Doing a bike race may not be the way to help get you into shape.
Try to work harder than you’re capable of at the moment could cause a quick flameout and end your ride early.
That’s why doing two road races on the same day exponentially puts your judgement into question.
Prepared as I wasn’t, I headed this out to the Santa Barbara County Road Race which is deceptively further being all the way out in Santa Maria.
I went out with my friend Bernd, whose name pronounced properly in German is about the coolest thing you’ll ever hear.
The first race of the day was also my inaugural ride in Cat 4, although this being a 4/5 race meant there was no difference.
After a neutral 1km start, we started the first of two laps around a 14 mile loop with a group of just over 40 riders.
The pace was pretty pedestrian and I was tempted to take it up a notch, but I remembered I had another race in a few hours that I wasn’t ready for either.
I couldn’t quite keep track of Bernd, but I could hear his bike making a funny braking sound from time to time.
While the rollers were tame enough to not inflict any damage, the climb at mile 5 was the first opportunity for movement.
My Strava research told me it was about a mile averaging around 7% and while it did knock some people back, the climb was tamer than I imagined.
The group narrowed down to 15 as we started another set of rollers that were status quo on difficulty next to the earlier ones.
We were moving okay at this point, but there was no one really splitting this apart.
As we made the turn back onto Foxen Canyon, the wind made a slight appearance, but was more of an annoyance than a game changer.
Still, I noted to that I should stay to the left on the next lap.
The pace slowed up a bit and a our group began growing again as riders latched back on.
I ended up finishing the lap in first, but in the “I’m taking a pull” way, not the “I’m sprinting to make a point” way.
The second lap mimicked the first in keep the pace on the initial rollers slow.
As we were nearing the climb for a second time, I thought maybe I should just take off to have a head start.
At that time, someone else took off a moments later his teammate grabbed on.
I was able to chase them down, but was content to hold back which soon meant the group caught back on.
It was a good thing I didn’t take off at that time because it would have been too early.
We hit the climb and the pace was a bit hotter, but a good chunk of the group held on.
For the first time in a half hour, I saw Bernd again as he fell off the climb the first time around.
A Helen’s BMW rider took off near the top and was able to put a little distance on the group.
This was a good thing because it made our pack work harder cutting down the chances of people catching on again.
After about four miles we brought the long ranger back, but still kept a decent pace.
Foxen Canyon brought a faster pace too this go around, but the rutty shape of the road was starting to take its toll on my hands.
There was a couple of thrusts, but there we still had a decent sized group, so I didn’t know what to expect in these final miles.
Bernd and I were actually hanging at the back chatting with a couple of other riders, so my goal of staying with the lead group was achieved.
As we hit the final stretch, we were still entrenched at the rear, but a good deal of space was created by the pace picking up.
A couple of riders pulled up not wanting to be part of the fury and I heard at least a couple of riders rub on each other.
I don’t know if this caused some rubbernecking, but I was able to slingshot myself super quick through the group.
It happened so fast, I didn’t have my bearings.
Race finish (why didn’t I sprint?)
First, I couldn’t believe I was right on the leader’s wheel.
I couldn’t quite accept that I could win this thing, so I was a bit discombobulated trying to figure out where the finish line was.
About the time I saw the thin line, I was unsure of my surroundings, not knowing who was on my sides.
As a result, I didn’t make a move when I should of even though I was in perfect position to win.
Now finishing second is an awesome thing, but when I saw Bernd to my right just after crossing the line, I was exponentially ecstatic.
Finishing on the podium with your friend is a great thing and it’s amazing we did this together.
Funny thing about this race though, the camera shut off before we hit the line.
They got the top three right, but it took a long time for them to sort out the rest.
Our podium moment took awhile to happen, but we had to drive back to our hotel to pick up our stuff and return for our second race.
We got back just it time for me to sign up for one of the final spots for the Cat 4 race.
I was feeling pretty good, but the field for this race was about 30 riders larger than the previous one which would bring issues on this narrow course.
Before we hit the road, there was a crash near the finish from the Cat 3 race that allegedly had a bike launch thirty feet off the bridge.
At the same time, a rider needed serious medical attention and it took nearly an hour for help to arrive.
As a result of this delay, our race was shortened from three laps to two which was news I didn’t want to hear.
From a second race of the day standpoint, that would sound great, but in terms of race dynamics, I was scared.
With a faster, larger group covering the same distance, I knew things would get a lot more itchy on the course.
Sure enough, as the neutral start ended, the pace was fast, but not at blow up speed to start.
Once again, I stayed mostly at the back keeping it chill waiting for things to split up.
We were faced with constant braking as the flow was really choppy to the point where I thought this was still a Cat 5 race.
The on again / off again nature was starting to worry me, so I thought I’d start moving up way before the climb before things got even antsier.
I was able to move up a few positions and we were hitting a short incline when the chaos ensued.
About three riders up, a rider might of touched wheels, but bottom line he started to swerve off to the right.
The racer behind stayed calm, but the one in front of me started to veer for some reason and clipped the rider in front of him.
It seemed like an overreaction and the rider was in more of a position trying to minimize the fall rather than lean back and brake properly.
Bottom line was that he went down and while I was able to almost stop, it’s pretty hard to avoid a human body lying in front of you.
The end to my day (plus slo-mo).
The only damage to my body was a dime sized scrape on the side of my leg, but other than that I felt alright.
Still, you never know the damage right off the bat, but the other rider was super eager to get back into things.
He started to pull the bikes out quickly, but mine was still wrapped up in there and I didn’t like him yanking it clear.
I got back on the bike and I discovered the large sized, unpatchable gash on the side that told me my day was done.
When I walked back to the nearby course marshals, I noticed one of my spokes was pretty bent up too, so thanks for that.
At that point, my body was feeling disappointed that I only got in 30 miles of riding for the day.
This was supposed to be training!
Despite the good showing, I still feel like I have a lot left to prove because I’d like to see how things roll when I’m in peak form.
What else would a racer say?