Tuesday Night at the Oval (Wherein I am Not Fast)

The “C” races (that is, category 4 and 5) began this evening at the Oval, and in the interest of making my USA Cycling worth it, I rolled down to give it a try. The pain would be limited (no more than 30 laps–15 miles), so what was there to lose? Most of my pride was left at Mingo Creek, anyway. Expectations were again low, but I thought I could manage to stay with the pack for most of the race, especially given the relatively high number of first time racers. At least I might have company at the back of the pack.

In the waning daylight, we were off. It was cool, and slightly windy, with a headwind on the back straightaway (fortunately this is ever-so-slightly downhill). The pace was quick, but not unreasonable, and I found myself near the back of the pack, but not off the back, and not struggling. This kept up for a few laps. Then, in the back corner, some one in the middle of pack went down. There was a clatter of metal and plastic on tarmac. I went up high on the banking, thinking for a moment I might have to go over the back and into the grass. I slowed to nearly a stop, and owing to my position, and the line I took to miss the crash, there was a gap between me and the group. I went head-down on the back stretch and made contact with the back, briefly, but the effort took its toll, and I was off the back again. Apparently only two of us were gapped, and we promptly started working together, less to regain the group and more to survive the race. Despite our best efforts, and the excellent coaching of one of the marshals, the gap grew, and within a few more laps, we would lapped.


The marshal suggested that we catch the back of the pack as they passed, but I missed my chance, and lost contact again. My partner managed to hold the group for another lap, but as the finish approached, the riders at the front pushed the pace, and several people dropped off. Soon enough the pack approached again, and this time, I managed to latch on for a lap or so. The pace was higher than before, and I was off again, this time for good. I spun around on the final lap with one of the marshals, and we chatted about what I could do next time. His help was greatly appreciated.

So, yet another seemingly disappointing race. There were a few moments near the end that I thought, please, let this be over, but yet, once it was over, I was thinking ahead, about what I could do better, and what I needed to do to at least stay with the pack. The marshal pointed out that I tended to spin a gear lighter than the rest of the pack, and that hanging on would be easier if I pushed a bigger gear. I realized that in all my weekend riding, I probably spent too much time in the hills and not enough time keeping the speed up on flatter rides. I’m not sure that I’ll “train” properly, but I’ll at least try to keep my pace higher on my weekend rides. And yes, I’ll show up at the Oval again.

Update: Bike Snob NYC has hit the proverbial nail on the head. And I failed.