I've always felt a little out of place with road guys – first of all because they're usually all guys (and I noticed they don't take kindly to being outpaced by a girl…) and secondly because I know how roadies feel about triathletes. In the cycling world, triathletes have a reputation for being messy, unpredictable riders, lacking the etiquette of the guys who actually know what they're doing out there. It's like bringing a hillbilly to High Tea. The triathlete's cycling pedigree is unforgivably tainted by those lowly pursuits of running and swimming.
So perhaps I am too meek and apologetic in this crowd. At any rate, I underestimated my cycling ability, and spent most of the 22.3 mile race sitting in one pace line or another, wondering, "When are these guys gonna start riding hard?"
Legal drafting is a new concept for me. Everytime a motorcycle course marshal appeared, I had the sudden panic that I was about to get caught breaking the rules, and then I would remember that in this race, drafting isn't cheating. It's strategy.
I also learned firsthand exactly what those roadies dislike about riding near unskilled cyclists...
About 7 miles in, as I was beginning to realize I should start making an effort to pass people, I came up behind a guy I should've known was trouble. I had seen him riding in the middle of a pace line down in his aerobars, which is dangerous. That should have been my cue to keep my distance.
We approached a turn, one that didn't allow room for error since there was oncoming traffic.
I know how fast I can take a corner, but apparently, Mr. Aerobars did not. He suddenly slammed on his brakes and then lost control of his bike. I was far enough behind him that I had some time to react, but it was hard to tell which direction he was going to end up going, the way he was fishtailing through the turn. I tried to stop quickly, but then MY bike fishtailed, and I was immediately alerted to the fact that I had a pace line right behind me – by the shrieks that were so close it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
I did the only thing I could do to avoid front and/or back collision – I swerved left, slicing in front of oncoming traffic (a gigantic pick-up truck, no less) and ended up in a ditch on the opposite side of the road.
Needless to say, once I caught back up to the group (and there he was again, back down in his aerobars, right behind someone else's wheel), I had new incentive to pass and then speed away from them as fast as my legs could carry me.
I ended up taking home another 1st Place beer glass for my collection, but I have to say, today's bigger victory was returning home with my bike and my bones still intact!