After his race we jumped in our rig and drove the road course. I quickly realized that the profile they had on their website had to be wrong. It said it was about 2000 ft of climbing over the 42 mile course but it look like some really nasty climbing. The downhill looked fast and furious. I know I would have a tough day in the saddle.
We headed back to town to watch the Pro/1/2 race and it was incredible. BMC, Jelly Bellies, H&R block and other US pro teams were represented. They went 55 intense minutes and I was amazed watching these finely tuned athletes do their thing. The people watching was great too. I think the locals were having fun watching shaved legged racers in brightly colored kits parading through their town.
After the race we grabbed a nice dinner and headed back to the hotel. I slept really well until 4 am when the hotel lost power and the fire alarms when off. I told Denise that unless she saw a fire engine shooting water at us I wasn't going to get up. It made for some humorous stories at the parking lot at the start of the road race.
We left the hotel at 7:45 to drive the 10 miles out to the Alcoa plant for the start. It was already 67 degrees. I was glad we were racing at 9:20 instead of 12:30 like the pros. It was supposed to be close to 90 degrees and I was worried about fluid intake but found out they would have a neutral water zone half way up the climb.
Our field was the largest of the day and I knew it would be competitive. When the race official was explaining the course to us he said at the end, "If anyone has told you that this course is easy, they are lying!" We rolled out and first did the time trial course that was about 12 miles of rolling hills. On the way out we had a big tail wind and we were flying in single file doing about 30mph. At the turn around things changed. Our speed dropped to about 14mph. We were all tightly bunched up and no one wanted to do any work out front in the wind. Everyone knew what was coming up. Right at the turn to the climb I had dropped back to about 35th wheel when a guy had a blowout and I got caught behind when he had to slow and pull to the slide. This sucked a little but I wasn't too worried. The climb basically takes you up towards the Mission Ridge area but on roads that are just East. As we started climbing about six guys took off. I knew a couple of them were climbing specialists and I didn't want to burn myself out just trying to catch them. I also didn't want to kill myself before the really toughest part of the climb. I settled into my rhythm and started to slowly move up. I wasn't feeling really great and the guys I was passing were guys that weren't climbers. The race now was completely strung out and I was on my own. The climb was getting brutal. It was really hot and I had my jersey completely unzipped. We got to about the mid point where the feed zone was and it was nice getting ice cold water bottles and spray from garden hoses by fans. I took a big swig of water and dumped the rest on my head and then tossed it aside. The climb started to get even more intense. At this point it was between 9 and 16 percent. I finally started feeling better and got in a really good rhythm. I was now picking off guys on a regular basis but couldn't find anyone to work with. We were so spread out that it was hard to know where you stood as we were passing racers from all the categories that left before us. The climb leveled out for a few and I caught a few more riders that used it for rest and were just coasting. I finally caught a guy from Cucina that was still riding strong and we agreed to work together. This really helped to gain some time.
We finally hit the big downhill and I told the other guy that I wasn't really fast on the decents and he should go at his own pace. It turns out that when you're in a race and tying to catch the lead pack you can increase your risk level. I was in the drops and hit speeds between 45 and 50 mph and got up to 54 at one point. It felt nice and I was gaining on the pack that had to be careful on the turns as they couldn't pick their lines like I could. We finally got out of the steeps and turned down the road that goes up to Mission ridge. This is probably a 5% grade and you can get in your 11 and hammer down it. I was doing about 42 mph on this stretch. Right before the turn back to the finish I caught a guy in our field and a cat 4 rider that had been dropped. We worked together for a bit and then I saw a group of about 10 guys up in front of us. I wasn't sure if they were in my field but wanted to catch them. I got out in front and kicked it up a notch. I saw that they couldn't hang and I thought there was no way I would catch the pack. I was surprised at how strong I felt and I slowly started to haul them in. It took about 3K but I finally hooked on to the back. They all looked at me in surprise and asked me how the hell I was able to catch them. I took about 5 minutes to rest then asked them how many guys were up front. They didn't know but knew there were some guys up there. I saw some guys ahead and wanted to haul them in if we could. Most of these guys were spent and I was doing all the work. A couple of Cucina guys were purposely sandbagging because they had guys in the lead pack. Every time I would move to the side to let them go through our pace would slow way down and I was getting mad. I got to the front and know that one guy was easily getting on my wheel. I told him to do some work but he wouldn't. I basically was out front the last 6k of the race. I didn't really care because I was feeling strong. We caught a few more riders and then we saw the 1K mark. I increased my tempo a bit. We dropped a few guys but there were still eight guys on my wheel. We hit the 200m mark and the guy that was doing no work made his move. I quickly got next to him and told him I didn't care if any of the other guys blew by me but he wouldn't. I sat on his wheel until about 10m and then blew by him. I really thought all the other guys would pass me but they didn't. I didn't win the race but I was happy winning out on that sprint. Right when we crossed the line my rear tire blew. How lucky was that?! I had no idea how I did as it was so spread out with riders of all categories. It was definitely the hardest race to date.
I rolled back into the lot and asked Denise if she knew and she said she didn't know how the officials could keep it straght. Every race had been blown wide open and there were no real packs of riders going by. We sat in the 87 degree sun and hung out with other racers. They finally posted the results and I was really surprised to see that I finished 8th. We headed to Leavenworth for beers and brats and all was good.
Elevatin gain: 3318 ft.
HR ave: 147 bpm
HR max: 174 (at the final sprint)