Champions drink from goblets. I drank my coffee from a goblet the morning of the race. I didn’t win though, obviously because this goblet lacks any sort of diamond encrusting or gold lacing. How could I have been so stuipd!!!??
The Awbrey Butte circuit race is always the hottest and hardest day of the Cascade Classic. True story. Although this year’s race didn’t end up being super hot like I wanted, it did approach 90, according to the thermometer of my skin. My mom, dad, and brother had come to watch the last three stages, and were put to good use in the feed zone handing out bottles all day today. I realize it isn’t actually today any more, but I feel like writing in the present, sometimes. (On a side note to anyone of any importance: the feed zone should be moved to that other hill that’s steeper and less tactically important–the one right before the main downhill portion of the course that comes a few kilometers after the roundabout. The feed zone would be perfect there if there’s sufficient room on the side of the road. Thank you for taking this into serious consideration).
After the overwhelmingly successful youtube video (181 views) that Ian made of our B-ball trick shots, one might think I’d already be content with the week’s success and not give my all in the circuit race. But just like Lance, who wasn’t content with his seven tour victories, I wanted more. I was prepared to suffer once again, just like Batman was by training for a top-roped dyno by doing a few pushups and pull-ups in that prison pit that he had to “climb” out of (more like scramble). This stage is all about suffering. And positioning. But mainly suffering.
Having done extensive research on this stage over the past three years when it was held on this course, I KNEW that the winning breakaway would go on lap three. Not lap two. Not lap four. Not lap five. Not lap one. But lap two. I mean THREE. For sure lap three. This was how it had always been won, and would remain the only way this race would ever be won.
The breakaway went on lap one. It was caught on lap five and the field sprinted for the win.
Tiz no matter, since I was not in said breakaway. I’d been sitting in the pack, resting at an easy pace, or more accurately: surviving the carnage. The first time up the feed zone climb and the tail wind section over the top, the peloton blew to bits. 145 started 20 minutes earlier, and now there were only 90 left in the race. A large break of 12 had gotten away fairly early and Mancebo’s team had to chase hard right from the beginning to keep them in check. Actually, I’ve pretty much forgoten what happened so I’m having to read Cyclingnews’ report. Gabe got some separation on the KOM climb with some other guys, forcing Mancebo himself to jump and pull it back. I was right behind latching onto the wheels, feeling pretty good and for a second I imagined us attacking over the top and forming a chase group, but that would be a waste of energy. Everything was together over the top of the KOM and I suggested to Gabe that he conserve, since the break had already gotten away.
Somewhere on lap two another group of eight got up the road. Whoops. After the first lap we were down to Gabe (aka Honest Gabe, aka Gabe Ruth, aka Peppe), Jon (aka Horndawg bro cal *steez machine), and myself. *Note: steez=style with ease.
Lap three wasn’t too difficult. The large breakaway never got more than two or three minutes up the road, despite its horsepower and size. Competitive Cyclist was on top of their shit today.
Lap four…can’t really remember it. Gabe got bottles again for the third time. It was Coke from here on out. I poured some on my arms and legs to cool off. The guy behind me snorted in confusion and disgust. I told him I shower in that shit.
Lap five. I got bottles. We all sat in. The breakaway fell apart and was caught. The feed zone climb wasn’t too bad if I remember correctly, which I probably don’t. The tail wind section wasn’t too bad either. The KOM wasn’t even that bad (I mean, it was still like a nine out of ten in terms of pain, but that’s not too bad when you expect the pain to be 12 out of ten). With 2K to go there’s a steep little hill before a fast descent, a roundabout, some rolling road, and another roundabout before 250 meters to the finish line. I used the little kicker to move up and sat easy behind Jon at 10th wheel. Part of me wishes I’d just attacked all out right here since I felt so good, but I thought it would be wiser to sit in for the sprint. I didn’t want to creep too far up the line since I was certain the remaining guys in the field would surge with 500 meters to go and swarm the front. There were still 60 guys in the bunch, so I let myself drift back to 30th down the hill. Too far back actually. I started moving up in the wind when we had less than a K to go, still pedaling with ease (peez).
All of a sudden I realized I’d left it too late. We entered the roundabout and I began my chaotic, crazed sprint, zig-zagging, braking, and swerving around guys who’d blown up in the final couple hundred meters. I actually remember thinking how stupid it would be if I caused a crash sprinting for 10th or 15th. I did not crash, and ended up 13th. Gabe and Jon were right there as well for 14th and 18th. We were second on team GC that day, meaning absolutely nothing since Jesse Anthony won and Mancebo retained the overall. But still, we were damn happy about the day. Despite it being my best NRC result, I immediately cursed my poor positioning going into that dang roundabout. Being so close to the front at the end of such a hard stage made me realize that it actually was possible to win or get a top five at least. We ended the week’s effort with one last feat: Pilot Butte Burger, where we all ate massive hamburgers, french fries, and milk shakes and discussed the possibility of eating Doug’s calves, which we eventually decided might be too tough. It was concluded that infant meat would taste best, but this is a well-known fact and pointless to discuss further. Cascade is my favorite NRC stage race and this year was just like any other: hard, fun, exciting, and disappointing in the fact that it’s the last NRC stage race of the race season, which pretty much ends in July for some reason unless you’re one of the four continental teams that get to do Utah and Colorado. Or if you go to Belgium.
I’m in Belgium now, getting prepared for the tour of Namur, Belgium’s hardest pro/am stage race. Five stages, ALL road races. And very hilly. Good thing I just ate that burger.