(Strawberry Festival Road Race)
I have never done this race before. Every previous season I had been working on Father's Day. This year is different in a number of ways, with the most resonant reason being that I have about zero work, but that is an issue for a different post.
It's not an easy course, but I wanted to do a relatively long race (as my current build cycle is mainly about increasing volume and endurance.) I signed up for the 123 race, hoping that perhaps a whole bunch of 3s would sign up at the last minute and I'd have a decent sized field to hide in for a larger part of the race.
That was not meant to be. I'm not sure how many of us were lined up at the start, but I think it was less than 15 (and certainly fewer finished the race.) There was also an option to race in the 30+ and still be in the same field, but that was looking like a field of two, so I stuck with the 123.
I knew most of the riders in the race, and knew I was not among the stronger ones. I also had a pretty good idea of how the race was going to play out. It wasn't tough to see the tactic behind Mt. Borah's early move to put Hunter off the front and then sit in for a while, letting him get a bit of a lead on everyone which stretched out to have him still in sight but receding by the time we got to the heaviest climbs past the middle of lap one.
Then Housler made a move to bridge up to his teammate. Again, a move which I figured was going to happen, but from my standpoint of fitness was something I could do no more about than simply watch happen. The result from this move was disastrous for the field (I use that term loosely at this point. Is it still a field when you have only ten?) though as panic ensued and four or five riders went into full-on chase mode, dropping the rest of us.
I formed up with Sloan and we rode together for a while pretty well, then joined with two others from our field. It seemed as though these four would stick together for the last two laps but that was not meant to be either.
Bam! Just around a right-hand corner and onto a steep climb and I shift my front derailleur to the little ring (something that has gone flawlessly now for over two full seasons) and the chain falls off. I push the shifter back onto the big ring and spin. Nothing. Bike slowing. Crap.
I have to get off.
I wrestle with it for a while (38 seconds!) and get it back on, throw my leg over and get started again.
Now they are so far up the road that I can no longer see them over the crest of the hill.
Well. So much for that.
I now have one and a half laps to finish this race completely alone. Crossing the line on lap two I am acknowledged and I keep going.
This is where things get weird. This course has a LOT of turns in it. Not all of them are really easy to see, and a few are missing markings. We've had a good set of marshals pointing us in the right direction for the last two laps and I thank them!
But somehow, some way, it was decided that I no longer existed out here. They were all gone. No cops, no signs, no marshals, no follow cars, no SAG vehicle. Nothing.
I can't really understand why either. Even though we had a tiny field doing three laps, and the vast majority of racers had only done one or two laps, it's not too hard to simply set an estimated time on the three-lap race. I was only out there for 2:36 anyway, but they still left their posts (I guess they were told "nobody is left, you can go home")
Crossing the line I got my DFL, and was told by the riders who came in before me that not all that much time had elapsed, so I guess the staff all left the course just a few minutes before I rode through.
Very humiliating and demoralizing, but at least the finish area was still set up (although they weren't watching for any more riders). It made me think of that stupid song "The Distance"
Wishing I hadn't dropped that chain.
(Now I have one of those chain catchers)