This was my first time doing the Valley Fondo and I opted for the 85km route. It’s early in the season, and my coach didn’t think the 120k would be a good idea yet. Of course, left to my own devices, I would have done the 120k anyway, but since I promised myself that I would listen to her advice, I did what she said. I now believe she made the right call, as she invariably does. I was trained for 85k. Anything more and I would have risked injury—something I’m trying my hardest not to do. As she likes to remind me, I need to keep my eye on what’s important.
I was a little nervous when I found out the event was sold out. It’s the start line that freaks me out: all those bikes so close together, and not everyone there is a strong rider. In the Victoria Fondo, the only one I’d done before, the start for the longer distances was earlier and there weren’t many people. That would not be the case with this race.
The morning began with more stress than it should have. Parking was madness, which we’d been warned about but had chosen to ignore. That was dumb. We were stuck in a long lineup of cars, which meant by the time we finally got our bikes ready and made it to the corrals, it was getting close to start time. We’d hoped to use the bathroom before our ride, but the lineup was about forty people deep and there wouldn’t be enough time to wait it out.
I was riding with a group from my cycling club, and we decided we’d stop at the first aid station and use the bathroom there instead.
All my fears about the start line were unfounded. It was fine. Everyone rolled out slowly and in control. The route is fast at the start, and I was riding with strong riders and felt good, so I worked at keeping up to them. In retrospect, this might have been a mistake. I usually pace myself better in a race, but I was also a little cocky about the shorter distance and felt like pacing wouldn’t be an issue. Hmm.
When we arrived at the first aid station, we discovered that A LOT of people had the same idea we did about bathroom breaks. There was a grand total of three porta-potties and a lineup of at least twenty people. That was disappointing. It added an unnecessary fourteen minutes to my final race time. Live and learn. If I’d arrived earlier in the morning, I would have had time to use the bathroom before the race started and wouldn’t have stopped at any of the aid stations.
Another lesson: 85k is indeed a distance that requires pacing—at least for me. By the time I hit the last 20k or so, I started to run out of gas. By then I was riding alone, which probably didn’t help. With a group I would have gotten a nice pull through that headwind. Alone, I had to battle it by myself. But aside from those unnecessary fourteen minutes, I was pleased with my time. Average speed overall of 26.2km/h which is fast for me.
It was a beautiful route. I’m glad I did it and would do it again next year. But it also showed me I’ll need to get in some serious climbing before the Victoria Fondo in August.
There is work to be done. What else is new?