Racing tales from the great Pacific Northwest

Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 Independence Valley Road Race

This is a race I've been looking forward to for a long time. I put it on my calendar as an 'A' race and I wanted to do well. Two years ago I was in a break and flatted on the last lap. We had just neutralized another field and our wheel car took a long time getting to me. My race was over. Last year I attacked a lot and of course, when I decided to take a quick breather, missed the two man attack that got away. I was in the mix for the sprint and had a good finish but thought I could have done better. Here we go again. When we left Bellevue at 9:00am Saturday morning is was pouring down rain. I thought about why someone would get up on a Saturday morning, drive 2+ hours and voluntarily work their ass off for almost three hour in nasty conditions. It continued to rain hard but started letting up about about ten miles from Rochester By the time we parked the rain had stopped and the sun was actually showing itself. We arrived in time for the finishes of the morning races and saw that Scott had finished 5th in his first race of the season, Jeff R. went off on solo break a mile from the start for his first ever win!!! And, Sarah got in a break of ten and sprinted it out for her first victory while Teresa, in the same break, finished 5th! Wow!! Four podium spots before I was even dressed. The excitement gave me extra motivation.....for a 20 minutes. Right about the time we were ready to warm up the clouds decided to throw down again. Jordan, Mark and I just stood under the eaves of the Swede Hall in our rain capes. None of us wanted to go warm up. We finally realized we only had 20 minutes until our start and somehow willed ourselves to get on our bikes to try to salvage some kind of warm up. Once we got out on the road the rain let up. As we were going back to the start we looked over and saw two deer in a pasture looking like they were trying to out sprint us. We decided to gun it a little so we could try to get something out of our 10 minute warm up. One of them must have had an issue with that. It took a hard left and ran across the road just about a foot in front of my front wheel! Bastard!! I grabbed my brakes and was just able to avoid disaster. That was an unusual way to get my heart rate up before a race. We rolled over to get staged and saw we had a good size field of about 60. We were told that there had been a ton of flats during the morning races. They worked on the road and said it should be OK now. We rolled out onto the course which was a 20 mile loop we were doing three times. There were two climbs on the course, one just a few miles in that is a definite pack shredder and another on the back stretch which isn't as steep but can still do damage. After our neutral roll out we had a couple of small attacks but nothing serious. We hit the first climb and I was a little worried that my lack of any kind of warm up might be a problem if someone really hit the gas. I found myself sitting in the front row as we started up. That was good because I was able to help dictate the pace. We were working pretty hard and I guess everyone was content because no one attacked. As we reached the top of the climb a few guys accelerated a bit and I jumped on. We went hard and got a small gap as we raced downhill. I know we lost a couple of guys on the climb and I wanted to see if we could separate. I moved to the front and hammered it all the way to the bottom and ended up getting a small gap of my own. As I maneuvered through the 90 turn that led to the flats I kept the pace up and hoped a couple of motivated guys would bridge. No one did so I decided to sit up and wait. Minus a few we were still all together.

The back side of the course is filled with flat, curvy sections with few small rollers. This is where past breaks had been able to get away. I stayed up front so I didn't miss out on an opportunity to get in a break like last week. It was still early in the race but I was going to work hard to keep myself up front and go with any strong guys that made a move. This might come back to haunt me later but I was willing to take that chance . The rest of the lap was filled with attacks but by the time we reached the second climb we were still one big group. Again, we climbed at a good pace but it wasn't anything crazy. A small group of us crested with a slight gap and we hit it hard on the downhill to try to at least try to drop some stragglers. We may have lost a few off the back but we didn't get away. Nothing really happened during the last five miles of the first lap. I finally saw the tent at the finish line. As we rolled through I realized I never saw the 1k or the 200m markers. I asked around and a lot of guys didn't notice them either. Hmmmm, were there any? There had to be. I guess I'll look for them on the 2nd lap. As we got close to the hill one for the 2nd time a bunch of attacks started. These seemed to be a bit more serious. I was feeling good and marked all of them.The 2nd trip up the hill was definitely more painful then the first. The effort still wasn't anything crazy and once again I found myself up front. It was a carbon copy of the first lap. I reached the top, looked back and saw that a lot of guys were faltering. A group of about 10 of us hit the gas near the top and got a gap. This time I actually thought we had a chance to get away but as we rolled though the flats we were brought back. We were definitely a much smaller group now and I knew things was going to start getting interesting. I hadn't seen him for the first half of the race but now Erik from Recycled came to the front and started attacking like crazy. Every time we brought him back he attacked again. They never amounted to anything but the constant accelerations and high pace was taking a toll on a lot of guys. We hit climb 2 for the 2nd time and it was pretty uneventful. As we raced back towards the finish, I made sure to pay attention to where the 1k and 200m markers were. We saw an orange sign ahead and I thought it was just a sign warning motorists that there was a race in progress. When I took a closer look I saw that a 1K was taped on to the back of another sign. It was hard to read but at least I knew where it was. The 200m sign was set up the same way. Someone must have forgotten to throw them in the trailer. I made mental note of a driveway that was on the opposite side of the road so I wouldn't miss it on the final lap. Our first four road races of the season all had successful breakaways and they were on flat roads. I was surprised that none had stuck so far today.

