Sunday, March 10, 2019

Barini Road Race (Troy)


March 10th, 2019 – Zamora, CA


2  x 20mile loops


10th,   Masters 45+ Cat 4


Paul Brown & Robin McKinney 

My first bike race of the season.  Not many miles under my belt but I did ride extra this last week.  My main concern is not crashing (like I did the last time I was here) or causing a crash.  I know deeply that my best protection comes from the Lord.  With Him I know everything is meaningful, without Him.. I would not enjoy the unpredictability.

Getting near the race site I see the course has changed.  It’s on this main road and groups of pros are finishing up coming towards me.  They look muddy and miserable.  I drive a different route to the parking area and get registered with my number.  Despite my concerns for myself, I stay aware of the volunteers, official, and the many riders that make this possible.  Everyone has their concerns and I want to do whatever possible to appreciate and help others.

I talk to some riders, see teammate, Paul Brown, warm up on the trainer, call Robin and the girls to pray (they’re at home).

Even though the weather is good now, it sounds like the road is muddy and slippery in sections.  I’ll have to be extra careful.

Lining up, I also see teammate, Robin McKinney.

Go!  I’m careful to pay attention early on to keep from getting dropped like I did years ago.  The pace is easy.  What a relief.  On the backside there are big potholes full of water.  I hit one unexpectantly and it really jars the bike.  That can cause a pinch flat which is what caused my crash last time.  After many glances at my tire and bouncing myself, I feel confident it isn’t flat. 

The pace is still very manageable but thinking about racing tips I realize 1) I shouldn’t be this far back – more risk of crashes and 2) if the pace doesn’t pick up, it will be dangerous at the finish.  Suddenly there is confusion at the front near an intersection.  Some go the wrong way through it while us at the back make the right turn.  This puts me up near the front.  Official has us go neutral to re-group.  Thank you, Lord, for improving my position.

Rolling hills feel good to me.  Despite being out of shape, I’m pleasantly surprised I’m surging well on the rises.  I stay near the top 10. 

We descend, there’s some changes of position, and then I hear a noticeable thump which I register quickly as the chilling sound of someone crashing into the pavement without notice.  With the wind and speed we’re going I can’t look back but I ask those around me if there was a crash and nobody seems to know.  I hope it wasn’t but I have a feeling it was and immediate concern that somehow I caused it.  I think about how your year can change instantly just with someone’s sudden move or loss of focus.  A sad thought.  I pray for whoever it was if it was a crash.

We turn onto the entrance road and hit some tough little hills.  The front group surges and although I do well up the last KOM climb, they push at the top and I can only hold onto 1 wheel in front of me and he’s lost the group as well.  But he pushes hard and thankfully bridges up, bringing me, too.  Whew!  It settles down and everyone looks back to see that the 10 of us have a gap.

Onto lap 2 the lead pack starts a rotating pace line.  Thank you, Lord, because this means we won’t be attacking each other, but rather working together.  I don’t know if my legs can take any more attacks.  It’s a great paceline!  Some guys pull through too hard but I keep voicing directions to ease up so not to punish the guy that just pulled you.  They listen and one-by-one, everyone starts getting it.

In the rollers (my friends) it’s going well.  But then a Folsom Bike guy pulls through too hard.  I tell him that if he doesn’t ease back he’ll be forced to lead.. he doesn’t so I get behind him and he pulls quite a ways.  Very strong.  I’m not that strong so am careful to only pull a short bit. 

We get to the spot where I heard the “crash” sound and sure enough, there are 2 ambulances and we have to come to a stop to let them finish up and pull out.  I’m so sad to hear that 3 guys went down hard and only now are being transported to the hospital.  Some in our group are complaining that we have to stop, possibly losing our lead, but I try to remind us all that some guys got really hurt.  I spend more time praying for them and their families that are probably getting news and rushing to the hospital.

We roll again and hit the entrance road with the final hills pending.  I know this is where moves will be made.  I feel confident for the hills.  But the lead out is a fast pace and I’m already struggling.  The official tells us to go neutral (ease up) on the hills because some Cat 5’s are passing us.  Whew!  Thank you, Lord, another reprieve.  However, even with the slow down I still get dropped on the KOM climb.   My legs just had enough.  At the top I struggle along with the group way out in front.  I still give it all I’ve got knowing that any moment I could go from 10th to last if the chase pack catches and it would be a lot of work for nothing.  Go, go, go.  It hurts just like the marathon.  Finally, the finish!  I cross without the chase pack catching me and am so happy to hold on to an undeserving 10th.  God truly answered my prayers with protection, helping me into position, and giving me more strength than expected. 

After calling Robin and the girls, the last thing I pray for is some knowledge that it wasn’t me that causes that terrible crash.  Just 5 minutes after the call and prayer, I meet up with some Folsom Bike racers that tell me that it was a Rio Strada rider that caused it right near them and they even confronted him with it during the ride.  Still so sad but a relief that I didn’t cause it.  I still pray that they recover well and have no lasting injuries from it.