I came soooo close to winning this past weekend’s three-day Superior Morgul omnium, Colorado’s biggest race (other than the USA Pro Challenge). In the end, the three of us on the podium were tied on points, each with 99. It came down to the final day’s stage placing. I can look back on every day and see errors, especially on the last day, where I could have done better. Despite this, I’m still pleased with my race and happy to still be having good form. I was pretty worried early last week that I’d already peaked and my fitness had vanished overnight. Then I stopped dehydrating myself in the sauna. My legs came back two days later, just in time for Friday’s time trial.
The time trial goes like this: you start out on the top of a hill, ride really hard for about 300 meters, go down a hill into a busy traffic circle during rush-hour where traffic is NOT stopped by a couple half-wit police officers who don’t know what the hell they’re doing, go up the steep Wall, climb over some more rollers, then briefly descend towards the finish line before one last short false flat stretch to the line. In total, it takes 15 to 18 minutes depending on how slow you are. I was fairly not slow on Friday, coming in at 15:30. 15:30 was good enough for third place! It was also good enough for sixth place, which is what I got. Third through sixth were within one second. Scott came in just ahead of me at 5th.
For me, the highlight and lowlight of the ride was getting tagged by a car (or visa versa) in the roundabout. I have a tire mark of the white SUV that done it right on the side of my shoe as proof. I didn’t crash or get hurt, but I got real angry. And right there, clipping back in, was the one second and handful of points I needed!
Day two was the crit, which snaked its way through a small neighborhood alley street, took a quick descent and fast left-hander, then gradually climbed towards the start/finish. I wasted no time getting things going, attacking out of the first corner and pulling hard for a full lap before looking back. The pack was all lined out behind me. I pulled off to the side. A few laps later I took another dig, this time getting away with two others (Jesse Goodrich of Cal Giant and Drew Christopher of Primal). We didn’t stay out front for long, but when we were caught it was by a group of 10 guys, including Scott.
Drew, Jesse, and I.
Scott helped peg it while I recovered for a lap. I thought we might have the winning move right there, but a few minutes later and we were caught. I think I attacked again right away or something, got caught, then followed Robin Eckman (Cal Giant) as he went for a prime a lap later. I lost out on the prime, not being able to outsprint him, but we had a gap. Chris Winn (Horizon), was with us as well. Sweet. Arguably the three fastest guys right there. Robin and I drilled it for 20 minutes before Chris took a real pull. By then our gap was up to 30 or 40 seconds. Pretty soon it was over a minute and we eased off a bit.
Someone got the perfect shot of the move right as it went.
Making the gap grow.
Nick and Scott patrolling the field. Nick got into a two-man move with a lap to go and took 5th.
With five laps to go the announcer called a points prime. I attacked at the top of the lap in the alley way street and held on to take maximum points, sitting up a bit before the line because I didn’t have the confidence to go the rest of the way alone. I figured Chris and Robin would sit 10 seconds behind me and work together while I burned myself to the ground, then I’d get destroyed on the last lap as they came around. In hindsight, I should have gone for it because I don’t think they would have cooperated.
Four laps to go and we began playing cat and mouse. I hate that analogy. I truly hate it. It’s so over-used I can hardly stand NOT punching a cute baby gerbil in the throat every time I hear it. I hate it almost as much as I hate the phrase “youthful enthusiasm.” Paul Sherwin and Senial Man…SHUT UP already!
So anyways, we did some attacking and whatnot and came to the final lap going about seven miles an hour, all three of us parallel with each other, waiting for someone to jump. Of course I jumped first. I smashed it as hard as I could for about 200 meters up to the neighborhood alley way street, where I looked back to see Chris a few bike lengths back with Robin on his wheel. I swung off all the way to the right side of the road and coasted, hoping to jump in behind them or have them sit up so I could attack again. Instead, Chris lept up, distancing himself from Robin during his slight moment of inattention. He looked over at me and I looked over at him, both simultaneously thinking, “Ahhh shit. Racing for second now.”
Chris pulled the perfect move and neither Robin nor I wanted to drag him back for the other to then just go right by. Robin did eventually go for it a few moments later, but it was too late. I got on his wheel and he sat up. I should have attacked him right then and there. Instead, we rolled to the finish line together, with him taking me by a bike length in the sprint for second place.
