Yesterday my brother K-dog and I rode the Tax Day road race near Pocatello, ID. It was the first official Salt Sea Pirate showing of the season. After this year's long cold winter followed by a cold wet spring it felt really good to ride outside and get a gauge on how much I slacked during the winter. This was also my first race riding as a Cat 4, so I wasn't sure what to expect competition wise. They ended up starting the Cat 4 & 5's together which made for a nice large pack, about 50 riders. Starting with a larger pack was actually kind of nice because there were a lot of legs chasing down attacks and closing gaps. Once the race began k-dog and I tried to hang out near the front as we headed out into a 1.2 mile neutral roll out. After that we continued up a gentle 4.3 mile rolling climb up a canyon to the circuit. We would do 3.5 laps on the 7 mile circuit and the finish would be atop the climb on the 4th trip up. I love mountain top finishes, it always makes it exciting on the last climb. The climb up the canyon wasn't too bad, it was about 3 miles in length and averaged only 2% or so. Every time the group hit the real part of the climb (the last 0.8 miles, 5.5% avg grade) we would pick up the pace and shed a couple people. I felt really good each time we hit the climb on the circuit. By the 3rd time we went over the climb the group had shrunk to about 25 or so (notably missing was K-dog who spent a whole lap heroically chasing to try to catch the group after falling off on the steep part of the climb).
To get onto the last 0.8 miles of the climb we had to take a sharp 120 degree turn onto another road. I knew it would be important to be on the front going into that corner. From there the road turns sharply upward into a 8% grade. We were on the final approach to the climb and the finish. A couple guys attacked on the approach to try to break it up a bit, but we still went into that last corner 25 or so strong. I was sitting right in the front going into that corner so I hardly had to slow down. As soon as I came out of the corner and the road turned up I opened it up. I accelerated away and quickly put a good 100 feet or so on the group. I tried to settle into a pace and maintain my lead. Taking a quick glance back I could see a few guys that were making some ground and bridging up. It felt just like last year in Pescadero. I was seeing stars at this point as I tried to keep my speed. One guy bridged up and passed me, then two more. I was suffering, I actually don't remember a whole lot of details at this point, all I knew is that I need to keep going as hard as I could. I kept thinking "top 5, top 5, keep going..." One more guy started to pass me. I hopped on his wheel as a 5th rider came up. At this point we were only 100 meters from the finish. The three of us were together across the road, going max power for the line. It was our own mtn top sprint for 4-6th places. We were all within a wheels length as we crossed the line. Final result.....6th place.
It would have been nice to have been able to seal the deal and take the race, but I had a good race. 6th place is a pretty good result for my first cat 4 race and the first race of the season. It was nice to get some racing in my legs, its hard to simulate race-pace in solo training rides. They had my official time as 1:49:35, one second off the time of the winner (it was more like 5 seconds or so). I had a good race and a great time. I was also pretty pleased of my position in the race. I was near the front almost the whole race which made life a little easier when it counted. I need to learn proper timing. If I had waited another 45 seconds or so to attack I probably could have pulled off the win. It did feel good, like it always does, to make a decisive move and blow the race apart. I just get really antsy and excited and I let it fly too early (same thing in Pescadero last year). But hopefully I'm learning when to let loose and when to conserve. I almost wish the climb would have been longer to break it up a bit and separate the climbers some more. Rachel, my sister-in-law, was there to support us and take some pictures and she got a great one of the 3 man sprint at the end. Next up is likely the Bear Lake RR (52 miles, rolling terrain, windy), not my type of race to win cause it usually comes down to a sprint but will be a great race.