Tour de Ocala – My First Cycling Stage Race

June 28th, 2013

Time Trial Section. 5 miles went by fast.

After my race at Pt. Mugu, I decided to take a break to give myself a much needed mental break and an opportunity to get some more focused training in before I start back up in July.  The hiatus also gave me an opportunity to have some fun by racing in the Ocala Race Weekend USAC event on 15 & 16 June.  I had never done a single sport cycling event before, since usually it is sandwiched in between a swim and run.  The Ocala Race Weekend consisted of two road races and a time trial.

Stage 1 : 48 miles. Staying relaxed in the pack and in control. Orange bike, red jersey.

The first road race consisted of four 12 mile loops, totaling 48 miles. The Category 5 and Masters 35+ 4/5 rode together to create a larger field, but we were scored separately.  My weapon of choice for both of the road races: my Serotta Meivici SE with Reynolds Attack wheels.  Since this was my first cycling race and I also had two more races to do, I kept very conservative.  I spent most of my time trying to get a feel for the mentality of this particular race field.  Heather raced in the women’s Category 4 earlier in the day and she said that the ladies were very aggressive and some were actually mean. I didn’t know what to expect out of cyclist, but mostly everyone in my race played nicely, except for the lack of people wanting to take a pull up front. Although I was not on a team, I was not alone to fend for myself.  Nick Chase and John Hensz of Air Force were participating too. I have come to know them from the military’s Armed Forces Competitions.

First lap sprint. Still got 3 more, I'll let them fight it out.

 Throughout the race, I moved back and forth though the pack, usually finding myself up front leading during the hill sections.  On the second lap, my friend Nick and John made a break from the field. At that time, I was up front and wanted to give them a chance to get away. They were smart to do this during the hill section since the pack did what it had done the past lap and slowed down. Since I was up front, I slowed it down even more.  Eventually, we made our way out of the hills and the pack picked up the pace to try and catch the guys that had taken off.  John wasn’t able to hold his lead but Nick and a couple of other riders that had gone with him were long gone.  They were able to get out of view from the field and so they were forgotten about. For the rest of the ride, I just sat in and focused on staying up right. 

Time Trials - no problem. Serotta bikes are for forward motion.

There was a bike crash at the end of the third loop. I was a few bike lengths back when it happened. Fortunately, I was on the left side of the pack and the crash happened on the right. I missed the pile up by a foot but it seemed much closer at the time.  It sounded like the first people to go down really got it bad.  I could hear the sound of all the metal and carbon slamming into the pavement and then a sudden silence.  After that, I was planning an escape route the rest of the ride. When we finished, I was sitting in 13th place, and with 65 more miles to go I still had a chance to make the podium.

Later that afternoon I had a five mile time trial.  After the first rider started, each consecutive rider departed on 30 second intervals.  My weapon of choice: Serotta Legend SE with Zipp 808’s.  The rider in front of me didn’t show up, so my goal was to chase down the rider that was a full minute in front of me.  I got off to a slow start since it was an uphill start from nothing.  It was an out and back and I definitely felt better on the way back in.  My heart was red-lining the entire time, but I just pushed until I crossed the line.  During the ride, I caught the guy one minute ahead of me.  I knew I had done well because I also caught the riders who started 90 seconds and 2 minutes before me.  My time was 10:21.30 and I was now sitting in 3rd place.

Stage 3: 60 miles - Orange Serotta bike, Red Jack and Adam's bike team jersey.

I came back the next day to do a 60 mile ride that finished off the series.  The course was totally different, although it was similar in terms of terrain.  I liked this loop better since there were more hills with longer inclines. This time I planned on being more aggressive and attacking as much as I could.  There was no need to leave anything out there.  I planned on making my break with Nick and John on the 3rd loop at one of the steeper hills.  However, our plans were thwarted since a bike crash on the first loop halted the race for almost a half hour.  I had to swerve to miss this one too.  This time it was on a downhill going into a right turn before finishing up the first loop. The pack had to diverge left and right since the rider fell and slid to the middle of the road. I had to swerve to the right to miss the rider’s head, his helmet shattered after the initial fall.  I even had to yell at someone to slow down so I could take the turn wide since I was traveling too fast on the inside of the turn.  This was on the first loop and the accident had not cleared by the time we came around to finish our second, so if it was the same guy, he was probably hurt pretty bad.  We all just chilled in the grass until we were clear to start up again.

30 miles to go. Time to start attacking.

After we got started, I knew everyone would be rested and on their toes so our original plan was out the door.  I even tested the field on the third lap by trying a breakaway on my own but they reeled my back in.  Nick and I tried again toward the end of the third lap, and got away for a couple minutes but the pack caught us yet again.  Finally I made the decision to stop initiating attacks and just keep my energy just in case someone else decided to break and then I could try to go with them.  No one did and the entire field stayed intact for the entire fourth loop, all the way to the finished line.  With my performance yesterday and my sustained effort today, I was able to clinch third overall, while Nick placed 2nd and John captured 1st for the Master 35+ 4/5. Complete results: click here.

Finishing up! No sprint finish for me -- too many breakaway attempts.

The race was a fun experience. I was honored to wear team Jack & Adam’s Bikes jersey and thankful to have my Serotta bikes and Amrita energy bars to aid me through the 113 miles.

After a weeked of racing, I take claim the bronze.