The day had arrived, the day I would put my extensive (nearly 4 months) road cycling experience to the test. I was quite nervous all day in anticipation of how I would fare in my first cycle competition, that being a criterium with the local cycle club.
I had been down to the track the week before to check out just what went on and what the competition looked like. I was pretty sure I would do ok in D grade as they were all under 14 years old!!! The C grade certainly looked quite fast though, and certainly faster than I had gone around the track on the 2 occasions I had done private 'test runs' during the previous week.
The atmosphere was definitely competitive and much different to the more social scene I was used to with the local BUG. Not knowing anyone there made me all the more nervous. But I was determined to 'have a go' and fronted up to 'sign on' and pay my fees.
'What grade are you' the officials asked.
'I don't know, this is my first time', I meekly answered.
'What is you average', they enquired.
'I managed 30kmh average for 30 minutes around here once', I responded.
'OK, you're in C grade', was the decision.
'Thanks' said I, not really sure I should be thankful at all, realising I was to be thrown in at what was for me, the deep end or should I say the steep end.
I had done all my preparation...all the technical stuff like removing the tool bag and rear flasher, pumping the tyres to 120psi, only half filling the water bottle, removing the peak off the helmet to reduce drag, even having a clean cassette and chain. Of course I had pasta the night before too. With preparation like that surely I was assured of success.
I had done about 10km warm up, and that combined with the nerves meant my heart rate was already up, and the perspiration was plentiful. The riders for my grade were called, and as we lined up, I noticed the more experienced riders hesitant to be on the front row. Oh well, I thought, here we go.
The race was to be for 25 minutes. The flag was dropped and off we went. I found myself 3rd in line on the first lap with the pace quite fast. On the second lap, the first rider dropped back and I was second in the line for a lap. The next lap I found my self in front and facing the strong breeze up the hill. I managed a full lap in front then I too dropped back to let the next rider through. The pace was still fast and as the last rider passed I tried to jump on the back, but I found I had used up too much on the hill and being in front for a whole lap. By this time another 2 riders had already dropped off the back.
Being inexperienced the dropped riders weren't able to join up to assist each other in the remaining laps. So it was a lonely solo ride for me to the finish. Along the way the 5 leaders put us 3 dropped riders a lap down and even though the leaders had slowed a little, I didn't have enough left in the tank to jump on as they went past.
The minutes went by as I settled into a rhythm to ensure I made the distance. At last I heard the much appreciated ring of the bell and knew one more lap and the pain would be over.
So quite an experience for me, and somewhat intimidating to see just how much one needs to improve to be competitive in this discipline. It is certainly different to doing longer road rides through the countryside as I am more used to.
On the positive side I was the fastest woman over 55yo in that grade, ok, the only woman, but I did finish, and I did manage to average 30.3kmh, and I didn't finish last.
The things I learned...
- Don't be in the lead too soon.
- Don't be in the lead too much.
- Don't be in the lead at all!!
- Remember to take the pump off the bike too!!!
- Get your legs waxed they day before, not the day after!!!
What do they say, Old cyclists never die, they just go downhill.