The Kent Park Classic is the traditional “first race” in Eastern Iowa. It’s a lot of fun and extremely difficult. This is one of those races that rewards people who peaked a little too early, and penalizes those that have focused on base. This year it will run on March 15th, and it will be my first race of the season.

Even if I were still a 5 I would be intimidated to race this, so as a brand new 4 I’m not setting my expectations too high. As can be seen from the profile, there are three pretty serious hills, which tend to split the field fairly easily. There are two long-ish (for Iowa) hills at around the half-way point of the lap, and it’s extremely easy to get dropped on these, and then your race is done. Finally, there’s one very steep (but short) hill at the start/finish. The course is mostly rolling, with not much time to relax and sit in.

Last year I was a 5, and I raced this with not much training in my legs. I was dropped on the first lap (on the hills at the half-way point). I ended up doing three laps (out of six) and then dropping out. That was a huge wake-up call for me, and helped push me to train harder. This year I certainly have been training harder, but I don’t expect to hang on for the full six laps. I haven’t done any short power intervals, so I don’t expect to be able to keep up on the climbs. I have decent burst power, so if I can stay with the group until the start/finish hill then I think I can stick on, but it’s those two bigger ones I’m worried about.

Since I don’t expect to be able to hang on the whole time, I’m not going to write up “strategy.” Instead, I’ll talk a little about what I hope to get out of this race, and what my goals are.

Goal 1: Hang with the lead group for the first lap.

Goal 2: Assess my “explosive climbing” skills compared to the other racers

Goal 3: Finish the race (even if I’m dropped)

Now, goal 1 may seem a little wimpy. However, based on previous years Strava data, it looks like the pace slows until the final lap. Thus if I can stay with the group through the first lap, then I think I have a chance of hanging on until the final lap. Thus Goal 1b could read: Hang on until the final lap.

One of the races I’d like to do well in this year is the Old Cap Crit, which is a downtown criterium with one steep, short hill. I would like to get an idea where I stand right now in this department, so that I can better prepare for that crit.

I’ll be back with an update after the race happens! Cheers!