First off, Florida is a loooong way to drive for a weekend bike race (not to mention back). But with the weather promising temperatures in the 70’s (we did swing by the beach) and an opportunity to race against a stellar collegiate field, we road tripped down there for the University of Florida’s Feb 7-8th races. Our goals were to gain valuable race fitness and experience and not necessarily results, especially considering that our competitors had been racing already for nearly a month and training outside in the Florida sun. After a cold winter and lots of indoor training, this would be our first race of the year. And for most of us, the first time seeing real alligators up close.
Saturday’s event was a 9-mile time trial. In his first bike race ever, Ryan managed a top 10 in his category and stayed within a minute of the winner. Yolanda placed 6th in the women’s event in her first bike race in over a year, and she did so Eddie Merckx style, i.e. with no aero equipment. Nikola had a strong ride in the “Men’s A” event against some of the top collegiate riders in the country but never managed to find his rhythm and finished just outside of the top 10. Nothing to be ashamed of when the winner from UF was 2nd at the 2008 National Time Trial Championships.
Sunday was a criterium held on the closed-off downtown streets of Gainesville. Ryan’s 35-minute event was his first mass-start cycling race ever, and his field was the largest of the day. He stayed in the top 10 for the entire event until taking the lead with 2 laps to go, but in the final lap he was swarmed and had to settle for a mid-pack finish, learning a valuable tactical lesson. Yolanda’s event was next and she did a great job of marking and staying with the fastest women. Unfortunately, UF had her outnumbered and thus a huge tactical advantage. Still, she sprinted to a fine 5th place against some of best women in the country. Nikola’s race was the final collegiate event of the day, and he did an awesome job of making the early break with two professional riders (yes, pros are allowed to compete in collegiate races as long as they are full-time students). But Nik paid for his early efforts later in the race and missed the winning break, yet he still was able to finish 5th in the field sprint.
All together, the weekend was a great start to the season. Yes, we have some work to do, but I have a feeling that a victory is just around the corner.