Evo mixing it up on the road !!
Despite the early hour Hottie and I were pretty efficient at getting ready and we rolled out before six thirty. It was a long drive, but the pretty sky and dryish roads made the journey pleasant. The race is out in the middle of nowhere, and I was surprised I recognized a handful of landmarks from the last time I did this race in 2011.
We got a spot and soon I was chomping my Nutella slathered bagel and sitting on my bike warming up on the trainer. My friend Tom was the chief judge. That would come into play later..
Just before the start they announced that there would be a post race clinic for any Cat 5's that wanted to get a few tips on their race from some coaches who were going to watch the race from the lead car. As we rolled out the first couple K's were neutralized until we got to the wide road. The lead car slowed and accelerated such that I thought they should offer a lead car driving clinic after the race.
The race was four loops of a 20k circuit. I started near the back and noted there were at least fifty riders in the field. On the first climb I moved up to the middle and there were some accelerations that I had to put out some effort to cover. This was racing and every time I race on the road I am shocked at how frequently and how hard I find myself grabbing my brakes. This accordion action increases the further back you are in the peloton.
The course was about 40% on a nice wide road with excellent pavement and a couple long slight climbs. The last 60% was narrow rough roads with slight turns and small rollers. We passed the first lap and I felt okay. I was drinking and slurping my hammer gel, not when I wanted to, but when I could.
The second lap was much like the first; unexplained accelerations and braking. I was feeling pretty good and when I was about a third of the way back in the pack a break had a tiny gap up front. The mix of riders was like a rainbow coalition from each of the big teams. There was a Tacoma Bike rider, a Cucina guy, and Apex rider and finally a rider clad Olympia Orthopedic rider. The front of the peloton was populated with these teams and nobody was willing to chase. We crossed the line with two to go and the break had a hundred meters.
The peloton was happy to let the gap grow and I found myself moving to the front. It just sort of happened. I took my turn with my nose in the wind and then drifted back to third in line as we hit the rough pavement on lap three. There were two slalom riders with me and I figured they might try and get away so I stuck with them. Soon a rider I know named Paul jumped in, joined by an Apex rider and the five of us were working the front. It felt like a Mercer Island ride until I looked back and there were forty guys following us. We crossed the line with one to go and I was feeling strong, although my back was a little tight. I had spent a lot of time in the drops and I am the biggest fan of compact bars ever.
On the final lap I allowed myself to move back when we were on the wide road and catch some draft in prep for the final few k's. This turned out to be dumb. On the chipseal part everyone was trying to move up and it was freakin congested. As a big rider I always like to find other big guys to get behind. Actually, I think all riders look for someone big to get behind. I was behind an Olympia orthopedic rider and he hit his brakes so hard his back wheel came off the ground and went sideways. He managed to stay upright and because it happened so fast I didn’t have time to crap in my bibshorts. Two guys to my right touched wheels and I heard the sick sound of two tire treads rubbing. There were audible sighs of relief as they also kept the rubber on the road. Things were getting "twitchy."
I was channelling my inner McHale and felt stronger than the pace we were going. I battled to move up but was sitting only about 30th with 1k to go. There was a sweeping downhill that people had taken very carefully and I figured when we hit that in the final “k” I could move up when others backed off.
Sure enough people coasted and spread out and I filled one gap after another and when we hit the 200m to go I had all the horsepower I could want, but I was just fighting to find openings. I was moving up and found a spot gap and went for it. I ended up tenth in the sprint and fifteenth on the day.
I didn't feel any difficulty the last two laps and wondered if that is what it is like to be Tim Wood. Next time I will make sure and get in a better position when we hit the chipseal on the last lap.
The race was intense and Hottie was so busy shooting photos she didn’t see me and was worried I had crashed. She was super relieved to see me at the finish. I was glad to see her and get a post race kiss.