I'm not sure if it was all on lap three but that part of the race started getting crazy. We neutralized one field and then, soon after, we got neutralized twice. The last one happened right before we hit the big climb for the last time and I was worried we would be climbing up neutral, giving stragglers a chance to jump back on. We got through just before. I was feeling really good and had no problems staying up front. When we reached the flats Alex(Farestart) came up beside me and said, "Well if there is no break, at least we have a much smaller group for the final lap!" I hadn't looked back for a while and was surprised to see how many guys were gone. A lot of strong guys came to the front that hadn't been there before and started attacking hard. Alex(Old Town) took off a few times but no one was going to let him go. Erik(Recycled) was still constantly attacking but I stopped going with him. I just stayed near the front and watched for fresh legs that were moving to the front. Ian(NWCC) was doing a lot of work chasing down breaks as well as our new CAT 3, Jeff(Audi). We went into the final climb and still no one had gotten away. I got to the front and a few of us started pounding it hard. I now realized that no one was going to get away so I looked to see who the strong sprinters were around me. Where was Mark and Mike(Bikesale)? Just then Joe(Bikesale) asked me if he was going flat. He was. A second later Jeff(Audi) went flat. Since I couldn't find any of my teammates he was one of the guys I was going to key on near the finish. Not anymore.

The pack started to get jumpy. A Fanatic rider started to hit it hard off the front several times. The mind games had started. There were constant accelerations followed by a lot of braking which made things a little sketchy. After an attack guys were sitting up and no one would go around them. The serpentines started and guys were all over the road. It caused constant shifts in the pack. When the lead guy moved left, everyone moved in behind and someone would jump hard on the right. In a matter of seconds I went from 3rd wheel to 15th. I was really fighting hard to hold my position in in the top 10. As guys in back tried to work their way up elbows started flying . Alex(Farestart) moved up on my left and guys were getting out of his way. I got on his wheel and he did and excellent job holding his position. We had about 2K to go and I was where I needed to be. The HB guys got organized and it looked like they were trying to setup Brian W. for the finish. The only problem was I think they started a little early and didn't accelerate as fast as they should have so it wasn't going so well. We finally hit the 1K mark and we were one tight group. Guys that were out of position were trying to move up but I was not about to give up my wheel. At about 400m I noticed that no team was organized and everyone was looking around to see who was going to make the first big move. I was doing the same thing. No one went. I am a decent sprinter and have a handful of top 5's in mass sprints but have never won an all-out shootout for the finish. All my wins have come in breakaways and my sprints wins have been against just a few other guys. I saw the 200m mark coming up and still no one went. I made the split second decision that if no one took off by 200m I was just going to stick my nose out there and go for it. Here it comes. BAM!! I timed it perfectly and swung hard across the yellow line the second we had the full road. I was out of the saddle driving as hard as I could. At about 100m I was kind of waiting for guys start flying by me. I would still be able to get a top 5 or so, right? 50 meters and still out front. I started thinking about sitting up and throwing my hands in the air but I've seen a few guys do that only to get inched out at the line. That would not only suck but be embarrassing as well. I kept driving. Why is no one coming around me? 20m to go! I could now hear teammates screaming at the top of their lungs for me. Keep driving all the way to the line. Holy Shit!! I got this!! Now it's time to pump my fist. I sat up and coasted down the road with a big ass grin on my face. I had worked hard all day and it payed off. Mark rolled up beside me to congratulate me. I figured he must have finished right behind me. I then found out he was one of the many flat victims and watched the finish from the sidelines. He told me I finished going away and had a nice little gap. Wow!! I soon found out that Ryan(NWCC) who is lookin strong so far this year finished 2nd and Alex(Farestart), who told me he can't sprint, finished 3rd. He had been up front most of the day as well.

I'm guessing we had about eight flats in our race. 20 of the 60 in our field didn't finish. It was one of my best wins.

images by Denise Phillips and Kirsten Reed

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