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Le Tour de Mont Pleasant is a 53 mile road race held in Mount Pleasant. This year it was the state road race. The weather was cooler than expected, but after the race started it didn’t seem too bad, even with a little rain mixed in.
Overall, I felt very good about my race. I was able to stay in the lead group the whole race and my cornering has improved since my last race. It makes the race a lot easier when you can keep your speed up through the corners. I ended up finishing 10th, my highest finish to date. With a little more work, I think I’ll be able to race with these guys.
The Tour de Mt. Pleasant has been a main race in the Michigan road cycling calendar for the last 7 years. It began as a two-day event with a criterium on Saturday and a road race on Sunday, all starting and finishing on Broadway in downtown. The third year, a time trial was added, and this year, there was a time trial Friday and road race Saturday. The Tour de Mt. Pleasant is the only road race where the pros actually race a pro distance: 109 miles. The remaining senior categories race 53 miles, and the juniors 29.
The start and finish this year had been moved out of downtown, and for the first time I’ve raced it, the finish was a long straightaway with the entire road open for the last half mile. That the road was wide open would factor into my finish; more on that later.
Weather always plays a role in any race, and rain was threatening all morning. It was a cool 56 degrees race day morning, and about an hour before my race, I met my teammates Kevin and Scott Bridges. Kevin would race cat 5, and Scott juniors. We warmed up by riding downtown and following the old criterium course and then returning to the new start/finish area 10 minutes before my race began. Scott has been having a great year, winning most, if not all, of his races. He’s a strong rider who is learning to be a very smart and skilled rider, thanks in large part to his great attitude and being there for the group rides and accepting the coaching he gets from our more experienced racers, like Danny Wolin.
At 9:45, I lined up with a total of 55 cat 4 racers, more than 80% of them young enough to be my kids, since my racing age this year is 50. After the usual pre-race announcements (center liner rule, wheel car follow, etc.), we were off. Like a shot. Speeds reached over 30 miles per hour and heart rates spiked at over 180 the first mile of the race. When the young guys realized they couldn’t maintain that pace for the remaining 52 miles, they backed off and settled into a more comfortable, yet still fast, race pace of around 25 mph. Of course, speed would vary throughout the race, based on wind and elevation, but for the entire race, we averaged just under 24 mph at 23.76 mph.
Back to racing. Over the course of the next 40 miles or so, there were multiple attempts to form breakaways. Several held off for anywhere from 2-5 miles each before finally being caught by the peloton. Going into the strong east wind, in particular, made it difficult to stay away.
Throughout the race, I had positioned myself near front but never on the front, so as to conserve energy. With the wind out of the east, that meant when we were riding south, I was on the right side of the peloton; when headed north, on the left side. East or west, we either had the wind at our back or were riding into the teeth of the wind, as it was fairly strong and cutting. Our speeds dropped to as low as 18 mph into the wind, as fast as 32 with the wind.
With six miles to go, we made the final turn north. The pace picked up, and I was able to maintain speed and position. Once the road opened up, I accelerated even more and came across the line in what I thought was at least within the top 15 places. While out of the money (paid out to 8 places), I was still very happy with the result, since the official USA Cycling web site’s “race predictor” had me coming in at second to last. Maybe that was the extra motivation I needed? Maybe it was riding in the mountains of San Diego county last weekend? Whatever the case, my official placing was 10th out of a field of 55 in the Michigan road race championships. I’ll take it!
For a full race report from Scott on Le Tour de Mont Pleasant, check out his latest race updates here.