(I don't have a better photo for this race)
Well, this was just a terrible day for me.
So a handicap race is one where everyone starts at different times, and all race against each other. With the less fit people starting first, in the "limit" group, and the A graders starting last, in the "scratch" group. If done well, everyone should get to the finish at around the same time. It's a race where you really have to work with the people in your group to get any sort of advantage. To stay away from those chasing you and to catch those in front.
As always, I got to the registration nice and early. Time to register, pin on the number and warm up. And that's precisely what I did. When warming up, I followed a group of people out—their numbers were much lower than mine signifying that they would be starting later—but they were going a bit too far it seemed, so I decided to head back to the registration for the start. Big mistake.
I got back and there was nobody there, and the panic set in. There was a couple of Pat's Veg guys (A graders) getting ready so I asked them where the start was. Bear in mind that my group was meant to be starting in a couple of minutes. I was told the start was about 15 mins away, and he gave me directions. My face must have developed into that emoji with the squiggly mouth, this was not good. Handicaps are hard enough to win when you're in the correct group.
I basically went at full effort for 15 minutes to try and get to the start, not even knowing if I was heading in the right direction. I finally got there and thought maybe they'd set me off in the next group. Nope, that one had already set off. So had the group after that. The next group to go was, as I found out later, B graders. But they didn't send me off with those, they let me loose on my own. Excellent. Just going for a casual bike ride then.
At first I went really hard, thinking I'd try to catch those in front, then I realised that was a stupid idea. As if I would catch a group that was technically stronger than me, who would all be working together, on my own. I then did just casually ride, waiting for the group behind to catch me.
Surprisingly I managed to cover 20km on my own before being caught. Once caught I pulled a few turns with the group, but after the road pitched up a few times, I was left to hang onto the coat tails.
I was almost dropped at the end of the first lap, on a long but not very steep hill. My sustained power just couldn't match this group. I managed to get back on and hold on for another full lap, making it about 46km of riding in this particular bunch, before giving up. I wasn't particularly unable to continue, but we'd just been caught by the scratch group. I knew holding on to those riders would be neigh on impossible. I was near the start line, so I gracefully pulled out.
Any lessons learnt? You'd have hoped so, but I continue not to read all the information, because I'm an idiot.