With the rough equivalent of 7 cross races ridden on Saturday in my legs, I hit the 123 for the final nails in the coffin. Although I'd raced the thing in SC a while ago, this felt like my first road race for the year, even more so when people kept asking me "so do you even know how to ride bikes with these skinny tires anymore?" Thanks, people.
I hate the pre-start time. Mulling around anxiously, desperately wanting to get the race underway since I'm totally calm once the race starts but something of a mess before it. An ambulance on course attending to a crash victim from the prior race never helps. From what I heard it is a case of broken collarbone. Get well soon, guy.
Finally the race starts and it's not slow but not bad. The field was kind of small at around 50 guys, which really just meant adjusting the number of guys that should be in front of you if you wanted to not be the tail gunner. The first half of the race was just getting into the flow and feeling things out. A couple of times I felt stretched a little thin but my legs started to wake back up.
There was this cool ultra-inside line on the bottom turn, which saved a ton of energy when it was available, and no one else was taking it. You had to make sure that no one was on your right hip as you did it so you wouldn't chop that guy, and you wanted your front wheel comfortably behind the guy leading you so he wouldn't inadvertently chop you. But when it set up correctly, you got to carry massive speed and not do the big swoop out to the far side like everyone else. Point and coast, and pick up a few spots in line, rather than pedal and maintain your spot.
The hill was hardest by far when the speed was variable. We had a few laps where it got real slow and then a jump came, and man that hurt. Then we had a couple of laps where the pace just stayed right on throughout, and those were way way easier even though they were faster. My legs really opened up after two of those in a row. At that point we were a little more than halfway done, and there was a 3 man break about 30 seconds up the road. We got to the bottom of the hill with a full head of steam, I mean freaking rolling, but as soon as we started going up, the fan started to spread. "What the hell," I thought, and hit it fairly hard. I'm not delusional, I know that I was allowed to go. With DC Velo, Kelly, and Harley in the break (at the time I thought it was Harley and 2 DC Velo), I was kind of sort of thinking maybe the race behind would get a little neutralized and I could get some breathing room, but really I just kind of wanted to give the dice a roll and see what came up. I looked back once and saw that the gap was surprisingly big, borderline huge, and throttled back a little bit to a high cruising speed, right around threshold.
Super Dave and Dave Fuentes came across and we started rotating but then there was a DC Velo guy who was sitting on us and another guy who either couldn't or wouldn't work and that was that and that was the most exciting part of the story. It was just about at the 1k line that we got hoovered up by the field, so nearly a one lap long thing.
Getting back on the steaming freight train was a little interesting and challenging. It took two real big efforts, one to get in and one to keep going over the top of the hill and through the start/finish. Once that was done, all was cool until 1 to go. I have no idea what happened, maybe the pictures shed a little light. The Kelly towards the right of the picture pulls out of his pedal? I am right behind him with Greg Abbott (white sleeves, black bowling ball helmet, behind the right most DC Velo) in there somewhere too.
Then Greg and I (silver helmet and grey armwarmers) have to lock it up to avoid. I think I was actually skidding when this picture got taken.
This put me in the BACK of the bus just as things were really starting to roll. I got back on, but too far back in the line and when the early sprint at the hill started, guys in front of me started pulling the plug, so not too much you can do there and I rolled across the line.
Congrats to DJ and DC Velo for a great win, thanks to DC Velo for a great event and congrats on 20 years of having it. Did they have clipless pedals then?
Takeaway from the race is that I'm in pretty good shape, and if you're in the race, race the race. Don't get intimidated and be content to just roll in the field and do nothing. Get after it.
Awesome weekend, but man I'm kind of sore now.
Thank you to Daniel Meaurio for taking and posting some great photos.