The Lookout Mt. climb not only was long, at about 15 minutes when we just rode up it, it was also steep. A 28 tooth cassette was the way to go without a doubt and my legs were thanking me during the race.
Rolled out in the morning early to the course and were the first team there. Watched the women's finish then kitted up and signed in. Most of the racing on the domestic scene is the type of stuff the same sort of thing I did as a Cat 1 so there's not much difference being a Pro. But rolling around before the start of the race it really felt like a whole other level of racing, it was a true big event. There were tons of spectators all around the awesome downtown area of Chattanooga where the circuits were held. It may seem cheesy but was a pretty big deal for me.
The race had two circuts, small 5 mile laps around town then big ones that went out the climb. There were going to be 4 small laps, 4 big laps, then 4 small laps again.
There was no waiting around whatsoever when we rolled off. As soon as the neutral start ended attacks started going left and right. No one was waiting for the climb (which wasn't till mile 25) to get a breakaway off. It full gas until the last of the small circuits before a large group finally got up the road, everyone stopped riding and the break instantly got over 2 minutes up the road. Curtis made a monster move and tried to bridge up solo, and got some serious TV time in the process (yes now there's actually TV's involved here). The Hincapie Devo kids also did a 3 man team time trial attack, but neither made it up.
It was tough first time up the climb right from the bottom. There were splits all over the place. The last kilometer of the climb really ramped up and I got a little gaped off, but made it back on the descent. Once we got back onto the main road back into town the chase was on. Bissell was setting tempo on the front to bring the move back. The riding through town was the hardest part of the race. It was a windy day and the buildings really funneled the wind, making the cross winds unpredictable. The circuit also crossed the river twice, which not only meant a sizable climb to get over the river, but serious winds as well.
The second time up the climb was a lot steadier than the first, but with the Bissell team fresh off the Tour of California I got gaped off at the top again, and made it back to the field, again.
The speed did not let up and at this point I was really dogging it. The field was single file nearly the entire time we were off the climb. I was done fairly quickly the third time up the climb and rode by myself in a world of cracked, cramping, hurt.
Turns out getting pulled in a pro race does not equal a finishing position as USACycling shows me as a DNF. It's not a big deal, DNF or 45th or whatever I would've been. But I would've like to be listed as a finisher (yes I know it's not a fondo). Although as soon as I finished the end of the caravan: Ambulance and last few cars blew past me (oops).
So I learned a lot. Mainly that if I want to do well at big events...which is kinda the whole goal here. I need to do a lot more racing (in a constructive training way) or motorpacing. While the climbs were, well just OK for me, the real tough part of the race was the sheer speed that we were going on the flats. There was no rest, and that lack of recovery really hurt me once we'd get back onto the climbs.
So lesson learned. It was a great experience and hope its the first of many.