This is going to be a long one.
I prepared for bad weather as I packed my cycling gear on Friday morning. After a quick ride and last minute bike tune ups at Life Cycle, Tony and I drove up to Sherwood to stay with my family the night before the race, which allowed us to sleep in an extra two hours the next morning. And more importantly: free food.
We got up to Sherwood at around 7pm, right when dinner was ready. But we had to take a quick tour of my dad’s vegetable garden first. He was weeding the rows of produce in flip flops. I probably shouldn’t call it a vegetable garden because the term “vegetable garden” leaves most people to believe that there are multiple things being grown. What my dad was actually weeding was one of the many garlic gardens dispersed around the one-acre lot. For some reason, instead of growing the normal crop of corn, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, and such, he decided to just grow garlic this year. He planted 2,000 garlic plants, each yielding 5 to 10 cloves of garlic. No, my dad did not just escape an insane asylum.
My mom made us steak and potatoes; the break from my pasta diet was great. I can barely stomach the sight of tomato sauce or penne pasta these days.
The next morning turned out to be a nice, sunny day. It eventually got fairly hot, and my two water bottles weren’t quite enough. It was stupid of me to not have one of my cat 4 teammates feed me water during the race.
THE REHEARSAL RACE
I can’t remember the exact details, teams, or order of events in this race. But this is what I think happened.
We started at 10AM and I was planning on attacking hard, right from the beginning. A lot of other people had that plan too. I was up near the front during the start, but still 20 people back in the 60-man field. A Rubicon guy and some other dude or two, got away fairly easily in the first couple miles of the race. Rubicon sat at the front, blocking, and it was impossible to move up to the front on that narrow road. I sat there, trapped in the pack, anxious and mad, as I strained my neck up high to see if I could get a glimpse of the guys off the front.
The slow pace didn’t last long, and the attacks began. I found myself in a break with Quinn Keogh and Chris Swan (the three amigos). It didn’t last long, but it wasn’t the last time the three of us were in a break together on Saturday. We were caught, I broke again a little later, and I was caught again. This continued happening until the end of the first lap. And then all hell broke loose.
I was up near the front of the bunch at the .8K finish climb, when Doug Ollerenshaw (I think) made a furious attack with a couple other guys. I started to fall back as fresher people passed me. This was a time of serious pain, and it lasted the whole way up the finish climb, the short downhill, and up another short riser. I wasn’t in danger of being dropped, but it was the first true test of metal during the race. We dropped half the field on that move.
After that hard bit, I told myself I was going to go a bit easier and save myself in case something like that happened again. But of course I forgot about it a few minutes later, and began chasing down breaks, trying to break away, and pulling on the front to bring back the guys that were still off the front.
The main hill on the back side of the course (which isn’t very long) was coming up pretty soon. A CMG guy (Seth I think) had been on the front for a while and looked like he needed a break. So I took my turn at the front and set a hard tempo. I continued the pace up the hill. Half way up, I turned around to see why I couldn’t hear anyone anymore, and found that I was off the front by 50 meters. I swung my head back forward and increased my speed a little. Still feeling good, I cranked it hard as I crested the top of the hill and began the descent.
On the flats after I made a sharp right hand turn at the base of the hill, I made sure I stayed below 400 watts. And there I sat. I was off the front in no man’s land with 20 seconds on the group, and minutes on the break, waiting for someone to bridge up to me. My break didn’t last long–no more than 10 minutes–before I was caught.
I helped pull for the next 4 or 5 miles of downhill of the lap, giving a hand to CMG while they attempted to bring the break back. They did a good job, and before long we were sitting behind the lead car once again. But I was unaware that the guy we had just gobbled up was the last of the break away. I thought there was another guy out there, and I continued to take pulls until I found out from Quinn that we had indeed caught the last guy. “Oh,” I said. “I guess I’ll get off the front then.”
We went up the finish climb fairly hard, but not too bad, and I rode side by side with Chris as we motored up the hill. I turned to him and said what was on everyone’s mind, “I won’t go if you don’t go.” He chuckled, and we continued on for a moment. And then for no planned reason, I said “fuck it” and attacked. I got away, but didn’t get too far. I was at the top of the hill when Jelly Belly blew by me at 89 miles an hour. There was no way I could hold his wheel. I looked back at the pack and saw them coming to get me, only a 10 second behind. My attack was doomed. They caught me a short while later, and the Jelly Belly guy too.
