I have raced long enough to know that toeing the start line while under the weather seldom leads to strong results. But even with that knowledge in hand I wasn't expecting things to go quite so poorly for Saturday's Poolesville Road Race.
I had the race on the calendar because (a) it was roughly halfway between NYC and Richmond, where THW's Charlie Bird had relocated during the winter, making for a perfect meeting point (b) unlike Sunday's CRCA Bear Mountain Classic the course profile was mostly rolling hills and (c) the race featured a gravel section and everyone knows gravel is the greatest thing to happen to bike racing since the invention of shifting.
Unfortunately my body didn't quite cooperate with these well laid plans and I spent essentially the entire week leading into Saturday off the bike and hoping for a miraculous recovery. Unfortunately as we left New York City before dawn on Saturday morning (maintaining that whole lack of sleep theme that permeates nearly every race report) I was still running well below 100%.
As the race kicked off I went with the theory that false confidence would trick my body into playing along for at least some portion of the 75 miles of racing. So with the initial flurry of attacks I stayed attentive on the front of the pack. Using the same 'don't read the race guide' strategy that worked so well at Rasputitsa I wasn't sure where the gravel section was located on the course, but another series of attacks going into a downhill indicated clearly enough that things were about to get very watty.
The pack thrashed through the gravel as potholes sent water bottles flying in multiple directions. With several days of rain leading into the race it was a muddy affair and I soon found myself drifting back to the middle of the pack, eagerly awaiting a return to firmer ground and more friendly wattage requirements. Unfortunately, by the time we actually reached pavement my body was already in the red zone and a nice leg searing kicker shortly thereafter was the death knell for my time in the peloton.
My false confidence trick had worked for all of seven miles. Seven miles. I probably should have called it a day there and headed back to the car to give my body a bit more R&R. But illness or not with a beautiful course in Maryland I decided to stick it out for several more laps of the rolling circuit. So the next two hours were more or less a solo ITT affair. It was far from my finest race performance, but it's definitely a race that will be back on my calendar next year when my legs will hopefully be more cooperative.
Matthew Vandivort is a New York City based cyclist and sometimes photographer who was also a founding member of To Be Determined. You can follow him online at @photorhetoric or http://photo-rhetoric.com/