I raced the men's category 3/4 at the Driveway this afternoon. Another great race, but I finished in the middle of the pack, somewhere around 15th or 17th--out of the top ten it gets hard to count. One major positive is that I'm finding my sprint. Earlier in the season it seemed that even when I positioned myself well, riders would surge past me at the finish. Now, I'm better able to turn the cranks to cross the line in place. Of course, when that place is 17th, there's fewer riders to surge by you.
The past few weeks I've failed to train with heart rate, stretch properly, eat well, get adequate sleep, train consistently or develop core strength. These are all areas I can improve which will in turn improve my riding, but my lackluster results the past two trips to the Driveway aren't a result of anything other than timid riding. When I ride aggressively, chasing down breakaways, staying up front responding to moves, I finish a lot better. And even if I don't, I've gained strength. If I ride like a mouse I tend to finish poorly and forfeit any development. A real lose-lose.
Today's race, though, was fascinating from a tactics perspective. AT&T and Tenzing both brought big teams today. Hotel San Jose and Austin Bikes were also decently represented. But AT&T and Tenzing had riders that were neck and neck for the month's general classification, so the onus to chase down any breaks was all on them. A break of 8 happened mid-race and got about fifteen seconds on the pack. It contained a couple AT&T riders and now Tenzing so I figured the boys in black and white would chase it down. But the breakaway shelled the AT&T riders and some others and so it was down to 3: one each from Hotel San Jose, Joes Pro Bikes and Austin Nationals.
The remaining 3 riders managed to increase their lead on the pack and with five laps to go I realized it was because neither AT&T nor Tenzing needed to chase them down to defend their standing in the overall classification. The three escapees were no threat to the series leaders. The final sprint coming out of the corkscrew was still dramatic and positioning for the entire lap leading up to it was crucial. Another good lesson for me in asserting myself in the pack and reading when it's time to go.