A couple of riddles to get this going.
What do you get when you mix cold temperatures, driving rain and wind?
...... The 2011 Olympic View Road Race!
How many guys does it take to navigate to a race?
...... Apparently more than five!
I had been looking at weather reports all week and no matter what I looked at the results were the same......Yes, Cold, with 90% chance a rain with some wind sprinkled on top. I even saw a prediction of 1/4 inch or rain for the afternoon. So.....while most people were getting ready to settle couch to watch Paris-Roubaix or the Masters, Mark, Vern, Jordan, Wes(Yes, Wes!) and I piled into Mark's Suburban and made the trek down to Brady, WA. It was dry the whole down but as we headed West on Hwy 101 it started to rain. And then it started to rain harder. As we approached the junction of hwy. 101/108 Mark asked us which way to go and we all told him to stay on 101. About 10 miles later I noticed that something wasn't quite right and I pulled out the race flyer. Crap!! We went the wrong way! All five of us pulled out our phones, brought up nav apps and we quickly found a route through the meth capital of Washington and arrived in Brady less then an hour before the race.
We parked the car and headed over to register. We saw teammates that raced in the morning. We found out that Sarah won for the 2nd day in a row!! She is on fire! We also noticed that most of the racers looked miserable. Tina told me she so cold at the finish that she couldn't shift gears to sprint because her hands were so cold. It looked like well over a third of the morning racers DNF'd. Great, that's what we have to look forward to. We all took our time getting ready. I was pulling out gear I hadn't used since January. No one really wanted to get on the bike to warm up. By the time we finally did climb on the bikes we had about 15 minutes until our start. My warm up consisted of .6 miles of riding on a side road. We rolled to the staging area and huddled up with 40 other die hards. We had five and Bikesale and Olympic Ortho were also well represented. The course was an 18 mile loop with a few rollers. there was a short climb about 3K from the finish followed by a downhill that flowed into a 180 turn with that lead to a long 1.5K straightaway to the finish. We were warned by the official to be SUPER careful on the 180 degree turn.
We rolled out at 1:25 with all five of us lined up in the front. We were moving at a nice comfortable pace. No one came around us. We were content to just sit there away from the road spray from other wheels. I wanted to hold that pace for as long as possible to help make up for the lack of any kind of warm up. It was nice while it lasted. A few guys finally got bored and came to the front. They didn't attack but our paced increased dramatically. We approached the first short climb of the day and that is where the first attack was launched. Our team did a great job marking the attacks. Wes, who had been on the shelf for awhile, was looking great and was positioned up front on the climb and for most of the next two laps. By the time we neared the end of lap one we were still one big group. We came to the little kicker that is about 3K out from the finish and the pace was actually pretty fast. I think everyone, including me, wanted to be up front when we hit the downhill hairpin for the first time. I saw the left turn that led into the downhill section coming up and I sprinted up to Wes. I was sitting 2nd wheel behind Mike(I think) from Bikesale as we descended. We all came though the hairpin without issue. Before the long straightaway to the finish there was a little 'S' turn that transitioned onto the main road. I'm not sure what happened but Mike lost his rear wheel right in front of me and hit the deck. All I could do was grab the brakes, which didn't do much, and hope for the best. If it wasn't for the wet road I would have t-boned him and a pileup would have ensued. He continued to slide across the wet pavement and I was just barely able to slip by. My HR went through the roof!! Luckily no one else went down. I hope he is OK. We passed the finish line for the 1st time and I now realized that I was already completely soaked through. I was still warm so it was no big deal. I think I just weighed about 10 pounds more.
Lap two started the same as lap one. We were all together and no one attacked until the first climb. I was up near the front so I decided to hit it hard. When we started the descent I was out front with David(Olympic) and Robert(2nd Ascent). We started to develop a little gap. I was hoping that someone from Bikesale would bridge but that never happened. We started to work together and our lead started to grow. I knew my guys and Olympic would be working to disrupt the efforts to bring us back. There was a brief moment when I thought we might get away but we were finally brought back about 2/3 of the way though the lap. This is when things finally started getting REALLY interesting! As soon as we were brought back Mark attacked hard and flew off the front solo. I'm not sure if guys chose not to go with him or couldn't go with him. We still weren't half way through the race in these miserable conditions and the real race was finally beginning. Vern, Wes, Jordan and I moved to the front and marked any counters. Mark was still moving away. Could he do this solo? I was hoping so. It would have been nice if someone from Bikesale or Olympic tried to bridge but no one did. We came up to the climb before the downhill hairpin for the 2nd time and it was the same as before. Everyone went pretty hard to get up near the front. I was pretty sure there would be no crashes this time......Hopefully! Everyone moved through the turn at a nice, safe pace and we all came through clean.
