I found out what it’s like to be the weaker person in a breakaway today. I sucked Zach Winter’s Wheel (Guinness) up both the 2 mile climb and the 1K climb, each lap. I was hurting like…something that really hurts a lot. Apparently I lost some brain cells due to the extreme hurting, because I can’t think of a simile that works.
It all began at 11AM east of Medford. After driving down from Eugene with Karey and Mike, I got in a solid 40 minute warm up under the increasing heat of the sun. I rolled up to the start just in time to take a pee next to a car in the parking lot (on the bark-dust, don’t worry). I saw Chris Swan at the front and cut in line to the front of the pack to stand next to him. And we were off.
As the 30-40 riders rolled out of the school parking lot, I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me. He was from Redding, and was talking about the crappy weather we had during the Willamette stage race. I couldn’t pay attention because I was anxiously waiting for the neutral zone to end. In mid sentence, I rudely interrupted him to find out if he knew how long this damn neutral zone was. He was unsure, and continued talking about the weather.
I was anxious about the neutral zone, which seemed to go on forever, because my race plan was to attack immediately and solo the 73 miles to victory. Or blow up and get dead last, which I secretly thought was more likely (but didn’t tell myself). I know Gilad, my coach, thinks that it was an easy week, but I have been pretty tired the past few days. Last night I practically went into a comma after I ate dinner at 7:30. I would have fallen asleep right there on the food stained couch of my disgustingly dirty apartment, but I still had to get all my stuff ready for the race.
Back to the heat and wind of Table Rock:
Finally, our lead motorcycle took off, signifying the end of the neutral zone. I clicked up a few gears and was about to sprint, when Hutches (I forget exactly who) took off. I grabbed the second wheel–the guy who I had been talking to–and sat in for a bit as Hutches pulled, thinking the rest of the pack was right behind. Nick, also from Hutches, bridged up and we had a 4 man break. I was still unaware for a good minute or so. When I finally looked back after someone said, “come on guys let’s work together,” I realized that I was in a break away and I went up to take a pull.
I went hard for a minute, then took a short rest before taking another pull. By now, we were at the base of the long climb and 3 or 4 other guys had bridged up, with the pack partially broken up behind us. I hit the hill moderately hard and myself and another guy traded off pulls. We dropped a couple people, then more bridged up.
About half way up the hill, which isn’t very steep, Quinn (CMG) and two guys on his wheel flew past our break. I jumped on the train and looked back to see that I was the only one who had the legs to follow. Quinn slowed down a bit and when neither of the other 2 guys came around to take their pull, I attacked and got away by myself. I was feeling pretty good, and held a good pace to the top of the hill for about a mile.
I looked over my shoulder as I started to descend and saw the pack looming in on me, but a lone rider (Zach) was bridging up to me. I slowed down to let him catch me. From there to the end of the race, Zach and I nailed it and got around 4 minutes on the pack.
We took even pulls for the first lap, although I had to tell Zach to slow down on the hills. By the second lap, I was getting pretty tired and he was taking more than his fair share of pulls. I was worried that he’d try to drop me on the next long climb, so I told him I wouldn’t contest him at the end if he was willing to work together until the end. He agreed with that, saying, “Don’t worry, I need you too!” By the last lap, I could tell he was getting very tired because I no longer had to tell him to slow down on the long climb. I began to take more pulls, in fear of the pack magically appearing behind us on one of the course’s many corners. It did not appear, and we congratulated each other at the 1K mark. With 200M to go, Zach took off and I, for the first time of the day, switched into my small ring as my filthy tired legs staggered up the final 8% grade, which felt more like 20%.
It was one of the hardest races I have done. Going up that long hill took a lot of concentration for me. I kept telling myself “God damn it, just climb at least one more mile before you quit!” My head hung low, mouth gaping open, entire body encrusted in sticky maltodextrin, spit and sweat. I fixated on Zach’s bottom bracket, going into somewhat of a trance. By the end of the race, I was VERY happy with 2nd place.
Congratulations to my teammates David Heritage, who took 5th in the cat 4s and Chris Swan, who took 4th in the 1/2s. Chris and I may not technically be on the same team, but whatever. See Karey’s race report here once she gets around to it.
PS Karey, I farted the entire way home in your car and now the driver’s seat smells like ass. hahahaha