My friend, Jen, somehow talked me into doing some road racing this year.  Not sure why, since I don't ride a road bike, nor do I even live anywhere with lots of roads, nor enjoy riding on terrain not dirt, rocks, singletrack, nor have I ridden with people (i.e. peloton) nor know any tactics/strategy which, as I am now learning, seems to be about 70% of true road riding. 

So, first (draft-legal) race: a major state champs race.  Wha?!!   Granted it was in a beautiful location.  Remote region of high desert with empty roads, great views, good hills to climb, etc.  My goals were to (a) not crash (road crashes are worse than MTB by far in my opinion);  (b) stay with the group as long as possible (per Jen's instructions); and  (c) if I were to get dropped to not get discouraged but rather enjoy the 44-miles of riding in such a beautiful place and consider it a good training day!  

I felt ok and was "hanging on" for the first 12 miles or so.  Actually, I did get dropped on one of the first descents but caught back up on a steep climb.  It's just so AWKWARD for me to sit that closely to someone else's wheel.  We don't do that in MTBing, and especially not in MY style of loner MTBing.   Also, one of the things I've been working on in MTB is to STOP braking so much.  A friend snapped at me a few years ago while we were descending on some techy singletrack "Stop scrubbing your speed!"  That has stuck with me, and while it's reflex (and self-preservation), I have been improving a bit, staying at least more aware and trying to be more selective with my braking fingers.  So, in the middle/back of the pack in a peloton, ya do a LOT of braking....the speed/pace is determined by those in front, those doing the "work".  (GP, I'm trying!)

Bottom line, I fell off the back on a long (6-mile?) descent and simply couldn't catch back up....partially due to lack of bigger gearing on my bike (I was on a loaner bike; Thank you Absolute Bikes!), partially due to lack of strength, but honestly, it was mainly due to my lack of experience and willpower to STAY in the group.  I ended up sharing the load of the next 10 or so miles with a Masters-category woman who was great and was not reluctant to share some advice for me that I definitely appreciated.  I climbed solo the final 7 miles back to the finish....getting passed (like I was standing still) by most of the pro/elite men who were finishing up their longer course.  

Yeah, my tail was a bit tucked in between my legs as I've never finished so close to last place before...ok yes VERY close to last place.  But, to be honest, I was ok with it.   I had pedaled hard and though that might not be the main part of road-racing as it turns out, it was a good training day.  I was happy that I'd forced myself to do something far outside of my routine comfort zone, and I got a whole new respect for that style of riding!   As there are few opportunities for me to train in an actual group, I don't have the best road bike (for racing), and I simply prefer the dirt/techy stuff, I probably won't make a habit out of road racing.  That said, I might do a few here and there.  Jury is still out.  

Shout out to Jen for sticking to her race plan and getting a podium spot!  She killed it against some solid riders!!

Lessons learned from road race #1:
 -don't overestimate my climbing ability.
 -better yet, don't underestimate others' climbing abilities.
 -they weren't kidding when they said "don't get dropped from the peloton".
 -that headwind that ya keep bitching about might not actually be a headwind,
        rather it's a self-imposed headwind due to you pedaling fast on a ROADbike.
  -don't expect MTB manners out there; many roadies are not the friendliest
        layed-back crowd.
 -make sure ya get all of the dish soap out your water bottle before you use it in a race (ugh).
 -take the extra time to make sure the bike fits properly (aggressive position mo betta).
 -don't listen to Jen (unless she brings snacks and promises to go ride dirt afterward).

And to get back in my element (and do some last-minute panic-mode training), we put the road bikes in the truck, took the MTB bikes out and rode 25+ miles up and over a few rocky mountains.  Whiskey 50 anyone?

UPDATE AS OF 16 JULY 2013: The above pic was taken facing SW toward Yarnell, and where 19 local hotshots were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire on 30 June.  
Respect and RIP.

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