Heather’s High Desert Omnium Race Experience
My first omnium race provided lots of learning experiences. First event was the time trial. My cleat broke right before the race, so I had to make do. I did the best I could and thought I placed pretty high because of how many people I passed and the number of people who passed me. It turns out I didn’t do as well as I thought. Lesson one: trying to make performance comparisons in a time trial is futile. Only the clock knows. So, always go as hard as you are capable of no matter what.
Second event was the criterium. Criteriums are my biggest “area for growth.” I have trouble generating the constant speed and power required to perform well in this event. It was a combined field of categories 1-4 and the pace started at close to 30 mph. I held on for a bit before getting dropped. I was lapped twice by the cat 1-3s and once by cat 4s. I witnessed a couple of racers quit and I thought about quitting several times. Here was my thinking: “why put yourself through this? Save your energy for tomorrow’s road race.” I hung in and finished. Turns out two women in my category did not finish and I placed 3rd. Lesson 2: Don’t quit!
The third event was the road race. The field was combined which meant cat 4s were racing 60 miles instead of 37. A very hot, mid-90s day on the Cascade Lakes course. Race started out great. We were all working together and taking it easy the first 10 miles. At the first climb, the race was on. I settled into my group and we ended up pulling back a couple of women who had tried to break away early. We kept a consistent 18- to 20-mph pace and I felt relaxed and strong until about 50 miles in. After the second feed zone I grabbed a can of coke and shared it in our group. It took collaboration to get the can opened and then pass it around, which was fun. Right after that my body just started slowing down. I and another racer fell off the back and I never caught up. She did however. I’ll get to that in a minute. I pulled this rider for eight miles until I made a wrong turn and she used that opportunity to gain some ground. About 3k from the end, my legs cramped and I overheated. I crawled my way to the finish. At one point a support person stopped and gave me water and poured water on my head and back. It was a miracle I made it to the end. As it turns out, the other riders (in my cohort) also slowed way down at the end. The woman I pulled after we were dropped ended up passing most of the other racers! Again, the lesson is don’t quit. You never know what’s going to happen with other racers who pass you.
Lesson three: Pay close attention to nutrition on the bike. I contribute most of the end-of-race death spiral to not eating enough. I was drinking calories but not eating enough solid food. After so many years of riding, I thought I know how to fuel properly. However, when you are in a race there’s a lot to pay attention to and your fuel needs are higher. Not eating enough resulted in a last place finish for me.
After it was all said and done, I placed third overall in the omnium. Why? Because not that many riders race in all of the events. Even though I didn’t do well in any one event, I finished all of them and accumulated the points. I like that omniums racers can be acknowledged in a couple of ways, by race performance and by point accumulation. Give it a try and consider my lessons when you do.