March 2nd I did my first race that was in U23 category, longer than 160km (I did a 160 once, longest other than that was 130 and that was with my new cool Lotto Belisol teammates. It was Ster Van Zwolle, a professional race on the UCI Europe Tour series at 180km in length. I psyched myself out a little bit the day before seeing all the big names on the start sheet but I put that aside and got ready for this new adventure into uncharted territory. We started and I was really happy with how things were going. I felt comfy moving in the group and fit as anything. I went in some moves and rode on the front a little to get the feel of the racing and speed. I was expecting much worse as I have heard a lot of threatening things about the Dutch peleton.
What I experienced was not so bad, less crashes then in juniors and bumping didn't lead to people yelling at you in a language that sounds like gibberish to me. Crash of the day goes to "the guy in blue" (I'm not sure his team, I think he may have been from the Norwegian team that was over racing, hence blue guy) he sat up in the pack beside me to fix his glove and hit a big white reflector that sits in the middle of the road every 5 meters or so and lost control. Swerving side to side like a car that tried to turn when going too fast then out of nowhere his wheel turned to far and he got decked like a high speed clothes line from hell. Crashes like that happen rarely but people hitting traffic islands happens a lot especially in Holland, so I saw a fair few of those during the race.
Back to the actual racing now. Holland is know for its wind and at times we would swing around a bend onto a wide open 4 bike wide path along a canal. Normally I was up in the front few and would look back to see people lined out as far as the eye could see right in the gutter. Early I almost got caught out but managed to race across a small enough gap by myself. Now that I have made it clear how important position is I will tell you how I got dropped! I made a mistake by losing too much focus and found myself in the back 20% at the wrong moment as we turned onto a small bike bath. 140 riders riding 2 wide is much harder than riding in the big comfy peleton. Moving up wasn't possible and I began to feel my energy dwindling being 165km into the race. We soon moved onto a much wider road that had turned our group in a direction that saw us undertake battle with a cross wind. I didn't have the strength to move up in it and drifted off the back with 20 or so other riders. So my race full of firsts wasn't horrible for the level and everything taken into account, or atleast that is what I tell myself. I learned some valuable lessons about positioning, where to be around traffic furniture, cornering and more! My training is starting to sharpen up and with more racing and learning I am certain my results will continue to improve.
I recently purchased a PowerMeter and my average watts for the race was 300, I don't think I could of managed something like that last year. Also for me recently I have lost about 7lbs, I don't know how its even possible as I am eating like a monster and my body fat test told me I could only lose up to 4 lbs.... maybe it's because of that liquid only diet I've been on? Just kidding. This weekend I have a very similar race also in Holland with most of the same teams, only it's 13km longer. Time to prove myself.