Lodi Cyclefest Criterium Cat 4 35+ - 1st - Words by Matt Johnson
Here's the breakdown of how I won my first race. As most of you know, I said that I was "resting/taking a break from racing" to keep from burning out. Yeah, whatever.
I woke up Sunday, around 6, feeling pretty good. I had played with idea Saturday a little bit, but I didn't go out and do openers. So I'm quite unprepared. I looked at the course (a nice hour glass course semi-technical) for a minute and the start time and made the drive to Lodi (1h 35mins). Once I got there I had doubts: I didn't mentally/physically prepare for this race as most folks do.
Skipping to mid-race. I'm staying with the top 10 wheels (21 racers total) and trying to keep away from these hard chargers who want to collect all the primes. Theses same guys kept sprinting for the line for $20 here and $20 there.
Really TL, DR
Wrapping up on the last prime with 3 to go, the pack is completely strung out, there are 6 guys just off the front trying to recover. I told them, "let's go" to which they gave no response. So I responded by slowly pulling away. As I went around the corner, I looked back and the the field was sitting there 100m behind. So I went for it! Putting in some effort to create a gap (I don't have power) but my HR was in the red 185-190. I hit every turn as hard as I could (bombing corners). As I came around the straightaway finish I looked back and I didn't see anyone (2 to go). I'm really reading lap cards this time (ie. Cat's Hill)
As I come to the line with 1 to go, someone yells "21 seconds!" As I go around the corner, I can see them and they're single file and charging. The announcer is acting like this the most amazing thing he has ever seen in his life saying "here comes the pack!" and "can Matt Johnson hold them off?!"
On the final lap I recall wanting to throw up, being so exhausted I was only holding my head up through the turns. As this faded feeling continued and sucked it up dug even deeper. In the final stretch, I could see them coming. I was getting nervous, but then I heard the announcer say "they are not going to catch him..." Second place and co. ended up finishing 5 seconds behind me.
Takeaways: always plan for your race and once make that move you have to commit.