I decided after much waffling, to enter the Tour of Possum Creek Omnium this weekend in Yuma and Gate City Virginia. It has been about 3 years since I last competed in one and that was as a Cat 5. You see, when I quit road racing in 1998 I was a Cat 4 and heading for Cat 3 the next year. I got tired of it though and changed over to off-road. In the years since, all the races I have done have been with a USAC one-day license which allowed me to still compete in the Cat 5 (or beginner) class. This year, I renewed my USAC road license and when I did, I was put back in Cat 4 since you can never go backwards with USAC. Cat 4 races are typically longer, faster and harder than Cat 5 and as you go on up through Cat's 3,2 and 1, it just keeps getting harder and the competition much stiffer.
Given that knowledge plus the fact that this was my first road race in a few years (Crits don't really count because you don't get the full effect of the suffering potential that's available in an Omnium. An Omnium is a mini stage rage typically with a road race and time trial on one day followed by a criterium the next day.)
In short, I had high hopes for the weekend but deep down I expected to suffer like a dog. I wasn't disappointed.
Saturday morning was a 56 mile road race in Yuma. The course was two laps of a 28 mile loop that was fairly flat with a few small rollers just to make it interesting. We started and for the first dozen or so miles, the pace was like a club ride. There were a few hard accelerations on the backside of the loop but other than that, the first lap was a cake walk. Lap two would be different there were a few small attacks from the beginning of the lap and the pace picked up significantly over the first lap. I felt really good and my plan of staying near the front of the group but out of the wind was working well. The further we got into the 2nd lap, the attacks got harder and went from feeling good to hurting pretty quickly. One attack split the group and I managed to stay with the leaders although I was now officially suffering. In the last ten miles of the race, I found myself at the very back of the pack (we were all back together since the chase group caught back up). I knew that there would be an attack at one of the two small hills at the end of the lap and I had about 5 miles to make my way to the front to be in a good position to react. I didn't feel so great, the heat was bad and the effects of the hammering going on was really taking it's toll. I found myself in perfect position right on the front at the base of the hill where I felt an attack would come so I gave it a Hail Mary, swing for the fence attack from the front. I got a gap and then I had a massive cramp in my left hamstring that shut me down. I made it over the top alone but it didn't take long for the group to catch me and spit me out the back. I was really mad because I felt like I had a good chance to finish on the podium and I cramped. I drank a lot but maybe the heat and the pace (24.5 mph average for the 56 miles) caused me to underestimate my fluid needs. I wasn't the only one. I cruised across the line with my buddy and only "teamate" for the race, David Hayter, and he was cramping badly too.
I ended up 19th in the RR. Not what I wanted but it is what it is.
The TT was hard to get motivated for. Time trials hurt. It's just you and the clock and you have to go WFO for as long as it is. This one in particular had several small but fugly hills that really hurt and the pavement on half the 12 mile course was so rough it made it hard to stay in a aero position for very long. On top of that, my lack of preparation for this event included setting up my bike with TT bars but not spending enough time on it riding in them. The end result was I was unconmfortable. As I warmed up on my trainer, I contemplated the tree trunks I had for legs and the pain I was about to experience). As expected, the TT didn't go well for me. I got caught by my 30 second man, my minute man, my 1:30 man and even the dude that started two freaking minutes behind me, caught me! I suck at time trials (for now. heheheheh). I finished 12th.
Sunday brought a new day, tired but sorta rested legs and a better attitude. I spent the morning with David helping Super G move some of her stuff into a new storage unit and then headed out to Gate City High School for the Criterium. The course was one of the shortest and most dangerous I have ever seen in 20 years of abusing myself on a bike. It was barely .5 miles long and had three 180 degree turns (one of 'em was kind of off camber) and a nearly 360 degree round a bout (that one was actually not bad). I warmed up amid the heat, it must have been about three thousand degrees out there and watched the end of the Cat 3 race where one of my friends crashed twice. Kudos to him for not giving up although I am sure that second crash really hurt! I had shit for legs and I really didn't want to crash so I played it safe and just hovered near the back of the field. There were a few crashes (one right in front of me but I was able to avoid it) and a few DNF's so when the dust settled, I ended up 9th and that combined with my results from the previous day gave me 10th OA.
I am ok with that.I wanted to podium but this was my first road race/omnium in three years and my first Cat 4 race in 11 years. Despite doing a lot of riding and racing this year (the mountain bike races I do don't really give you the fitness for this stuff and cyclocross gives you the intensity but it's just not the same either) I just haven't trained for this kind of racing. So given that, I am not unhappy with how I did and besides, I had a lot of fun and that's what it's really about anyway.