I raced the Tour de Gap event this past weekend which was a fun but hard 'T-shirt' ride sponsored by Abilene's Biketown shop . Unsanctioned events such as Tour de Gap are sometimes derisively referred to as T-shirt rides by egotistical USA Cycling racers because the organizers hand out T-shirts to all participants and because this type of race/tour is typically not sanctioned by USA Cycling.
Sanctioned or not, the field that lined up for the 56 mile race distance included quite a bit of cycling talent and saw some hard racing at every age group level. The overall winner was Abilene's Luke Allen, a strong young cyclist who races for the Matrix/RBM team and also for Midwestern University at the collegiate level.
Allen completed the tough hilly 56 mile loop in 2 hrs 20 min (a 24 mph average) narrowly edging out Chaparral Cycling Club's Kelly Brown who finished with the same time and Midwestern's Cameron Lowery who took 3rd place in a time of 2 hrs 23 min.
The race started in finished in the small town of Buffalo Gap, which sits a few miles south of Abilene. Riders followed an undulating course over mainly small farm-to market roads that included almost 1,400 feet of climbing along the way. Riders rolled out of Buffalo gap on a narrow town street, turned onto a small farm road and the race was on with the faster cyclists ramping up the pace from the gun. Shortly after the start I managed to latch onto the 2nd group on the road which consisted of about 15 riders of mixed ages.
This group rolled along averaging 20-22 mph for the first 30-35 miles with most people working well together and taking pulls as each rider rotated to the front. The differences in ability and experience, however, were evident as some ramped up the pace when on the front (almost attacking the group) while others slowed down noticeably as they pulled and slowed the group's pace down.
By the time we reached the day's biggest climb at about the 33 mile mark, I mistakenly thought I had identified the other 60+ riders in the group and decided to mark them rather than race against everyone in the group since the combination of hot weather and being near my threshold heart rate for almost 2 hours was starting to take a toll on my legs.
As we started up the six miles of the day's longest climb, I noticed that who I thought were the other 60+ racers were starting to struggle with the uphill pace just like me, so I decided to back off, let my HR come down a bit and hope that they would blow up. That plan worked as they faded and I reeled them back in further up the climb. I immediately put in a hard effort for several minutes, moved ahead of them by 30-45 sec and then settled into a steady tempo pace planning to conserve energy and maintain the gap to the finish.
The best-laid plans don't always work out, however as I found out when I crossed the finish line and learned that another 60+ rider, Bill Minter of Abilene, had crossed the line a few minutes ahead of me. My hard effort to finish in 2 hrs 54 min placed me 27th overall out of 72 in the 56 mile event, 2nd in the 60+ age group and - most importantly - reminded me that 'it's hard to judge a rider's age while looking at their butt in a pace line'.There was one consolation, however. I raced the event on my Specialized Crux cyclocross bike (with fat 700 x 28 road tires mounted) and since I did not see any other cyclocross bikes in the field, I awarded myself 1st place in the 'CX Bike in a Road Race' category :) Full results are posted at http://www.cadencesports.com/eResults.php?raceid=976&event=56%20Mile%20Results.