This would be my first handicap race. I didn't really know what to expect. I had a bit of an idea how it works in theory, but not really in practice. It would be an interesting course; a 200m climb right of the bat, then a general saw-toothiness up to the turn around point just out of Dwellingup. I found out at registration that the organisers had put my in with the A-graders. Hmm. I wonder how this was going to go.
We all lined up for the race. Each group went off with a few minutes in between. Turns out I was in the last group, with, I assume, was all the A-graders. So after a long wait we were off. My gameplan was to stick with the group as long as possible and try to finish with them. Had a nice roll through going for the first few kms until we hit the big climb. I found myself at the front of the group doing my turn, but as I went to pull off, everyone followed. Hmmm. Fair enough. I was feeling pretty good, so I just sat at the front for a while. A couple of minutes later I looked behind, and there was only two other guys behind me. After another couple of minutes, it was just me and another guy, Wade Longworth. We both started taking turns at the front, and to my astonishment we started passing people that had left before us. We were setting a pretty cracking pace, no one had yet jumped on the back of us two. One guy managed to jump to just before we passed Dave, but we dropped him at the next major hill.
Not far from the turn around point we noticed a decent sized group pass us in the other direction. Wade and I started chatting. He wanted a win. I thought who was I to argue. The plan was to get onto that group and ride with it back to the start/finish line. After the turn around, we tried to keep the pace as high as our legs would allow. Each rider we passed we asked how far away the big group was. We slowly getting closer. About halfway back we spotted them at the crest of a climb. We both put all we had into getting up to the bunch, and managed to catch them just before the decent (catching them seemed to take forever).
I was happy to sit at the back of the pack for a bit of breather, but Wade definitely wasn't. He marched straight up to the front. Bugger, I can't let him have it this easy. So off I went after him. The tempo increased down the hill, a few other riders dropping off the back. I made a half-hearted attack but was quickly caught by Wade and another guy. Suddenly the finish appeared (where the hell did that come from?). Crap. Sprinting, how do you do that again? Come on legs! Wade and two other guys got up for the sprint as well. I just didn't have enough in me to catch two of them, but I manage to just come in a wheel length ahead of the third guy. How anyone can pull off a sprint like those other two after riding that course is beyond me.
Turns out another group had come in around a minute before us. So I ended up with 9th overall (Wade got 7th). Wade and I had the fastest time overall (well he was a second or two quicker than me) which was pretty sweet. Best of all, I came in 2nd of the A-graders.
I must give Kudos to Wade for the awesome breakaway we had going. He's one hell of a rider.
The next race at Parklands is flat, so its going to be very interesting to see how it all unfolds.
Highlight: Dropping A-graders on a climb :)
Lowlight: The pain of the sprint at the end. It was a very peculiar type of pain. Weird.