Good news! I didn't crash. :)
112 miles racing my bike around the island this morning. We'll call it a success! My question yesterday was "How long can I hang with the fastest gals on the island? Turns out, 110 miles. Those last 2 miles I rode by myself. Lol. Read on for the full report.
We started out at 5:45 this morning. It wasn't even light out. The first 30 miles are the scariest miles you'll ever ride- neutral behind a pace car going 20-22 mph and 200 cyclists are all trying to be right up at the front though clearly there is NOT room for everyone up there. It's really really nervous as everyone is so full of anxious energy. They keep it neutral during this time because it's all through town and on highways with tons of lights and traffic, etc. After about 30 miles we start a climb up Kunia road and the horn blows signaling the official start of the race and everyone sprints for their life. Crazy.
I don't have a very fast uphill sprint so unfortunately I watched 3 women ride away from me right away. GRRR. I was red-lining already and there was just nothing I could do but keep up my own effort. Good news for me was that my "own effort" resulted in a pace that saw those other women coming back to me and by 1/2 way up the longish hill (maybe 6-7 miles?) we were all back in the same pack. This hill is the key component to the race because if you don't make it to the top with the group you should be riding with, you won't see them again for the rest of the day. So I wanted to be with those girls at all costs, and I put in the effort to make sure that happened.
I crested the hill with the second pack of riders (the strongest men were in a lead pack that was apparently only about 2 minutes ahead of us). In my pack were the top 4 women and about 20+ men. We flew down the hill but that part was pretty scary because it had just rained so the road was all wet. The scary part didn't end at the bottom either because the rain started back up. Riding on wet roads and pelting rain in a big pack of anxious riders when you can't see results in people crashing. I saw 2 wrecks in my pack but safely navigated around each one. Phew!
My legs felt good today and while riding up there along the north shore I actually felt like there was a remote possibility that I could win the day. That would have been really cool. I knew it would be a race of attrition and it was going to be a matter of just conserving as much energy as I could for the hills at the end. I was actually bored at times for the 2 hours of flat windy riding as my job was pretty much to just sit on and watch the other women. I did pull through to the front a few times, more out of boredom and frustration at what felt like a slow pace. This is a road we train on just about every weekend and we always go quite a bit faster than what we did today.
Anyway, finally at about 85 miles, the hills started. Time to see who actually has legs vs who was faking it on the flats. Turns out, Esther and Jenny and I had legs. Roberta fell off over one of the steeper climbs. With about 15-20 miles to go I was pretty happy to realize that we had the top 3 women sorted out, and I was one of them! We still had maybe 5-6 men with us at this point too so it was a good little group. Esther had two male teammates and Jenny and I (both Pac Velo) had one teammate, so it sort of became a fun little tactical game there toward the end.
Esther has been really strong all year and today was no different. The final climb comes at 110 miles. I really really really wanted to hang with the group and duke it out in a sprint finish, but my legs were d.o.n.e. AHHHHH!?!? Didn't they know the finish was just 2 miles away? Didn't matter. I completely popped off the back on that final climb. It was frustrating because my heart rate wasn't even high- but my legs wouldn't function which is a problem during a bike race. Lol. Jenny and Esther rode away and I just hoped my teammate Jenny would win, though I wouldn't be there to witness it.
In the end, Esther got her win and it was very well deserved as apparently (I heard afterward) she took off for the sprint with about a mile to go and flew to the finish solo. It was all very friendly and in good sportsmanship as we chatted about how we were trying to beat each other after the race was over. :)
Here we are just after the finish.
I was also pretty happy about being able to cover 112 miles in 5:24. Granted, I was drafting, but I swear, only a few parts of it felt hard/fast. Much of it felt slow and easy to me. I think that's a good sign for things to come. Like, um, a long race on The Big Island in about 5 weeks. ;)