TL;DR summary: First place in my age group, experienced new levels of pain and hurt.
For the third year in a row, I participated in the Tour de Terra Cotta.
Because I haven't trained as much this year (only one BCC Tuesday), I went in the short 26km race again. It seems to get harder each year, but at least it's over after about 40 minutes. This time, there were a lot of Kurzawinski, Dark Horse Flyers and Midweek Cycling Club riders, the latter team with a lot of young riders.
My last event was the Tour de Hans last September, where a crash and broken collar bone deflated my race ambitions. So I thought this event would rekindle my race interest. It did up to a point, except for the part about pain and discomfort! Was it ever hard, I mean crazy hard.
The race is on a rectangular course of 9km with one big hill after the first turn and an equivalent downhill before a turn into a straightaway to the finish line. There is no yellow line rule. This event gives medals to the top three finishers male and female in each decade from teens to too old to mention.
We were 80 riders at the start line. With my last experience I was a little apprehensive, but resolved to try to enjoy my experience as much as I could. I had ideas of joining a breakaway or trying a solo run on the last lap. This dream was shattered after the first climb, where hanging on was going to be my only option.
We probably shed 30 people on the first climb. The intensity was not yet bad. This happened on the second and third climbs. At the top of the hill my heart was beating at a new yet undiscovered maximum. The hard thing is that I didn't get a break now that the hill was over. I had to keep going with my heart beating at near maximum if I were going to stay with the head group and I manage to do it, however unpleasant it was.
Shortly after the second time up the hill, I heard a familiar "pfffft" nearby. A rider flatted out and a couple of people fell down as he was losing speed. Here we go again I thought. I recall Dan telling us once never to look back when there's a crash, but I still had a quick peak after ensuring no one was around me to cause another one. This crash however caused our peloton to break in two. We then lost a few more on the third climb and were about 20 making our way to the finish line on the last lap.
On the next to last turn I was suffering in silence drafting at the back of the pack. When the turn came, I let a small gap open to let me do my turn safely and cut the corner on the apex.
The accordion effect was particularly intense at this moment and I had to dig deep to catch up, which I did successfully with the pace slowing down slightly. A Midweek rider then took off and had a lead of about 100 meters, with a couple of his teammates riding tempo at the front to let him build a lead. Others revolted and the pace went nuts. I didn't have the legs to respond to this second surge and as the road turned downwards, I saw the group edge me by about 50 meters.
At the bottom of the hill I faced the last kilometer alone against the wind without any wheel to suck and I stumbled to the finish line about 20 seconds behind the winner, coming in 15th place.
I was kicking myself for missing the sprint, but it wouldn't have made a difference, other than shaving a few seconds and a slightly higher overall placing. Since there were not any older gents in the remaining pack, I got first place on the podium for my age group!
Thanks to my cheering section: my wife Tounie and daughter Émilie, who took a couple of the pictures shown here. (My older daughter is away on a trip so she couldn't attend.)
I wish more BCCers went to this event. I know we usually have 4-5 regulars, but I guess the timing wasn't good for them this year. But I do understand some people staying away because it's a citizen event, which means more crashes than OCA races. This year was no exception, although this time I stayed out of trouble.
Great pictures by Ivan Rupes photography:
No, I'm not signing a tune:
The pain does end when it's over ...