All I figured on Greenbush was it was going to be hard. I had never raced a road race against category 2 riders, but I assumed it was going to be faster than I had done before. The course was on a 10 mile loop that from the course bible said there was no real climbing on the course. Unless you read the written description. This was my saving grace as I decided to change my gearing choice and that almost saved my race.
The course ended up having a lot of obstacles that would test just about every different type of rider. There were short climbs that taken at "normal" pace would have been fine, but taken at mach 10 like we did, they were very hard. Rolling hills, wind, rough road that seemed to act like Roubaix road. There were long sweeping downhill sections, and fast flats where we road flat out.
Most of the time I like to ride up near the front to lessen the accelerations and changes that happen in the race. But I thought I would try to ride near the back this time and try to use more draft. Boy this was a mistake! There were 80 riders in the race, the most I have ever been in a road race with. This caused the accelerations and decelerations hurt. Instead of being able to roll up rollers and take momentum into hills I would almost have to stop halfway up because of riders in front of me and then sprint to the top. Very quickly I determined my first thought of hanging at the back was not going to work so I started to move to the front. There are a few good ways to move to the front. You want to do it while using as little energy as possible. Moving up the gutters in road races is pretty normal. Guys try to do it when the pack slows for some reason or following another rider who wants to move up in as well. I have also been working on a skill that I had seen a very good sprinter do once in a youtube video. He was able to time gaps in the group and move up without ever hitting the wind. There were a few places in the race that I was able to do this. It was pretty fun but I wanted to make sure I was really careful and not too aggressive. I really didn't want to overlap someones wheel and take people down. The last way that I move up effectively is on downhill sections. Like turning, people get a little timid going down hill, and even more so going downhill with turns.
About halfway around the first lap I was able to get to the front of the group and this was a big help to me in saving some energy. As the race went on we got into a pretty predictable routine. Sprint up any uphill section, attack, attack, attack, rest a min, attack, another hill, and repeat. Being near the front helped a bit but it didn't save me from still having to do a lot of work to get up the hills, and I was never able to hold my position going up the hills. I would sag pretty well and then have to work my way back up again. On lap 4 things changed and the routine was thrown out. Riders started attacking where we had previously been resting and I was getting stretched off the back. I had to burn a big match to hold on and this was not a good thing. As we neared the part of the course where most of the climbing happened I was in a bad spot, position wise, and physically. I needed to be more towards the front so that I could sag a bit as we climbed, but I didn't have much energy left to get up the climbs let alone sprint up the side to get to the front of the group. As we flew up the first climb I dug deep to hold my position. On the way down I took a line on the side of the road and made it up to the front of the pack. That was good, the bad was we were hitting the hardest climb on the course. A two tier climb which like I said before, wasn't very long, we just hit it so fast it hurt bad. I made it up the first part of the climb okay, but as we hit the second part I was just about empty. My only hope was I stay close enough to catch on the downhill. It was long and winding, both could help me. But as I crested the top of the climb the group only got faster. My only hope was that I could get in a good tuck and catch them by the bottom. I didn't think about it quick enough but at the bottom of the hill we took a left onto a very rough road with a hard cross wind. It was like a mile of Paris-Roubaix. If I wasn't in the pack before this I could kiss the race good bye. When I finally caught I didn't realize that a rider from another race was mixed into the group and this allowed a gap to open. Once I noticed it was too late and my last match was burnt trying to grab the back of the pack. It was not to be. The race was just too fast for me, and my day was done. I rolled around to the start line and pulled the plug.
I was pretty bummed about my performance in this race. I think it was more a mental mistake and mental weakness rather than physical. I allowed myself to get too far back and instead of pushing it just a bit harder I relaxed and was dropped. With Shlitz Park coming up the next day I wasn't feeling great about how I was going to do.