The short follow-up to Hogg on Wheels about my first ever road race (or bike race of any kind for that matter)... so here goes.
Sharon Center, Iowa was a wee bit foggy and rainy last Saturday morning; kinda made me homesick for my homeland of Scotland! I registered, picked up my number, and spent the next half hour trying to figure out how the heck to pin that thing on my jersey. But once it was attached I felt like I was ready to do this thing!
After a brief warm up we (that is all my Cat 5 colleagues and I) lined up to listen to the race referee. Instructions were given to stay on the right side of the road, or maybe it was to keep your wheels right side down, maybe both, I don’t know, I was kind of nervous, don’t litter on the course, don’t throw your water bottles at spectators, and don’t scare the horse-drawn buggies! The referee; however, said nothing, I repeat, nothing about avoiding the wildlife! I’ll explain later.
The gun went off and the next hour or so is a bit of blur. This is no “group ride” as I have ever experienced it. There was no stopping at the STOP signs or 4 ways to let the others catch up and if you wanted a drink, or something to eat, you had better be able to do it at high speed, in between breaths. We snaked along doing speeds between 20-40 miles per hour. Yeah four-zero miles per hour! That is the fastest I have ever gone on a bike! I remember looking down at my bike computer and saw that speed, then looked at the rear wheel of the guy in front of me and just kept thinking.......”Just don’t brake buddy, pleeeease just don’t brake!!”
It wasn’t too long into the race when the first crash occurred. It was behind me and it didn’t sound good. It sounded like carbon fiber dominoes toppling one after the other with thuds at the end, as bodies hit the tarmac. I didn’t look back. I was too afraid of what I might see!
The next event was one of the freakiest things I have ever seen. We turned south for a short section, when all of sudden someone yells, “Deer!!!”. A brown blur catches my eye coming from the right. It leaps as if trying to clear the two riders at the front of the peloton and hits the second guy in line taking him off his bike, throwing him across the road. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen! I wish I had a brought my video camera because this would have gone viral on YouTube!
So, let me get this straight, not only do I have to contend with all of the other riders in the race, but now I have to dodge flying deer?!!!
Big Ben Fistler told me later that as he passed the dude who was taken out by the flying wildlife that the rider stated something along the lines of, “I was hit by a deer??? Are you f*&%ing kidding me??? A deer???”. Yeah I would have a hard time believing it too buddy if I hadn’t just seen it happen! (My poor wife meanwhile was at the start/finish line watching people and their mangled bikes being brought back by the truckload! She was trying to remember where my insurance card was!) Anyway... back to the race.
So far the race was a cross between a demolition derby and a safari. After the deer event, the peloton started to fall apart. I did my best to hang onto the wheel of Donny Maschka, but a third crash separated me from the lead group. This left me by myself for a while trying to do my best Cancellera time trial impersonation. I could see the lead group. They were only about 100 yards ahead of me but they might as well have been 100 miles ahead. Working by myself there was no way I was going to catch them, but as stragglers got dropped from the lead group I made it my mission to catch them.....especially the guy with the “flappy” shorts and cotton t-shirt! He was old school man! Not a shred of spandex on this kid.....he spat in the face of wind resistance! Had to admire him for that alone.
Finally, Big Ben and his group caught up to me. It was like being reunited with a long lost friend. I thought we had “lost” Ben to the first crash but here he was alive and well! There were about six of us now. The interesting thing was now we had another race within the race. Knowing that we weren’t catching the lead group, all of us still wanted to be the first of our group to cross the line. So the battle continued with “flappy” shorts boy in contention with us too!
Seeing the finish line in sight Big Ben started to rev his motor up and gave me the perfect, (yet unintentional), lead out, catapulting me to the line. Felt great to finish!
Although I haven’t seen official results I believe Ben and I finished in the top 20 out of a field of 60 or so riders. I was a bit bummed at first; maybe I had set my goals too high. But after having had some time to think and reflect on the race I realize I have a long way to go. This was only the first baby step. This time last year I would have been dropped from the main group in the first 2 miles. Now I feel like I can at least compete. Progress has and will continue to be made.
Others had tried to tell me that racing would be much a more intense physical effort than any other time I have ridden. I took it with a grain of salt. They were right!! This is the hardest I have ever worked on a bike in my life. But to cross the finish line and see what I was able to accomplish feels really good.
Results:Iowa City Road Race:
Women Cat 4
2. Katie Fistler - Punk Rock Cycling (pictured here)
Men Cat 5
6. Don Maschka - North Iowa Spin
18. Lyell Hogg - North Iowa Spin
19. Dale Blakestad - North Iowa Spin
22. Lyell Hogg - North Iowa Spin
24. Benjamin Fistler - BIKEIOWA.com Cycling
(results actually had Lyell finishing twice - now that's good!)
Now that my bike racing virginity cherry has been popped, as it were, I can’t wait to do it all over again! Obviously next time my head will be on a swivel for rabid deer! - Lyell
10. Timothy Putnam - North Iowa Spin
Old Capital Crit:
Women Cat 4
8. Katie Fistler - Punk Rock Cycling
Men Cat 5:
26. Benjamin Fistler - BIKEIOWA.com Cycling