Last weekend I did my first road race of the year. "Road race" is a confusing term, it is usually used as a term for bike racing on "roads" in general. More specifically, it means a mass start race that goes for a certain distance (other types include: a Criterium, which is a mass start race done around a short course for a certain amount of time, and a Time trial, which is a individual race where you are timed on a course, usually out and back or point to point). Technically, it has to be "point to point" to be a Road race, if it's on a loop more than 10 miles it's called a "Circuit race". However, most Road races are Circuit races due to different categories racing different lengths and the expenses of closing down large amounts of road. Thus, the term "Road race" has become synonym for "Circuit race" unless specified as "point to point" in amateur racing. Unlike Criteriums (unless the race is a really major one) roads will not be fully closed. The pack is subject to the "yellow line rule", which simply means we have to stay on our side of the road, and not cross the yellow line. this rule is strictly enforced by a official on a motorcycle, who rides behind the pack.
Although there is a Criterium nearly every weekend, not many road races are put on in the Midwest. As a result, I do not have much experience with Road races. This made me a little nervous at the start. At first, the pace was very chill.You could hear people chit-chatting with each other. It's a 43 mile race, and no one will get away, and stay away this early. After the first few miles, attacks start happening. I and a few others react to them, and pull them back. After a few tries, I get away with one other rider.
"You want to go for it?" he says. "Sure." I say, "Why not." We stay away long enough to lead into the long, 45 mph downhill. It's VERY important to be at the front on a fast downhill, especially in the low categories, as a crash can have serious consequences at such high speeds. We get to the bottom without incident, everyone is fine. As we get closer and closer to the uphill, I can detect nervousness in the pack. It's a long one, its going to hurt, people will get dropped, and a attack could get a big enough gap to stay away for the three lap race.
As we reach the bottom of the climb, a rider goes to the front and drills it. If he can keep the pace high enough here, at his strong point, he can put pressure on his competition, shave off the weak riders, and maybe even split the field. However, he misjudged his effort. He starts to slow down, and falls back. this is my strong area as well, so I take to the front and do the pace making for the rest of the hill. I am strong enough to string out the field, and even drop a few riders. Once the front of the pack makes it to the top, we try and organize a pace line to prevent riders who have been dropped catching back on. However most of these riders are inexperienced, so despite my and a few others efforts, the pace line falls apart and everyone re-groups.
The next time up goes much the same, I got to the front and drilled it and some more damage was done to the field, dropping more riders. Once we get close to the third time up, I make a attack, and get away with a small gap, but my inexperience cost me, I attacked in the wrong spot, and was caught shortly. The third time up the hill more riders are dropped, and the field has gone from 60 riders to about 25. I position myself well coming in to the sprint, but a crash happens in the final quarter mile. I narrowly avoid going down as riders go over the bars and get run over by others right in front of me. I lost all my momentum, and I am the last rider in the group to reach the line who avoided the crash. I still place 16th.