I wound up sitting second overall going into the final day. Robin was first and Chris was third. Chris won the overall as well as the road race last year and Robin was second in the road race, just inches behind Chris on the uphill sprint on the iconic Wall. The way the points were spread meant that in order to win the overall I would have to beat Robin by two places in the road race and also beat Chris. I knew I could take just about anyone on that length of steep climb, especially after eight times up it. It’s false flat leading up to the Wall for about four minutes, then for the last minute and a half it pitches up to 8 and then 12% before easing off over the top. The finish line is right before the top. A marvelous place for a finish line in my opinion.
The night before the road race, a cone and sign company that does all of Colorado’s cone and sign stuff on highways went out of business. This prompted a very quick change to the road race course, which all of us were very grateful for. It was either that or the road race was going to be cancelled. Hats off to Lance and the rest of the organizers who made this happen.
And, even better, the new course turned out to be vastly superior to the old Superior course. See what I did there? The new course took out the boring, flatter section of the race. Now we just did out and backs along the top section, which is where all the exciting stuff happens anyways. As a bonus, the wind decided to come out and play as well, even more than normal.
Our pre-race meeting was all about me being conservative and waiting, waiting, waiting while the rest of the team took control during the first three quarters of the race. I was to be lazy, to not pull through hard or often if I was in the move, and to let others close gaps and attack. Sounds easy…in theory. In practice? Well, remember I didn’t win now did I?
I followed moves and did some minor attacking in the first couple laps. I think by the third of seven and a half laps Nick was the only teammate of mine left in the group, which was already half its original size. Horizon, Chris’ team, had started with 11 guys and was down to six or so at that point and still ripping along pretty strong. Jim Peterman, the local TT phenom who crushed Haga and Zirbel a few months back in a TT and had also won Friday’s TT stage had been up the road with Jesse Goodrich for the first three laps. He was back in the fold now, most likely hating life, his legs, and his over-zealous move on the first lap. Robin still had teammates Jesse and his strong brother, Yannick by his side.
I got all the photos from Adelaide and facebook, including these two images taken by SportifImages. Thanks for all the great photog work everyone! Check out Dejan’s SportifImages website for a ton of great quality pics of all three stages.
Luckily, I had Nick, who was riding like the Hulk, crushing fools and getting in heated arguments with those who didn’t pay respect. He did a ton of short-lived attacks and followed even more, keeping things together when needed and ripping things apart as well, softening the field all the while. Midway into the race he got away at the base of the Wall (just after we descended it) with one other guy. They profited from the draft of a dumb, slow motorcycle and got 30 seconds on the field in no time. If the moto aint movin fast enough, get on it! Don’t even try to argue with me that you haven’t done the same thing when given the chance. Just don’t. Don’t even.
After the turnaround a mile later we headed back towards the Wall, where I bridged up to Nick with a few other guys, including Chris and two of his teammates. Robin was nowhere to be found. This was it! This was the move! No it wasn’t! We got brought back after the false-flat headwind section. I didn’t expect that, but I’m guessing Yannick and Robin and Jesse killed themselves once again. That’s some good teamwork right there.
A lap later and I took the Wall from the bottom to the top and dropped everyone by a good margin without having to go all out. At the top I looked back, deciding that to go for it there would be stupid. There were two guys way off the front by over a minute so they would be pretty hard to bridge to. Plus, the top of the course, which was the direction I was heading, had a strong headwind. To face it alone would be stupid. Only a stupid person would do that! I rode easy until I was caught, hoping someone would try to bridge to me but they didn’t. I was playing it smart.
Attacking on the Wall.
My smartness came to an end five minutes later after a series of hard attacks over the top of the next roller. The small group was shattered and echeloned over the yellow line in the cross wind. A few more attacks ensued and I followed on the wheels. I was waiting for the perfect moment–a slight lul just as everyone’s legs cracked. It happened and I squeezed through a small gap and got away by myself. Damn it. It was too good of an attack at too good of a moment. Everyone was too gased to follow or try to bridge up to me, so I stuck my head down low and decided to go for the long haul. Typical Kennett tactics. Dumb missile.
I bridged the minute gap to the most recent breakaway up the road and made contact within seven or eight miles. I thought we could take on the peloton and what was left of the Horizon and Cal Giant gangs if we had three of us and I took extra big pulls. Unfortunately, one of the guys, Drew, dropped off right away when I made contact with them in the feed zone, just before the Wall. Biomechanical I assume after spending too much time in the strong wind. Now it was just me and the other guy.
