Just as a refresher, Pace Bend is a Texas state park that has a 6.2 mile road running around its edge. It is a very well-maintained surface that is mostly rolling hills with one short 8% punching climb on the back side and a 0.3 mile 4% grade uphill finish – a nice and varied course. The category 4 race I was in this year was 7 laps for 44 miles.
This year, I hadn’t been riding all that much, mostly because of poor weather conditions and the usual general darkness of winter days. I don’t feel like I’ve really lost much fitness since the end of the Driveway series last year, and I haven’t gained much if any weight over the winter. I raced in the first annual Oatmeal Road Race in January and did relatively well for having not been riding much.
Leading up to Pace Bend this year, I just felt sluggish and almost didn’t even go. I’m really glad that I did, though.
This year, it was only myself and Jason representing our team in the category 4 race. We met up before the start and went to staging. Jim, LJ, and Andy were all there to cheer us on and I saw them on the sideline cheering every single lap.
I ended up feeling a lot better than I expected once we started rolling.
The first lap was very interesting, with many attempts at establishing a breakaway. Jason and I started out toward the front, so we kept trying to follow any of those attempts. None of them stuck that lap, though.
On the second lap, I decided to have some fun on the front for the second half. It’s pretty amazing being in the very front of a race with 75 people behind you. I hung out near the front for most of the second half of that lap, and I did the same thing on the third lap. Very fun, but also pretty dumb. Jason had some fun on the front on one of the laps, too.
After having our fun on the front, we both sat in the rest of the race. With the exception of two crashes - one on the third lap, and one on the final - it felt pretty safe.
For mid-race nutrition, I brought a pre-opened Clif bar and a squeeze bottle of Hammer gel. I probably should have eaten more gel than I did during the race. In the morning, I ate a bowl of muesli with almond milk and chia seeds at home, and two bananas spaced out over a few hours.
The final lap, per usual, saw an increased pace. On the previous lap or two, a 3-man breakaway had established, and we had to catch them. We ended up catching two of them, but Freedom stayed away and won.
Second and third place were two of his team mates from Violet Crown. They’re really killing it this year so far in races.
On the final rise and sprint finish, I couldn’t hang on and ended up fading back to finish in 47th place.
Overall, I’m very happy with how I finished, considering I almost didn’t start. I felt great and most importantly, I finished and didn’t get a flat like last time.