It’s May and it hasn’t rained in quite some time, so I was genuinely surprised to see rain in the forecast for the weekend. I figured my luck of dry races had finally run out and I’d have to race in the rain. I narrowly escaped rain at Cantua, snow at Snelling and was happy to have dry skies at Merco (the A.M. flight was not so fortunate). As late as Saturday night, the forecast for Sunday morning was still at 70 percent rain and I thought I was doomed.
I picked up Isaac at 4:30 in the morning and we began our journey to Modesto. I don’t exactly know which directions I was looking at, but I clearly overestimated the time it would take us to get there and we were at our point of destination a few minutes before six, which allowed plenty of time for food, setup and warm-up for an 8 a.m. start. As we neared the race start, it appeared that no rain would be in sight, which just further reaffirmed my belief: meteorologists in the Bay Area are as good at predicting the weather as the Tenderloin hobos are at predicting the end of the world (which by latest predictions is happening on 5/21/2011, so have your affairs in order!).
My legs were feeling fresh (it was rest week), having only been on the bike twice with one moderate and one easy effort, but my Achilles was aching a bit, so I popped a couple ibuprofen and put on an elastic “brace” over my sock to make it feel better. The warmup felt very good – the watts were there, the legs were there and HR seemed to be moving up and down as necessary.
Sunday being the last day of rest week, I had absolutely no pressure on myself to perform in this race. I know this might be a foreign concept to some, but I don’t race each race to win. There are races I target and I want to do well, and then there are races that I race to learn, to suffer, to gain fitness, etc. For me, Modesto was going to be a race to sit in the pack and see what develops. I wasn’t going to work to make any opportunities happen, but if one presented itself, I wasn’t averse to taking advantage of it. I was also concerned about my Achilles, so I wanted to stay with the group while putting out as few watts as possible. Interestingly, it appeared that most of the Cat. 4 field came into Modesto with exactly the same strategy, as the race moved nowhere.
The course was a 9-mile loop that we had to do 7 times for a total of 63 miles. The loop also had 10 right angle turns in it, which on paper made it seem more like an oversized crit. A unique thing about our field at Modesto was we had Lisa of Metromint line up with us and I think Isaac and I were both secretly rooting for her to school some of the Cat. 4 guys. She did a great job hanging in there through lap 5 (and not just sitting off the back either). She was forced to race with guys because there were no women’s fields at Modesto. The reason there were no women’s fields at Modesto is that it ran at the same time as the Kern County Women’s Stage Race, which was cancelled due to low participation by … wait for it … the same promoter! I know there is a word for this, but it doesn’t readily come to mind.
Almost immediately after the whistle, a Davis guy went into a solo break and no one even moved a muscle to counter, join or chase. We just proceeded to clip along at about 22 mph while the poor guy killed himself in the wind and eventually rolled back into the field. Moreover, a few miles into the race, two Chico Corsa guys also went into a break, with the exact same reaction from the rest of the field. That’s pretty much how the whole race went. Every lap there would be a small break that went out for a couple miles at the most and ended up being pulled back into the field.
Fast forward to lap four. We’re riding along and I just happened to pull up to Isaac, who was having a chat with John Becker of Mike’s Bikes (talking strategy, as I later learned), when all of a sudden, pssssssshhhhhh – Isaac’s rear wheel flatted and he was out of the race. Very unfortunate, as unlike me, he was actually looking to make something happen in that race. Laps four and five went about the same. In lap six, attacks started to come and I quickly realized the fatal flaw of my “sit in and observe the race” strategy. Due to inactivity, my leg muscles had become so stiff that responding to these attacks, or rather the field accelerations as the result, was doable, but quite painful as it felt that I was pushing way more watts than I probably was. In hindsight, I should have put a few digs in here and there just to make sure the blood was properly flowing – lesson learned!
As previously, no attacks stuck and we were about to start lap seven. As dilution to our boredom, due to the snail-like pace of the peloton, we ended up being passed by a number of fields, which even further added to the mess. On lap seven, Dan Velasco, a rising star on Mike’s Bikes for whom this was the last race in the 4s, put in an attack. As luck would have it, I happened to be sitting right on his wheel and figured I’ll counter and if we get a gap, I’ll work with him to make it interesting. No one wants to let a break go on lap seven, so everyone just rode our wheels for a bit and came together. Just then, Dan’s teammate John put in an attack, which I also countered, this time with a more defensive posture. Some Chico Corsa riders came to help and the whole field was once again a unit going into the last couple of turns.
With two turns to go, we were once again being passed by another field, but this time, instead of pulling over, the group decided to accelerate, which created all sorts of problems as now there were two fields going into the finish in close proximity. With that confusion and the pulling over, I ended up in poor position going into the final turn and couldn’t find a wheel to drag me to the front when things got speedy. I followed one guy through a hole barely wide enough to get my bars through, but he exploded on the way to the finish line and proved to be of no assistance.
It was a “meh” kind of race, with a “meh” kind of result, but everything I set out to accomplish I did – no new Achilles problems, didn’t get dropped or crashed, and I learned something new. Panoche Valley is happening next Sunday and I’ll be looking to do something special there, so stay tuned. I’m also very excited about getting back to a normal training schedule starting tomorrow. Even though it looks like hill repeats might be a bit wet.
P.S. If you enjoy reading my blog, vote for it here in the Road Category – you have to fill in the blank next to other. Thanks!