We held the pack off for another 20 miles but got caught with eight to go. Now I was hating life and my over-zealous move. At least it had taken a good amount of work and numerous pairs of blown legs to bring me back. I sat on the wheels and let Nick to the chasing until we got to the base of the Wall for the last time. Nick lead it out perfectly, with me right on Chris’ wheel…until I lost it and he moved up on the left while I got slightly boxed in on the right. I can’t really say I got boxed in all that much considering we were down to 15 guys out of the 80 starters, but anyways I lost his wheel in those final couple hundred meters of run-up and opted to stick near Robin instead.
Moments earlier, it got dark and began raining, adding just the right mood of doom to go along with the high-stress finish climb looming around the next couple bends. As the rain came down we dodged cones set in the middle of the lane, dumbly intended to keep us safe on the way down by allowing more space for the descent than the climb (umm, cones in the middle of the lane aren’t safe). No one paid any more attention to the annoying honks of the moto official as we bounced off the cones. It was time for pure aggression. The rain stopped as suddenly as it started.
Chris attacked on the left just as it got steep. I responded a bit too slow but came around five guys just as Nick yelled GO KENNETT! I was bogged down in too big of a gear. I ground most of my drivetrain into metal filings as my derailleur fumbled to get in the right gear. No matter, it only lost me a half a second. I let out a roar, straining for everything I was worth in all-out furry. Chris already had a two second gap on me but I thought I could close on him.
Nope. The finish line was approaching too soon and my legs were dying too quickly. I let out another roar with 50 meters to go, giving it absolutely everything I had up the steep slope just in case someone was about to come around. Chris held it to the line with a clean gap to me as I crossed in second. After that there was a considerable gap to third-place Clayton Feldman and fourth-place Robin. My last roar was for nothing.
My form is pretty darn good right now even if my tactics aren’t. At least in pro races (like Philly) all I have to do is sit in and follow wheels. It makes things so much simpler.
With the second on the road race I stayed second on GC as well, with Chris and Robin trading places for first and third. I came to a sudden stop on the side of the road after crossing the line and collapsed on top of my bars. Pretty quickly I was surrounded by friends with congratulations, so there was no time to be angry. I guess I wasn’t that upset anyways. With the time spent off the front, to finish second like that was a pretty huge feat. Had I sat in instead of attacked, do I think I could have won? Yes. Of course. I know I could have. But I’ve never been one with the patience to pull that sort of thing off. Someday I will. I hope.
Chris and his team had a very smart, well-executed weekend of racing to defend their 2012 victory. Robin and Cal Giant rode super strong as well. Having this sort of top-end local competition is a rare thing–something that, in the States, only exists here and So Cal. I’m looking forward to the next show-down with these guys.
I was very pleased and humbled with how everyone on Rio rode on Sunday, even if it was just for the first lap or two. Colt, Jake, Scott, and Trevor were selfless, helping me position and chase down early moves. I owe Nick the biggest thanks of all. He was outstanding. I’ll take one strong Nick over ten regular-strength humans any day. With a fifth place in the crit and ninth in the road race, Nick wound up 7th overall after being one of the main agressors in the road race.
While we waited for the podium presentation and the cash to be divvied out, the rain suddenly came back, this time pouring. I scrambled underneath a truck to take cover for about 10 minutes while it passed over us. As if by some crazed plan of a phantom demon white a white beard up in the sky, the promoters gave us podium sweatshirts just as we we began to shiver. Superior Morgul is how races should be: hard, fun courses, good viewing for the crowds along with beer and vendor tents, good sponsors, and LOTS of prize money.
After the race I rode home with Adelaide in the drizzle on the verge of bonking just in the last mile since I hadn’t eaten anything for an hour and a half. I basically bonked right as I sat down at the dinner table with a plate of leftover, homemade pizza, muffins, peanut butter, and honey. Later we had the team and Adelaide’s sister Lydia and her boyfriend Jeff come over for a BBQ to top off a great weekend with lots of meat, beer, and smores over the fire pit.
Finally, Sarah Kuta of the Daily Camera has been doing some fine reporting on this race. It was cool to see this sort of in-depth coverage in an actual hard copy newspaper every day. Thanks Sarah! Here are all four links to the articles she wrote:
Now it’s time for another day of rest before the most intense block of training yet to top off my legs for Philly. I will destroy myself if no one else.