Race Report: Gebhardt Automotive Cycling Classic

AKA the Carter Lake Road Race.  AKA the first road race of the season.  AKA here’s to racing until next January.

I can’t ignore a road race practically in my “backyard” and on an awesome course that I am familiar with riding, and have been wanting to attack since my ill-fated group ride in November 2012 that left me feeling like the slowest non-roadie in the world.  So begun the obsessive weather.com checking and hoping that the weather would hold out for an unusually early start to the road season in a climate where winter lasts until May.

On the race numbers went, and after a mile long warmup that consisted of me chasing and drafting off my teammates, I lined up.  It was nice to hear people joking about not going all out like in cyclocross, and hearing others say it was their first race.  I still feel like such a noob at road events, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone and that for the most part people are friendly in the Senior Women 4 (SW4) category.

SW 4 field (Photo courtesy of Rhonda/The Cyclist-Lawyer)

My biggest concerns was hanging with the peloton until the switchback climbs to conserve energy on the gradual climb leading up to them.  But pack riding scares the crap out of me… a friend gave me pointers, saying to stick to the left side which means I’d have an out even if it was a centerline violation, and to be patient.  Needless to say, I heeded the advice and had a very good peloton experience!  I found myself fluidly moving through the pack forward and backward, but never off the end!  I had a few close calls with cones, but escaped unharmed, and heck, I even went around corners just fine!  Whew, maybe somehow I figured this stuff out?! (I think ‘cross helped a lot.)

We stayed together as a field of 30 until the switchback climbs and then it was on.  I had switched the wheels on my Ruby to Mavic Ksyrium Elites, which are a lot lighter and aero than my stock wheels, and I’m not sure if it was them or the training or excitement or both, but those switchbacks just few by!  I happily spun a few gears down from granny at a high cadence seated and made a lot of passes.  I felt strong and the legs felt good, and I was already celebrating nailing the biggest climb of the 17-mile race, which was my goal.  I even switched back into the big ring before the top and prepared to nail the high speed sprint across the Carter Lake dams.  I found myself closing the gap on a few girls and we rotated through working together.  We reeled in another two girls to add to our group.  Shawn, my favoritest race photog in the world, was yelling at me “close the gap!!” which made me smile because I would’ve never thought I’d ever be closing any gap in a road race!

We stayed together as a group or 6 or 8 until the big steep descent off the north side of the lake.  Now y’all, I’m a scaredy cat descender on the road, and it’s only lately that I’ve tried to exhibit some confidence (going back to 42 bars from 38 also helped with bike control).  The winds were surprisingly calm for this time of year, so I knew that wind shouldn’t factor in.  The descent does curve and has grades of like -15%, and the corners were what were scaring me but I finally let off the brakes and let the bike do what it wanted.  I didn’t want to lose ground because of nerves on a hill, so I ignored my Garmin and tried to breathe calmly.  (I ended up topping out at 47mph!)

The group was splintered at this point so once again I gave chase and closed the gap on two girls on the Pole Hill descent.  I ended up just kinda flying past them, and came into the corner to turn onto the Hog’s Back kinda hot.  Take about understeer if I was driving a race car, LOL!  I managed to not cross any center lines and set off on the torturous gradual climb up the Hog’s Back.  Amber from The Cyclist Lawyer Team finally came up to my side and said we should work together to stay ahead of the girls behind us, and we took turns doing pulls.  Amber from Primal Racing caught us right before the feed zone.  Which is where I decided to fail at grabbing a bottle twice.  I just wanted a new bottle, darn it!  That failure aside, I worked to catch the Ambers before we dropped over the crest of the hill.

And what the heck, I could see the tents of the finish!  The end was sooner than I was expecting!  It was a downhill so we were flying, and I (stupidly) jumped in the front and then realized that those two were drafting off me, making me use my energy coming to the final sprint.  I tried to shake them, but my legs were screaming, so I channeled the Jensie and kept repeating “SHUT UP LEGS” in my head over and over and over.  I’ve had fairly good success with final sprints in past races, but those were usually mountain bike/cross races where people aren’t necessarily sprinters at all (and you’re not coming in super high speed on a downhill finish with no gears left to go harder).  We flew past the 1 kilometer sign and I was pegged.  Amber from Primal started coming around and I was like “oh hell no” and just forced the legs to keep going.

Amber and I go for the sprint… yes, I sprinted sitting down on the hoods, LOL

Her and I crossed the finish line at 34mph according to my Garmin, and I won the sprint by 0.08 seconds (or a few inches of a bike wheel according to people who saw it).  WHEW!  What a damn good race!  High fives all around amongst the Ambers and I and I celebrated what I felt like was my first true road race effort.  I went out there with the intention of racing it, not hanging in the back to avoid the pack.  And dammit, I raced it!  I finished 13th out of 30.  Sure beats that DNF I had at Deer Trail last spring!

So I learned…
1) Good wheels are worth it.  Way worth it.  That climb felt effortless.
2) Training actually works.  My coach may be trying to kill me, but the races at least won’t kill me as much
3) Don’t go for the water bottles, it’s not worth it
4) Trust the peloton.  Nobody really has a death wish.
5) Wear shoe covers when it’s 40 degrees.  Numb feet for half a race sucks.
6) Short road races are my thing.  No way would’ve this awesomeness happened if it was 40 miles long.  Which makes crits all that more intriguing to try.

Garmin stats:
1) Average speed 18.1mph
2) Max speed 47.2mph
3) Average heart rate 177
4) Max heart rate 199 (happened at the finish line)
5) Total time: 53:55.34
6) Estimated average power: 209 (sure felt like it, as that is a bit above my FTP)

Next up is the Frostbite Time Trial next weekend.

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