Since Vic was visiting her sister and took the kids, I was able to ride both Saturday and Sunday. Yahoo! Here's how it went...
The Vuelta al Valle started on Saturday, but it was a 10 mile time trial. I elected to not do that, as I really wanted to get in some miles and seat time. So I met some of the Team McAllen folks that weren't doing the time trial, and we rode from Burger King as usual.
In what I thought was a little bit of a strange move, we decided to ride to the Vuelta al Valle starting point. I think the idea was to show some support. There were about 20 of us, and there was a mix of strong, experienced riders and very new cyclists. Along the way, one of the newer cyclists just 'fell out' and hit the pavement. Nobody was near her, and she didn't seem to hit anything in the road. This delayed us 15-20 minutes, but she was able to ride away, so it wasn't too bad.
We continued on, skittish and concerned about the mix of riders. Then, as we neared the Vuelta starting line, one of our experienced riders hit an orange road cone and went down. As the group slowed, another accident happened as a trailing cyclist hit another cyclist that was slowing to avoid the first accident. Yes -- 3 accidents in one day, although no major injuries or problems.
I decided I didn't want any more of the large group craziness. I picked up with 4 other very experienced cyclists, and we formed up and hammered all the way back to Burger King. We averaged 22-23 MPH, and managed to get a good rolling echelon going. If there is an opposite to what the original group was doing, this was it.
I had posted an inquiry on the Team McAllen forum asking who would be there for the team ride on Sunday. I was encouraged to bypass the team ride, and join a group of Team McAllen folks at the Vuelta al Valle road race. I don't race often, so I liked the challenge and I decided to meet them. I arrived at 7:30a, and registered for the 35 mile road race in the Men's 35+ Category.
This was not a sanctioned event, so there was a little strangeness going on with the groups and riders. In the Open Category, there were some Mexican pro cyclists (so I was told) who would most likely win, barring an accident or a superhuman performance by some of the amateurs. Since there were cash prizes for the winners, this pushed some of our better, older local riders to register in the 35+ age Category instead of the Open Category. After the Open Category riders started and they started the 35+ group, I found myself in a group of about 20 cyclists, and saw that this included 4 really strong Team McAllen riders.
As we started, the Team McAllen riders pushed to the front. The entire group formed up in a paceline instead of a peloton, but with only a few of us rotating and pulling. As we made our first turn, 3 of the strongest Team McAllen riders broke away from the group, leaving me and another Team McAllen rider with the main group. The two of us were strong, but not that strong. Aware of who made the breakaway, I knew I would have a tough time catching them, and a tougher time staying with them if I caught them. Fortunately, Mike, the remaining teammate, told me 'hold back and don't pull hard'. I was happy to comply.
As we drew up side-by-side, he explained that one of the riders in the lead group needed to post a good time in the race so that he could podium for the 2 day event. If we allowed some of the other riders to post good times, it might push him off the podium. So we began to try to control the pace of the group, and make sure they didn't catch the breakaway.
It worked, and it was fun. When Mike or I was in front, we would drop the pace down a few MPH. We would do this until a rider from another team would speed up and execute a pass. If another team started pushing and trying to bridge up to our 3 teammates that were in the breakaway, we stayed on their wheel until they blew up. As they wove and moved to try to yo-yo us off their wheels, we cranked hard and made sure we stayed with them. In the end, the Team McAllen breakaway group of 3 took all of the 35+ Age Category podium positions for the road race. Our trailing group thinned out as we rode, until only 5 of us were left at the finish. I'm not a registered racer, and have no formal categorization. But this was really fun! It makes me want to get registered, and at least compete in a few races.
Oh yeah -- over the 35 mile course, we averaged 22 MPH. The 35+ Category winners averaged 24 MPH. Great race!