The first road race of the year down here is the Megan Baab Memorial Road Race in Copperas Cove, Texas in the middle of January. This year, it was held on January 16th. It’s a 52-mile course that’s in the shape of a big lollipop with mostly rolling terrain. In my first time participating in this event, I raced in the 4/5 race and finished 18th place in a field of 70.
Last year, in 2015, I participated in my first road race at Pace Bend. That ended up being my only road race last year, so I wanted to do more of them this year. The annual race in Copperas Cove seemed like a good starting point. I had the option of doing either the 3/4 race or the 4/5, but I chose the 4/5 because a handful of guys I race with at The Driveway had signed up for that one - I wanted to make sure I had people I was comfortable being around. Since I’d never been to Copperas Cove, the plan was to drive up the Sunday before the race and ride the course for some recon. Unfortunately, that Sunday was cold and windy, so I decided to just sleep in and ride locally later in the day. I did make sure to get some tips from friends who have done the race in the past, however.
On the morning of the race, I packed up and left home around 6:30am to make sure I got to the race with enough time to pick up my race packet and pin up my jersey without rushing around. My race start time was at 9:25am and the drive took about an hour and fifteen minutes, so this left me with plenty of time to relax and warm up before lining up to roll out. After getting everything together, I started to roll around to warm up and eventually met up with Bryce, Andy, and Brandon, three of my friends who I’d be racing with.
The start of the race was fairly slow, and it honestly didn’t pick up much at all throughout the entire race; It was mostly a conversational pace for the first three-quarters of the race. I just sat in, chatted with people, and occasionally the pace would temporarily be pushed a little bit. There’s a turn onto Harmon Road around mile 27 that everyone warned me about where “the field will inevitably split and a breakaway will happen”. That didn’t happen. No one attacked at all for that entire stretch of road.
Finally, Some Action
The first round of attacks came around mile 39 after turning off of Harmon Road and onto FM-580 where there’s a relatively significant 1.2-mile climb. That was hard, but I kept up with the front of the group. After that climb, there’s a downhill into a short punchy climb which I still managed to get through.
Shortly after finishing the lollipop section of the course, the guy right in front of me managed to overlap the wheel of the guy in front of him and ended up crashing. I saw it coming and was able to quickly maneuver past it, but I had to burn an extra match to catch back up to the front group. There were two more climbs after that going into the finish, and I legitimately got dropped from the front of the pack on the first one. I watched as the front of the pack was pedaling away from me. I was pretty sure that was going to be the end of my race, but as I crested the first climb, two other guys came around me and I latched onto them on the downhill. I stuck to their wheels and suddenly I was back with the front group! Then, on the second climb, the same thing happened: dropped, and then brought back to the pack by the same guy. I never did find him after the race to thank him.
After those two climbs, I recovered pretty well, but focused on just sticking on the wheel in front of me. I lost track of the terrain and had no idea when the finish was coming up, but the pace was really starting to pick up and I started to see the cones in the road. One of the lead cars had pulled off the side of the road, but not all the way and that almost caused a big crash as racers panicked. Suddenly, I noticed we crossed a white line on the road and people around me sat up…
Apparently, the race was over. I had no idea that was the final sprint! I feel like I could have put a little bit more effort in at the end to finish a little higher up, but oh well. I finished in 18th place in the first road race of the year! I’ll definitely have a better idea of what to expect when I do this race again next year. One thing I need to make sure to do is eat more during the race. During the 2.5 hour road race, I only ate one bar and a little bit of gel. I think if I ate more, I would not have been dropped on the last two climbs and would have had more for a sprint finish.
At least I didn’t get a flat tire during this road race!