As we started lap 3 Mark was still a good ways off the front. I thought there would be no serious attacks until we reached the first climb. That was not the case. Right after the finish we took a right onto a long straightaway. I think it was Nick(HB) and Ryan(NWCC) that jumped hard. Both of them are really strong and I knew they would be able to make some noise if they could join Mark. They quickly developed a gap. A few minutes later, Matt(Audi)Aaron(Garage), and David(Olympic) jumped. I was still surprised that no one from Bikesale attacked. Now there were three separate breaks up the road. A few guys came to the front and started to pick up the pace. Vern and I moved to the back of this acceleration and when it was my turn to pull I didn't slow down and just kept the same pace. I moved over to drop back and quickly noticed that no one was coming up on my right. I looked back and couldn't believe that I was about ten bike lengths off the front. WTF!! What to do? I decided to accelerate a little to see what would happen. Still, no one bridged. I accelerated a little more, still nothing. OK...... I jumped out of the saddle and attacked with everything I had. If anyone tried to bridge I was going to sit up. I didn't want to bring everyone back to Mark. To my surprise, no one did. I was free and clear. I had a ways to go to catch the 2nd chase group but I was going to go until I made it or blew up trying. I actually couldn't believe I was gaining on them so fast. It was super hard but eventually I joined them. I think by now Nick and Ryan had caught Mark. I was sitting on the back of this now 4 man chase group but wasn't about to do any work to help them get to Mark's group. If they made it, fine, I'd be able to help Mark out. If not then I was happy to just get gobbled back up by the rest of the field. We hit the first climb and we did finally join up with Mark, Ryan and Nick. I looked back and with all the road muck in my eyes I thought the whole field was coming up on us fast. When I looked back again I realized it was just one guy who was off the front going warp speed to catch us. I can't believe the field let two guys go solo like that. It turned out to be Jim(Olympic) and he was able to join on. Now we had eight guys with two Starbucks and two Olympic Ortho guys. Time to get organized and make this stick. I could tell Mark was a little gassed from his solo assault but I knew he would recover and stay with us. As soon as we started working together our gap started to grow. We still had 27+ miles to go but I knew we had the right group of guys to make this happen. The rest of lap three was great and even though we were not getting feedback on how we were doing I knew our lead was growing. Everything was looking good.
We started our final lap and I was still feeling super. I can't say that about everyone else. It was the first time that our pace line started to falter. Guys were missing rotations and the pace line kept getting disrupted. I didn't want to get caught after all this hard work. We yelled at each other a bit and finally regrouped. It was about this time that the conditions went from bad to downright shitty. With all the rain and road grit shooting up at my face I finally was unable to see. I decided that removing my glasses was the best option. During the next section we had a lot of trouble keeping our flow going. I figured we would not get caught but since we didn't have a clue where the pack was I didn't want to slow up. It was now becoming evident who was still looking strong. I could tell that Nick(HB), Matt(Olympic) and Aaron(Garage) still had good legs when they pulled through. Other guys were starting to miss pulls. They kept bouncing back and worked hard but I was starting to think that I didn't want to keep doing a ton of hard work just to pull guys guys from other teams to the finish just to have them blow by me at the end. We had two short climbs left and when we approached the first I decided to see who still had legs. I sprinted up hard and when we got to the top only Nick and Matt were on my wheel. We looked at each other and decided not to wait. We hit the gas and started rotating though. I looked down at my Garmin and saw we had 12 miles to go. If this didn't work, no big deal. We would still be able to slot back in with the other five. We quickly got a gap and started to pull away. It was hard as hell but I was going to stick with it even if the other two dropped. Two things kept popping into my head. Please don't flat like I did with 3K left in last week's road race. And......I was in this EXACT same position in last year's race and I blew up with 2K to go and was gobbled up by the pack. I was determined not to let that happen again. We were working really well together and before long I realized (w/out a mechanical or fried legs) I was at least going to finish third in this epic race. It was hard going but I was still feeling great.
We finally hit the last short climb of the day and I decided to hit it hard again. Nick joined me but Matt was unable to match our effort. It was a two man race. We worked hard together on the flat section on top and then both took it REALLY easy on the downhill. No one was going to catch us so there was no point in doing anything stupid. We came out of that section with no issues and kept working together up to the 1K mark. That is where we stopped being friends. Nick was actually the smart one and somehow got me to take the lead. I couldn't get him to come around me. I slowed way down and started to serpentine across the road. This must have been a sight for everyone at the finish. This kept going until about 350m out when Nick jumped. He went hard and got a little gap. Crap! Don't give up!! I didn't think I was going to be able to grab his wheel but somehow I did. Dammit, my momentum carried me right by him. With 300m to go I was back on front. I thought he had me for sure. I started to slow and serpentine across the road again, waiting for him to jump. He stayed patient and it was driving me crazy. The 200m mark came up and I decided the only chance I had was to make my move and hope for the best. I slowly moved into a big gear and took off. I was positive that he was going to fly by me but to my surprise he didn't! Holy Shit! I just took this!! I pumped my fist and slowed up to congratulate Nick. He worked really hard and we had a great battle. I soon found out that Matt held on for third and Mark came on strong to take 4th.
My teammates did a great job and it was a great finish to an epic race. It looked like over a 1/3 of the afternoon racers didn't finish. Within minutes after the finish my body started to kick me. I immediately lost feeling in my fingers and toes and I started to shake violently. I needed to get inside and change out of my rain soaked kit. It took quite a while to get warmed up. It was the hardest battle I've fought so far this year. My legs still hurt.