Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, June 29, 2009

Four Mound Masters State Championship Road Race

I have been racing two, sometimes three days per week for the last two months and I was planning on taking a break for a couple of weeks. Late in the week I decided to make the 600+ mile round trip drive to Spokane for the Masters State Road Race Championships and I'm glad I did.

The Spokane Hoopfest, which apparently is the largest 3 on 3 tourney in the world was going on the same weekend. Because of that and the fact that I waited so long to decide to race, I couldn't find a hotel anywhere near Spokane. I was the only one on my team racing so I figured I would just sleep at the staging area in the back of my SUV. On Friday I decided to check to see if there were any cancellations and I found a room in a $&!% hole of a motel in Cheney. I took it as I figured it would be better than sleeping in my rig the night before a big race. I figured wrong. I didn't realize it when I checked in but the railroad tracks run literally right behind the hotel. It was like scene in a movie. Every 20 to 40 minutes a train would roar through town blaring it's horn and rumble me out of my so called sleep. Coupled with the AC that was almost as loud as the train I woke up with less then a good night sleep. Oh well, I just had to laugh. On to the race.

I drove the course Saturday night since I had never seen it before. It was a 20 mile loop we would ride 2 1/2 times for a total of 47 miles. The road conditions were nice and it looked to be a course that would be to my liking. There was one good 1.5+ mile hill we would climb three times. It got pretty steep in a few places and I knew it would weed out the pack. It wound it's way through the tall pines in the Spokane hills and then up to a prairie where I was told the wind would be a factor.

We rolled out at 10:30 with about 40 riders. It was already about 78 degrees out but was getting hotter by the minute. The climb starts w/in the first mile and for some reason they kept us neutral all the way up. I thought that was a waist as we could have dropped some guys right off the bat. Maybe that is why??? We quickly realized the wind, which was probably already blowing 15 to 25 mph was hitting us right in the face as we climbed. What a double whammy that was!! We got to the top and the horn sounded. Right away the host team, Spokane Rocket Velo, who was well represented, started sending guys off the front. No one wanted to chase them as being out in front with that wind was brutal. We managed to keep the initial attacks in check. Every time you stuck you nose out from behind the pace line you felt like you were going backwards. We went by the finish line for the first time and soon after we took a left up onto the prairie. The side wind was even more brutal as having only half the road to work with there was no place to hide. Everyone was getting pushed around and you really had to pay attention. The host team was still trying to send guys off . We came to turn three and it was amazing. It was a long gradual downhill all the way back to the start. Without even raising your heart rate we were doing 40 plus with the tail wind. The pace was fast but it was easy to stay on and even if you were in front you were not working too hard. We passed the start and hit the hill for the second time. This time the pace was fast. I think guys wanted to test the field and see who had the legs. I moved up to the front but tucked into third wheel so I wasn't doing double duty with the wind. Right before the top was the feed zone and there were quite a few people there to cheer us on. I looked back and saw a lot of guys struggling up. As we hit the flats we kept the pace to see if we could leave some of them alone out in the wind. We probably lost 10 guys. As we battled the wind for the 2nd time more guys from the host team attacked. It was business as usual and we put the effort out to haul them in. Then, right before the finish line two more guys took off and we let them get a 15 second gap. Another guy finally went to gap them and I should have followed him but everyone figured they wouldn't last in the wind so I reluctantly held my ground. Their gap kept growing but no one wanted to stick their nose in the wind and try to pull them back. As we turned and battled the side wind we were so unorganized it was pathetic. Someone would get up front and do a hard pull but no one were follow up. It looked like a bad club ride. Finally, Vern from Starbucks sprinted to the front and started lecturing guys on how to ride in a double pace line. This started us going but once again it just fell apart. I was surprised the other local team, Emde was not trying to pull these guys back. I was up front working but I knew if I stayed up there with no help I was going to burn all my matches. Guys were saying that we would catch them on the descent. I thought that was a joke as the tail wind would actually help them out. As we got half way down down the hill we were not gaining and I figured that If I didn't do something now I would be racing for 4th place. I waited until the guys in front started to jack around again. When the pace slowed I got out of the saddle and flew around. Right away I heard someone yell, "Don't let him go!", I think a lot of them remembered the Enumclaw race but surprisingly, no one jump on. I put my head down and was quickly racing at 43 mph. It was an awesome feeling. I soon had about a 30 second gap and was closing in on the leaders. Now, for some reason the rest of the field decided to race and were quickly trying to pull me back. If nothing else, at least I lit a fire under their asses. I stayed ahead for about three miles before they pulled me in. We were coming back to the start and unless the three guys up front were toasted and blew up on the final climb it would be hard to catch them. This time when we hit the climb I really reached back and hammered up the hill. When we crested six of us had a small gap on about 15 guys. The rest of the field was toast. I told everyone that we couldn't rest at the top if we wanted to stay away. It was hard with the wind but we managed to increase our lead. It would be much easier at the finish with only six. We had about six miles to go and it was brutal. I don't think I have hurt that much in a race this year. We knew were had to work hard to keep our gap but every time it was your turn to pull it really took it's toll. I looked back and the pack was gaining. Because of the terrain I could no longer see the leaders so I wasn't sure if we were closing. I was also starting to think that we wouldn't hold off the chase group but we kept on digging. We finally hit the 3k marker and I finally knew the chase group was not going to catch us. We kept working and we were all feeling it. Then, we looked up and saw a guy from the break standing on the road. Did he flat? Did he crash? What happened? As we flew by I could see by how he was standing off his bike that he must have cramped up big time. He wasn't even moving. Now I was a little more exited. I knew the leaders were just in front and maybe we could catch them. We hit the 3K mark and I could tell that everyone was at their limit. I then realized that we were not going to catch the leaders and would be sprinting for third. I really wanted to podium but so did everyone else so. the cat and mouse games began. Everyone was trying to keep off the front and out of the wind so pace was starting to slow. Then, for some reason one of the guys took off. I couldn't believe it. There was no way he could do this for 2k and wind. There was six of us, all in single file and I managed to slot into fifth wheel, right where I wanted to be. You could already see the tent at the finish and I think a couple of guys got impatient. The took off around the leader and I just sat in behind. We were withing 300 meters and it was setting up perfectly for me. With about 100 meters to go I launched my attack. It was a perfect move. Only one guy was able to get on my wheel but he waited a second too long and I flew across the line to win the field sprint and take home the bronze. I was a little bummed I wasn't there to do it for the win but third place felt awfully nice. The 275 mile drive home wouldn't seem so bad now.

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