"As a cyclist you shouldn't think too much. If you worry about it at all you'll never make it. But if you're susceptible to it, then you start thinking. And that's not good" -Erik Zabel
I spent the week worrying about yesterday's race, enough so that I barely slept Friday night. It felt odd to be so nervous before a race. It seems like only a few weeks ago I was getting up every weekend to travel to a race, it's been 4 months already since the end of 'cross season. Since I didn't really sleep it made getting up easier. Gina didn't go since her sister was still staying with us so I didn't have to worry about getting her loaded into Special Sauce and on the road on time. I stopped to grab breakfast at Cafe Bagel and as was on my way to Mt. Joy plenty early.
I pulled into the parking lot and Wendy and Ramon pulled in soon after. Registration and the course were almost a mile away so we rode over to get signed in and found that the wind was more prevalent and the sun didn't seem to be shining as brightly. While we were there I saw the end of the Cat4/5 race, Nat looked to have another good day, he's a 4 right now and he should be upgrading soon so he will make a nice (and much needed) addition to the 3's. I also saw John (uber-light) verBryke drop from the masters field with an apparent broken seatpost. Turned out the carbon rail of his uber light all carbon saddle broke on the slightly rougher roads of the PA course. Lighter isn't better if it doesn't get you to end of the race.
We made our way back to the cars to start getting ready. I still felt run down from the week and the legs were a pair of boat anchors so the idea of not finishing this race quickly overwhelmed me. It didn't help there was a steep climb on this course that everyone was making out to be worse than the Kemmelberg. My plan was to sit in and just ride smart and finish the race. Overheating on the rollers, I decide to just ride around a bit and ran into E-town. There were alot of other familiar faces from the 'cross scene there as well, Hebe, Hessel and Bad Andy were all in attendance.
A last minute trip to the ol' Port-O-John provided me a backrow seat to the start of the race. To make matters worse, I must have been lined up behind a bunch of Cat4's because as soon as the race started, instead of pedaling and clipping in, these muppets stood there trying to get clipped while the front end of the race went up the road. Finally getting around them all I found myself sprinting the first 300m to catch back on to the pack, great start, can't wait for the rest of the race to develop. Still at the back of the pack I needed to move up, but with the yellow line rule and PA country roads with zero shoulder it was tough. Fortunately just before the Kemmelberg there was a fairly wide strech of road with about a foot of gravel covered shoulder. I used it to move up towards the front and prepared to be humbled. Atleast starting at the front on a tough climb you can afford to slip back and hope to not lose contact with the group before the summit. The first time up the climb I was immediately struck by how insignificant it really was, it will no longer be referred to as the Kemmelberg. That's what I get for listening to a bunch of flat landers who only ride around Davidsonville where the longest climb lasts 10 seconds, this one was not even a minute, more like a big bump really.
At the top of the climb we made a right turn onto a nice long, twisty 40mph downhill. The rest of the course was fast and rolling, a really nice course overall and probably one of my favorites of the PA races. My fitness must not as bad as I think it is, either that or everyone else is just as out of shape as me because on the third lap, I somehow ended up on the front leading the pack up the climb. Basically I was just trying to stay out of trouble as guys were blowing up themselves and their drivetrains left and right on the first two laps. I couldn't believe how many guys in a 3/4 race were riding cross-chained then downshifted to the 39T at the base of the climb and dropped their chains. Several unsuccessful breaks went off the front but with a lap and a half to go, an NCVC and an All American rider went of the front and it stuck. Satisfied with finishing rubber side down, I played it a bit safe on the sketchy run in to the sprint finish to finish at the front end of the pack.
It was a good start to the season, more mentally rewarding than anything. Except for the bout of severe GID I raced with which turned even worse on the ride home with stomach cramps so bad I almost had to pull off the road. Apparently my stomach isn't quite trained yet to take in gels during a race. Next weekend is the Carl Dolan Circuit race and I'm in the 1/2/3 field. This is a rest week so hopefully the engine will be fully charged because there's going to be some legs ripped off in that race.