Finally, the first road race of the season appeared on the schedule! It just happened to be 250+ miles away in Corvallis, OR. It's a race I have never competed in and wasn't really on my radar. I was supposed to run gates Friday night at Alpental and then do some TT training with teammates on Saturday, but I was itching to test my racing legs. So, at 2:00pm on Friday I decided to ditch current plans and make the drive to Corvallis to join my teammate Wes for the Cat 3 race. I made a hotel reservation and grabbed every piece of cycling gear I owned. If you know me, you know that my pre-race ritual is always the same and I take a lot of time organizing the night before. Luckily I have an SUV because this time I just threw everything in the back in an unorganized pile. Denise was laughing because every time I said I was leaving and went out the door, I kept coming back in to grab something else. This probably happened five or six times.
I was packed and on the road at 3:30. Big. Mistake. You know what the traffic is like on a rainy Friday night between Seattle and Portland? It took me 5 1/2 hours to make the trek to Corvallis. It gave me plenty of time to think (including a lot of bad thoughts about other drivers). Did I remember to pack my kit? Is it going to rain? Did I bring the proper nutrition? Why the hell do they call it the Cherry Pie Road Race?
I got to the hotel, checked in and headed to a local micro brewery for some carbo loading.
It rained all night but the rain had stopped by the time I got up Saturday morning. My race wasn't until 12:40 so I hoped it would continue dry out. I finally had time to pull out my gear and get organized. The only issue I found was that I didn't have the proper brake pads for my carbon wheels so I had to call local shops to find some. I packed up my rig, purchased the pads, ate some breakfast and headed to the course.
I met Wes and his family in the parking lot and we talked about how to approach the race. Wes raced last year so he knew the course and told me what to expect. As we warmed up we noticed that the roads were dry and it was quite warm. I'm guessing it was in the upper 50's by the start of our race. At about 12:20 we rolled to the start. The 1/2 men were getting ready to head out so we had about 15 minutes before our start, or so I thought. I decided to take one more trip to the swanky outhouse and while in line they called out for the Cat 3's to come to the line. I knew we had at least 10 minutes so I didn't pay too much attention. By the time I walked out they were already done explaining the rules and were getting ready to have us roll out. I looked at my Garmin and noticed it was only 12:32...eight minutes earlier than the scheduled start time! I don't know what was going on but a minute later we rolled out. There were tons of guys still in the bathrooms and others still rolling in for the start. It caused mass chaos. F-bombs were flying and our lead car must have known something wasn't right because it slowed our neutral roll out to about 8 mph, which almost caused several crashes. Guys were sprinting to catch up before the race officially got under way. It turns out the official's watch was off by eight minutes. Whoops!
The course is a 26 mile loop and we would do two laps. It finishes with a pretty steep climb and we didn't get the standard full road at 200m so if we were bunched up it would be tight. We had a full field, 100 strong with riders from all over the PNW and a few from as far away as California and BC. Since there were only two of us we both wanted to stay up front. Wes said that on the 2nd lap he was going to get up front and try to string out the pack. I think everyone was anxious and there was some nervous riding in the beginning that almost caused a few crashes but after a few miles of racing everyone settled in. At about the 10 mile mark about seven guys got out on a break. No one wanted to chase them down. They slowly rolled off the front and got a nice little gap. A lot of guys were complaining about our lack of effort in bringing them back. They were the guys that never come to the front to work. I knew we had plenty of time but I did start to wonder if they were going to stay away for the duration. Finally, a couple of us decided to put a charge in the pack and we took off. This was a bad move, not because I burned a match but because my Garmin 705 flew off my bike and bounced down the road. I briefly thought about stopping to look for it but I was in front of about 90 guys going 37 mph and didn't think that would be a good idea. There were some people on the side of the road and I yelled at someone to please grab it so hopefully I'll get it back. It cracks me up that such an expensive computer comes with a $2.00 piece of crap mount. It was weird to ride without any feedback. We didn't catch the lead group but at least guys started to attack and we were slowing bringing them back. As we got to the end of the first lap we hit the climb. I was in front of the chase group and as I got out of the saddle to power up, my right calf cramped up. This has never happened to me in a race. Guys started flying by me and it was all I could do to make it to the top. I thought my chances of a strong finish were over and as we hit the descent I dropped to about 40th wheel to see if I could work it out. It was unfortunate as this was when Wes flew to the front and took control. I couldn't move up. Every time I increased my effort, pain set in. It was easy going in the middle of the pack so I took the time to hydrate, inhaled some Gu and tried to stretch it out. During my time back there we caught the leaders so we were all one big group again. I started feeling a little better half way through the 2nd lap and started to move up. I got to about 20th wheel but because we were getting close to the finish everyone was bunched up and I had nowhere to move. With about 5K to go I was feeling good again so I just tried to stay calm and look for where the strong riders were. We hit the first part of the climb and I shot around a bunch of guys, and made it to about 10th wheel. The course flattens out for a bit and then you hit a 90 degree turn and you have about 300m of 8 % grade to the finish. I went around the corner in good position and knew it was too early to go for the sprint. A bunch of guys got out of the saddle and flew by. I stayed calm. At 200m I stayed in the saddle even though more guys were passing me. At 100m I made my move. At the same time, some of the guys that took off early cracked hard. Guys started swerving on the course. All of a sudden two or three guys went down right in front of me. I saw Wes get pushed off the course but he didn't go down. I tried to stay calm and moved left to avoid it but it was like a NASCAR crash and the chain reaction caused more wrecks that were coming right at me. Somehow I made it through the carnage. I don't know how I didn't go down. The only problem was that I was basically doing a track stand on a hill and lost all my momentum. I managed to got somewhat back on track and got to the finish unscathed. They never posted the results and with all the chaos I am not sure how Wes and I finished. I finished 16th and Wes got 20th. That crash really screwed us but it still felt OK about our result in a field that size. I felt bad for Wes - he had done a lot of work in the front and was also positioned well for a good finish. I don't think anyone got hurt in the crashes. I'm just glad neither of us went down. What a great start to the season. It was a great course on great roads. I checked the temp at the finish and it was 58 degrees. Bring on the season. BTW, the new kits are awesome!! Oh, if you find my Garmin 705.......:)