It was a scorcher out there today. Not so much extremely hot, but super humid. I spent the entire day soaking wet from head to toe in a combination of water, sweat, drank mix, and, uhhh, other bodily fluids. I think I went through around 25 bottles for the four hour race, half of them poured over me and half consumed. My stomach was full and sloshing with liquid for the first six of seven laps, never requesting any of the water I kept force-feeding it. But the super hydration paid off and I had terrific legs the entire day. Unfortunately, the result was not there. Typical. At least I got to ride hard.
With just under 180 starters, our team of six had a 3% chance of winning–strictly by the numbers. But judging by the way we started out riding, it seemed like a first place or at least a podium was guaranteed. I followed some wheels into the early breakaway, which went about 500 meters into the race. I helped drill it and get the thing established, which it eventually did despite a pretty large lack of cooperation amongst us all. After about a half lap the break was set at seven or eight of us, with most of the strong teams represented with at least one rider. One guy wasn’t pulling through, but with some mean verbal abuse from the rest of us, we eventually got him to start working.
Lap two (there were seven laps total, 104 miles, 7,ooo ft of climbing.): This is where my memory is already getting fuzzy. Early on the second lap, Gabe and three other guys bridged up to us. Gabe said he wasn’t feeling great (not quite true as it turned out) and that I should take it a bit easier than him and to “be smart.” A few miles later I followed a Juwi Solar guy (Julian Keyer–the guy who ended up winning) off the front and the two of us worked pretty easily to stay 10-15 seconds away from the disorganized group behind us. I was pretty hesitant to go hard, since Gabe had just told me to be smart and there was a lot of racing left to do, so I just rode a medium pace until we both decided to sit up since our gap wasn’t growing and no one had bridged to us.
Before the second lap ended and the the other guys caught us, I saw that the group had grown by another six guys or so, including another teammate of mine: Ian. Now with 16 off the front and every team represented, some with two and some (like us) with three, I was certain we’d stay away. The gap to the field was around two-three minutes by this point.
Lap three and four was basically Gabe sitting on the front keeping the pace going and chasing down attackers while small groups of 3-5 continued catching us, with almost equal amounts of guys falling back into the field, suffering from the heaat. Our lead group turned into a strong group of 22 riders. Ian and I sat on for the most part, under Gabe’s order, following a couple attacks now and again but not trying to get away. With Gabe crushing it we didn’t need to waste energy trying to get away. Just let him whittle the others’ legs while we sat on for a free ride, saving energy for the final laps.
Lap five and I was still feeling amazing. It felt as though I’d just hopped on my bike after a week of rest, with the previous two and a half hours of hot riding never even existing. It seemed too good to be true, and I feared the inevitable downfall to come.
A series of hard attacks went a few miles into lap six, eventually shelling Gabe after he’d done a TREMENDOUS amount of work for Ian and I. Now was the time to step it up and go with moves. I covered a number of attacks over the rolling hills and slight cross wind sections at the tops. Our group slimmed down significantly, as well as our gap to the charging field behind us. Finally, Ian got up the road with three other guys. I covered moves and sat on, and eventually Ian’s and the others’ gap grew to over a minute. The cooperation in my, now large again, chase group decreased steadily until we got caught by a small group just off the front of the peloton as we entered the feed hill of the seventh lap. As we crested the top, a few moves went off, which I decided not to follow since the pack was now eating us up. Ian hadn’t made it with the other three leaders over the final hill of the sixth lap, so we were now pretty much relying on the power of the peloton to bring back the three remaining guys up the road. With one lap to go it seemed like the gap would come down and we’d catch them, especially since there were still over 100 guys left in the peloton, but there wasn’t a concerted enough effort made by any of the teams with the numbers left. We were down to just me, Danny, Jon, and Steve. Steve and Danny had raced the U23 race the day before, so them just being there was a feat in itself. No one expected anything more out of them, but Steve went to the front in the final kilometers to help reel in the break, and Danny offered to help lead me out and position me for the finish, which was a 1 kilometer gradual climb that flattened out at the top for 200 meters around a 90 degree bend. It was a great finish for me and I was still feeling remarkably good. But I screwed it all up big time, entering the hill about fifty guys back. I closed a lot of gaps and came around a huge amount of people as the field shattered. (Okay, side note: if you know you’re going to blow up a half K before the finish, why do you have to get in my way and ruin my chances? Seriously, just stay at the back. Have some consideration please.) Anyways…500 meters, 400 meters, 300 meters, I was still gaining on the front little group that had gapped the weaklings. I smashed it all out with 200 meters to go and finally came to terms with the fact that I was doomed for only a top 20 and had entered the base of the hill way, way, way too late. I finished 18th, with the three guys off the front sticking it to the end. I shook my head in disgust at my ill planning at the base of the hill, let out a silent curse to myself for being in the break that long and not following the right wheels, then rode around the finish area for 10 minutes searching for our van. Recovery: pedialyte, water, recoverite, snickers, twix. I didn’t even feel that tired. So much legs today and such a shitty result. That’s bike racing.
Danny was 10th today, 10th in the U23 crit two days ago, Steve was 5th in yesterday’s U23 road race, and Logan missed out on first place in the 17/18 yr old road race by less than a tire’s width, so 2nd place. All in all, it was a great trip with a few good results for the team and a lot of aggressive riding. It was my first time in the true dirty south and I liked it, even though I never got to see an Alligator.
Thank you to Alan for making this trip extremely easy on us, for doing a great job in the caravan, and thanks to Marcel for feeding countless bottles to us today in the hot sun. I leave you with this: