waft through the echoing voids of my mind. So if you are looking for easy reading…..sorry.

Warming up for the race is the point of highest anxiety for me, and I really wish I could do without it. I remember the warm up for the Louisville crit., which was my first group start race, as being…nauseating!

I have enjoyed every one of the races I’ve done so far, but every single one has been littered with mistakes. My coach placed a lot of emphasis on this race, so I determined not to nullify all the preparation by replicating the errors which I seem to cling to. To that end I am happy to report I will fall asleep tonight with no regrets……okay, it would be nice if my legs were stronger, my lungs were bigger and I had some connections for ‘medicinal enhancements’ (ya, ya, just kidding on the last one:)

Friendly bunch of guys this group was, and it was great recognizing and chatting with many of them even though I would be doing my best to take advantage of every one of them just moments later. The start and first climb, much to my relief, was relatively casual; at the top, one of the guys commented that so far this was one of the more enjoyable Sunday group rides he had done. This lackadaisical pace did not last much longer however. The attacks began before reaching the first turn around, and the responses were fast and frenetic; like watching bees converge on the attacker of the hive. I myself engaged in this behavior only once; closing the gap on a single uphill breakaway. As I grabbed the wheel of this errant cyclist, I realized I was falling back into the same behavior that left me cracked during the Weld County RR, so I fell back and rested until I was engulfed in the main group which then did quick work of reeling the breakaway in with very little effort on my part. All of this restlessness in the group did lead to bouts of chaotic behavior, including wheel clipping and I took a not so pleasant handlebar blow to my hip. Everyone took these faux pas in stride, however. Even when I took a larger gulp than I could swallow and blew (mostly) water on everyone behind me, they all laughed and thanked me for the cooling shower.

As lap 2 began, the chivalrous behavior ended and reading the efforts of those around me required nothing more than listening to the sound of lungs starving for air (I LOVE hearing that sound emanate from others during a race:)

I DIDN’T GET DROPPED ON A SINGLE DOWNHILL DURING THIS RACE! For me that is huge! Before the descents, I simply placed myself 2nd or 3rd wheel and hung on until someone else went by at which point I snapped onto their wheel. Another satisfying realization I’ve had which helped me stay with the pack this time around: Even if my legs feel like they will fall off or lungs pop during a hard effort, there is no reason to panic, for if I can hang with the group to the crest, I will quickly recover. I guess it is my ‘survival instinct’ which has prior to this always forced me to drop my effort in fear of bonking and not even being able to finish.

Unfortunately, our group caught the women’s cat 4 group at the round about before the final climb to the finish. I spoke with Jennifer after the race, and apparently some of our group was quite rude both vocally and in behavior while attempting to pass while circumnavigating the traffic circle. This led to thinly veiled hostility resulting in the women’s group being mostly split up before the last climb. This mixed crowd resulted in a packed and confusing finish climb. I felt panic welling up from within as I realized I was much farther back in the pack than I probably should be while also feeling my energy reserves ebb. I had no idea when or where to effectively attack and couldn’t really tell who or how many should be the focus of an attack in the first place considering the mixed crown. Finally, I decided to pack it up and take off at the point where the climb increases for about 200 meters to the finish. I just aimed for one red number tag after another and felt my grasp of consciousness begin to slip as I picked off one after another. With a last ditch effort, I swapped what would have been 6th place for 5th with a guy who I caught at the line by less than half a bike length. This would have all felt so exhilarating at the time if I would have been able to even think! For about 15 seconds I just slow pedaled because I was unable to (or didn’t remember how to) unclip. I finished 5th out of I believe 28 and 9 seconds off winning time. This sure motivates me to do a whole lot more hurting between now and the next race!

Thank you to all my team who continue to envelope me in their wisdom and support. I love having Jon yelling at me that I’m not on a warm up lap! Was also great sharing the moment with Greg who helped clear the fog of confusion at the finish regarding finishing times. Jennifer, as always, calms my nerves with her sage advice (I was initially dumbfounded when she crumpled up her numbers before pinning them to her jersey) and calm demeanor. As I predicted earlier, there will be a lot of cat 4 women closely watching Jennifer’s moves in future races!

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon at the races (Sunshine hillclimb anyone….anyone?)

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