I didn’t plan on doing the Devil’s Punchbowl Road Race. I wouldn’t really consider myself a roadie. I’m a mountain biker and just happen to do a lot of training on the road. So, I had planned on doing an endurance MTB event (my kind of thing), until it was cancelled last minute. I hope Saw Sports Productions can get it together and offer another great endurance mountain bike race out in the Santa Ana’s.

So, with no mountain bike race lined up that day, I decided that drive out the Pearblossom was not bad at all and that I’d go try my hand at a hilly road race. So, off I went, up the 15, then onto the 138. We eventually made a left hand turn, through what looked like a deserted town. I made one lap around the course before parking. The course consisted of a big climb, a long descent, the a flat/slightly uphill section to the finish. Not very technical, about 16 miles per lap, and 1600ft of climbing per lap.

The check in process was pretty poor. The volunteers did not seem to know what they were supposed to do. They couldn’t find rider lists. It must have taken an average of 6-7 minutes to check in one person. I felt bad for the people in the registered riders line because it was 20 people long. Once the people in the end of the line got checked-in, the race was starting.

Like I said, I am not a roadie, so I really had no idea what to expect. I’ve done a few group rides before, but I generally ride by myself. Well, I learned a lot at this race. The race itself, went something like this…..

Start, try and stay near the front to catch any breaks that start to form. Almost run into someone’s wheel and turn off the road to avoid crash. Hop back on bike in back of the pack. Ride really strong to try and catch the chase group (Breakaway was too far up the road to catch). Ride with the chase group downhill. Try and bridge the gap to the breakaway. Blow up. Limp around the second lap to the finish.

So what did I learn at my first road race? Lets see….

  • Watch out for other riders who “roll back” on the climbs. I am referring to the people who stand up without changing gears. When they stand up, they stop pedaling for a split second and lose all of their momentum, effectively “rolling back.” If someone is on your wheel, it is very likely that wheels will collide.
  • Always stay with a group, unless they are riding well below your level. If you leave a group of people, make sure you leave them to join another group. The only exception would be if you were breaking away from the group for the win. If you find yourself by yourself, drop back into a group.
  • Put in your time at the front of the group. Even if you are the weakest rider, show some respect and do a few pulls, even if the pace slows down. If you sit in the back, people will think you are just trying to save your energy for the sprint at the end. But face it, your odds of beating everyone in the group are a lot better when the group is 5 people instead of 50 (referring to being in a breakaway).

Those are the 3 main things I feel I learned at the race. There are a few other small things, but they just pertain to how I planned out my efforts/attacks. Well, I basically never had the opportunity to attack. When I went off the road to avoid bumping wheels, I landed myself in the back of the peloton. I then had to put out a huge effort to catch another rider, who worked with me for a tiny bit, to catch the chase group. I was pretty close to being toast after that effort. Then, I had the stupid idea to try to bridge the gap to the lead group. Well, I didn’t want to pull anyone with me, so I managed to break away from the chase group. The only problem was, I didn’t make it to the breakaway, dropped into the chase group, and eventually, was dropped by the chase group.

I finished 9th, but, if I would have raced smarter and had the insight I had after the race, before the race, I’m confident I would have been somewhere around 4th or 5th. I did find one picture from the race. I looks to be the top of the climb on the second lap. It was only about 9am and already getting very, very warm.