This is the 4th time I have done this one and the first time nothing went wrong. The first time I did it in 2004, I did the Cat 4/5. Thought it was pretty easy to stay in the lead group as the wind was blowing ridiculously from the East (Wisconsin blows). I got stuck in wind, drifted to the back and when I got there, a handful of guys separated and I wasn't able to bridge.
In 2005, the Cat 4/5 field started with 60+ riders and within the first 3 miles, some squirrely little rat clips a tire about 10 riders from the front and about 40 riders went down or in the ditch. The riders in front of him remained in the race with a HUGE gap. I hit the ground, sat up, then got plowed by another guy who use me as a launching ramp.
In 2006, Cat 4/5 age 30+, I was in a 7 man break with teammate, at the time, Mike Minneti. Three of us fell out of the break, but ended up with a chase group that could have caught the leaders (4 of them), but between a Nature Valley guy, Don, and myself, we controlled the pace so there would be no catch. Our group of 6 automatically had the top 10, but would be sprinting for 5th (Mike ended up 2nd). What happened? I flatted on the hill to the finish. I road on a flat for a couple blocks till a spectator gave me a wheel. I got caught 50 feet from the line by chase group number 2--I ended up 17th.
This year was my first time racing as a Cat 3 so the race was going to 63 miles. I road fairly well the first 2 laps. For the 3rd and final lap I managed to be near the front up the long climb that finishes the lap and was hoping for a break. It happened. We had about 6 guys with a gap of about 50 yards or so as the hill flattened out. First I yelled, "keep it going, we have a gap, we have a gap!" Then I realized I was going to blow! The 6 of us looked sloppy and I don't know about anyone else, but I wouldn't be able to keep the pace too much longer, and with only 6, we'd all suffer terribly and surely be caught at some point. I looked back and there were scattered riders trying to bridge. I yelled to the front, "Slow down, we need more guys, SLOW DOWN!!!" I don't know what else I was yelling, but I was yelling. Finally, the Flanders guy leading the pace (who would eventually win 20 miles later), slowed down, came back to me and said "Ok, ok..don't worry about it" or something to that effect. Some of the chasers caught on and our group was about 20 or so after we turned the corner. Then the rollers started and a handful of guys and myself got spit out the back. Three of us worked together and over the course of a mile or two we got back to the leaders. I tried to find a place to hide within them to recover a little bit then started thinking, I could probably hang on for a bit, but not sure I could do my share of the pulling. If I tried, and judging my the way I am feeling, I would probably only survive half the lap or so. At that point, realizing that when I fall out of the lead group I would be so spent that I wouldn't be able to hang with any group. I decided to ease up and cut my losses (energy loss) sooner than later. Soon a chase group of about a dozen formed. We paced, realized we aren't going to catch the leaders, but we could work together, finish the race and call it a day. We worked together till about a mile short of the final ascent then guys started going off. I was pretty zapped so I just road in at my own pace. I finished 17th of the Cat 3's , which is the same placing as last year, incurring a flat, in the Cat 4/5 30+. Not sure of my overall placing was among the entire Cat 3/4 field, but does it matter at that point.
Sometimes its good to know your limits, push them a bit, but also know when to recognize what they are and ride accordingly. I know if I would have kept pushing with the leaders I would have blown up and finished near the bottom.
Overall, I think it was a pretty descent day for the Peace Coffee racing crew. Dan B. took 9th in the Cat 5's. Others in Dan's field, newbie to the team Andy S. and 2nd year PCR Jamison B. took 17th and 28th respectively. Dan gave Jamison props for the MONSTER pull during the second lap. The ladies, Ann M. and Kristy L, took 15th and 24th. In the Cat 4/5 age 30+, Timm J. and Kevin F. took 13th and 52nd. Unfortunately, Joe M. flatted in the Cat 3/4 race (he flatted last year in the 4/5's too).