Monday, February 24, 2014

W&M RR: Adele's report and advice for others new to racing!

The Tidewater Winter Classic, College of William & Mary, February 22

- A blog post by Adele Plunket

My first bike race ever, and I can wholeheartedly say that, of various race experiences in my life (i.e. running and triathlon), this was the most awesomely adrenaline-filled hour-ish yet. And yes, I'll be hooked and ready to race again. Why, and what was it like? For those of you who raced before, you know. And for those of you who, like me, are new to this crazy bike racing world, I will try to explain.

My mindset going into this race was to ride strong, but mostly use this as a learning experience.  Now, to recap for you, rather than describe every single glorious detail that I hope you'll experience for yourself one day, I'll at least reiterate the most useful advice that was given to me and what I learned along the way.

1. Race start. Be there at least 1+ hour before the race start time, so you have plenty of time to  register (bring your USA cycling license) and pin your numbers to your jersey, find the staging area, warm up with an easy spin and scope out the finish line.  Watch what everyone else is doing, and relax.  Thanks Mom for going along and scoping out the scene with me (and for the photo at the start)! 

2. Roll out easy with the group. Figure out who has done this before, and follow their lead. I raced with Women's Collegiate B and C, so there was a comfortable mix of experienced and novice riders.  Keep pace with the group and use the draft as much as you can.  Be attentive to group dynamics -- people will point out road conditions, call out if they are slowing or passing on the left or right.  Drink a few sips of water on occasion to stay fresh. Feel the adrenaline as you pedal, maneuver and strategize.

3. Work your way within the peloton to about 5th-10th position.  That way you feel connected with the leaders and the pack.  You'll notice when someone (or a group from the same team) is about to make a move.  Stick with them!  Especially in the final lap and then the final mile, be ready for the pace to pick up.  In the final 100-200 meters is the big sprint.  Give it everything.

3b. How does that final 100-200 meters really happen (they say that the whole race comes down to this)?  The short answer: fast!  The slightly longer answer, everyone was gradually picking up the pace after the final turn with about 1 mile to go.  You could tell that each girl in the pack had her mind set to cross that finish line first, and she wanted to get herself into position for the final sprint.  I even decided to push the limits and found myself up front for a while.  When we could see the finish line, everyone was going all out.  The only problem was that those final meters were uphill!  My quads had nothing left, and I crossed the finish line in 6th place, completely spent but really happy and with a big smile.  In retrospect, I should have practiced sprinting beforehand.  Something for next time!

4. Enjoy the chance to ride with a big group of your peers, your gender and ability. Look around you and be grateful that this is a group with whom you share a passion and a skill. Be careful, ride safely (!), and respect the sport.
If you can't tell already, this was an awesome first race experience. To the other novice Bulldogs out there, I'd love to chat more, answer questions, calm nerves if there are any. I say this because I had many questions and plenty of nerves.  Let's get together, go for a ride or spin, and get ready for a great first season! 

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