I had planned on NOT racing this weekend after two consecutive weekends of really hard, multiple days of racing but at the last minute I found myself making the trek down to Elma. I questioned why many times on my way down. It is still early in the season and being a CAT 3 racer I had never done a 90 mile race (145K for those getting into the Euro Classics). They had us doing the same distance as the Pro/1/2's! This was the inaugural run for this race and I think Erik Anderson, the Bikesale gang and other volunteers did an awesome job. The weather was almost perfect for racing.
The course was 18 mile loop on nice, quiet, rural roads. It was mostly flat with a few rollers, one short big ring climb and a downhill with a 180 hairpin about 1k from the finish. I was the only 3 on my team doing the race and it was just my luck that many of the teams in our 45 person field were well represented. Bikesale, HB, First Rate, Apex and Recycled all had four or more riders. I knew that was going to make it a tough race. We rolled out at 1:25pm and the attacks started right away. 2K down, 143K to go!! After a few failed attempts a group with at least one guy from each of the well stocked teams established a gap. I had just chased down the previous break and slid back at the wrong time to recover. That break was the one to be in. First Rate and Bikesale responded when guys tried to bring them back and pretty soon the group disappeared from our site. It was really early in the race but I was worried that they might have a good chance of staying away. I, along with a couple of Recycled, Lenovo and Garage guys tried a couple of times to get off the front and pull the leaders back but we never got more than a 10 second gap. I did a lot of work on the first two laps and at the start of lap three decided to drop to mid pack and just sit in for a while. It was frustrating to see other teams with no guys in the break just sitting in and doing nothing but I guess that's the way it goes. Half way through the lap we got word the leaders had a 90 second lead on us. It had been slowly growing and if we didn't do something now we would never catch them. Steve Z. from Garage had been working hard up front dropped back and asked me If I would help them get something going. I was definitely up for that. I sat in for a few more minutes so I could eat and get a couple of good pulls off the water bottle and then I moved up and shot off the front. I was going 30+ mph and figured other guys would jump with me or the bigger teams would chase me down. I looked back and I was alone. I decided to put my head down and start burning those matches. I can't remember who but finally a couple of guys broke free and came up to me. I think they were from Fanatik and Lenovo. We kept the pace high and our gap got bigger. When we got a little too far out for the pack's comfort they finally put the hammer down. When they caught us I stayed up front and kept the pack spread out single file. Other guys finally started to realized that they had to do the same or we wouldn't catch the leaders. This big effort paid off and 96K into the race we finally caught the leaders. I was starting to hurt a bit from the big efforts but wasn't feeling too bad. I was just wondering what I'd have left for the rest of the race. We finally hit the last lap, 29K to go and we still had a good size field left. I sat in until the first little roller and when we hit it I sprinted to the front. It stayed quiet for about 6 or 8K but as we got closer to the finish the tension started to mount. I checked around for guys I thought might go. The Adam's from Recycled are always ready to make a move and Logan from HB was sitting right up front. Even though I felt content to just sit in and wait for the final sprint I decided that wasn't how I wanted to play. I decided that when Logan jumped I would jump as well. A few guys went off the front but I made no move to go with them. Finally, with about 20K to go Logan and Jonathan (First Rate) jumped. I didn't hesitate and jumped right on. It was a quick surge and after about 20 or so strong pedal strokes I looked back and we had a gap and it was growing fast. We were flying. I actually had a moment when I shook my head and laughed. Here I was, going on an attack with two of the strongest juniors in the state and I was actually old enough to be their dad. What the hell was I doing? We started rotating and continued to pull away. 16K to go...can I keep this up? I could tell they were getting tired as well. All of us missed a couple of rotations here and there but we were still increasing our lead. With about 5K to go we had a couple of occasions where we slowed a little too much and I could see the pack coming in the distance. All we had to do was make it over the final hill and through the downhill section and we were set. The chasers knew this and finally started working together to catch us. They were closing fast. 4K to go and I was definitely wasted from all the time I spent up front all day. Was it a stupid move? 2K to go and we finally hit the base of the climb. The pack was right on our heels but we still had a lead. "Just get over this bastard and I'm set". This time through if felt like it was a 20%, 1K monster. I was not feeling good but I powered up. I got to the top and I had dropped behind the two juniors by a couple of bike lengths. I forgot that it didn't drop down until after a short flat section. That is where I cracked. I was about 50 meters from the down hill when I got caught by a handful of guys. I raced though the hairpin and down the final 1K. I was so pissed at myself that I just sat up and coated to the finish. I probably should have sprinted it out but I didn't have the heart (or the legs). All I had to do was hang on for 50 more meters and I would have been on the podium. Logan and Jonathan just barely hung on with Logan taking it at the line. There was a lot of "would of, could of" thoughts going through my head. Did I work too hard chasing down attacks? Should have I just sat in like everyone else and worked it out in the sprint? I was glad I went with that move. I would do it again in a second. I was really bummed out while changing at the car but a bunch of guys came up to me and told me they were impressed with all my efforts. That made me feel a lot better. In the end, that's just racing and that is what I love about it. One week you gamble and finish on top, the next week you gamble and it doesn't work. Oh well, on to Walla Walla!
Good job Tina on finishing strong in the Womans 4 field!!