Masters Road Nationals: The Bad, the Ugly, and a Bit of Good

Posted: August 31, 2011 in Bicycle Racing

After crashing 3-1/2 weeks ago, my prospects for competing in the USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships in Bend, Oregon, were not very good. I saw my doctor for a follow-up exam about 2 weeks after the crash and guess what? He said I was good to race at the nationals. Here I am the night after the first race of the championships, the individual time trial, or for my non-cycling readers the ITT. Between my doctor’s OK to race and leaving for the championships I had about a week to try to rebuild my fitness after essentially having two weeks off the bike. That week ended with two days of driving and one day to get acclimated to Bend’s relatively high (for me) altitude of about 3,600 feet.

My overall confidence was not very good but it improved a bit after a reasonably good training ride to scope out the TT course. One problem with the reconnaissance was that I thought I was racing the 30 Km loop when, in fact, the Masters Men 50-54 years-old were competing on the 25 Km course. More on this later.

The afternoon before the race, registration opened and at registration, the Chief Referee conducted a courtesy bike inspection to ensure that your bike met UCI regulations and giving you a chance to fix it if it didn’t. I am pretty detail-oriented when it comes to setting up my bike and I was pretty confident that my bike met the technical regulations. It turns out that I was wrong. The biggest problem was the length of my carbon fiber TT handlebar extensions. They were too long and I didn’t have the tools or the time to get them cut down to meet the rules. I ended up spending a couple of hours in the condo trying several different combinations of changes to my setup with the hopes of making my TT bike legal.

I got the race early and brought my road bike as a last resort backup. It turns out that my adjustments made the bike legal. Of course they also made the bike less comfortable. Relieved, I went about my pre-race preparation and warmup rituals.

I got to the start in plenty of time and then got in line for the starting ramp. Five-four-three-two-one and I was heading down the ramp. A friend who raced earlier said something about the start not matching the course map but I didn’t fully grasp what she was describing. The start was a series of short straights and tight turns along the local high school perimeter road before turning on to the main highway that climbed to the courses highest elevation. At one point I thought that I made a wrong turn but I was OK and got on to the road with my 30 second man (who ended up 4th) in sight.

That didn’t last very long and I headed up the climb a series of riders passed me. I used them as inspiration pick up my pace. The turnaround point came a lot sooner than I expected because I had a mental picture of the 30 Km turnaround instead of the 25 Km turnaround. The guys who passed me were still in reasonable sight at the turnaround, but on the long descent back down the hill I was no match for them and lost sight of them completely.

The course finished with a “south” loop through a new, high-end housing development. I was working hard (per my hear rate recording) but I got passed by a few more racers before the finish. I ended up 29th out of 31 starters. At least I wasn’t dead last.

In retrospect and after reviewing my race data, I probably could have ridden a bit harder, but my lack of confidence and less-than-optimum position on the bike conspired to give me a less than stellar day. I learned a lot about the course and I accomplished one of my objectives for this trip — learning the courses for next year. Next year I’ll be the youngest in my age group, instead of the oldest.

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