The third lap was the same as the second. I attacked a lot, and was caught every time. At one point, I was in a break with Chris, Quinn, and a Rubicon guy. It should have been golden, since both the major teams were represented (CMG and Rubicon). But it failed–probably because Rubicon chased it down. They tend to do stuff like that (chasing teammates down). Once we were caught, another couple guys sprinted off in a counter attack. Chris and I bolted forward and latched on. This time we had Paul from Hutches, Omer from Bissell, Chris, myself, and different Rubicon guy. We began rotating and quickly had a good-sized gap. But I felt like it was a bit too slow to stay away, and I took a couple hard pulls that probably felt a bit too jolty, because Omer yelled at me to slow down and keep it constant. We were caught by the pack right before the main climb on the backside. Someone strong attacked at the base of the climb, and it was an all-out suffer fest up the damn thing. I continued trying to get away for the rest of lap three.
Lap four came around and a break had gone away some time during lap three I think. I spent more time pulling at the front than trying to break away. For a while, it seemed like Doug Ollernshaw and I were the only two willing to do any work. Jacob Rathe (CMG) was up the road a couple others, so CMG was no longer pulling.
By now, I was starting to get tired and thirsty. I only had half a bottle left, and I thought we still had another two laps to go after this one (which would have been six laps total, not 5–which is what we did). After being off and on the front for about 5 miles, I went back into the depths of the pack, which by now meant I was sitting 10th wheel. And then I saw Doug attack. I had been keeping an eye on him, knowing that if I could get in a break with him at this point in the race when everyone was tired, we had a good chance of staying away or catching up to the other break, which by now wasn’t far away. When Doug attacked, I jumped on his wheel and hung on for dear life. We had a gap. He looked back at me and attacked again, I stayed on his wheel. He attacked again and again and again. I had reached the point where I was no longer conscious of anything but his back wheel. He elbowed for me to come around and take a pull. I just sat there, panting like a panda (I imagine pandas pant fairly heavily). The strung-out group was on us by this point. Doug furiously elbowed for me to take a pull. I did not pull. He attacked again. Why had I originally gone with him??? Every surge was surely taking years off my life. He elbowed again. I shook my head as he looked back, he attacked one last time and then slowed down. No one came around to take a pull or counter attack. I recovered for 20 seconds, and then slowly came around him and apologized for my lack of pulling in a heavily labored, “I’m…just..trying to …hold on.”
Three minutes later, the main hill came into sight. A couple guys attacked hard and I was not up there with them. I was by myself, trapped in a pain cave with no light to find my way out.
The break included Evan from Jittery Joes Doug, and maybe someone else. They eventually caught up with the other guys who had been off the front, and that was the last that we saw of them until 5 miles later when the race was stopped due to a major crash up the road. We took a 15 minute break as the ambulances cleared out. I begged some water off of a nice woman in one of the support cars. I also found out that there was only one lap to go, not two. This made Kennett very happy.
We started up again and my plan was to help bring the now six-man break back to the field. It did not work, although we did catch the three of them who got dropped by Doug, Evan, and Jacob on the last lap.
With four miles to go, I began sitting in hardcore. If fourth place was the best I could get at this point, then I was going to get fourth god damn it! One K to go and I was sitting mid pack. The hill began and I moved up alongside Chris. The pace wasn’t too bad, but was getting faster. I couldn’t wait any longer, and with 300 meters to go, I went. I passed everyone in front of me and hammered as hard as I could to the finish line. I looked back and saw a big gap on the field, but a lone Rubicon rider was right behind me (Roman Van Uden). I was going all out, mouth gaping open, tong hanging out, eyes wide and crazy like. But Roman passed me with about 20 feet to go and I took 2nd in the sprint, 5th overall.
I am happy with the race even though I didn’t win–which was my plan of course! I was in a ton of breaks and was the most aggressive that I have been in a cat 1/2 race. I am feeling stronger with each race I do, and it’s a great feeling to be constantly improving, unlike last year. I’ll write about the Albany crit later.