What has two thumbs and was totally jacked about this race?.....................................................
Why? I won it last year as a Cat 3, we had a strong squad showing up and the weather was going to be stellar. What's not to like? It was dry and about 60 degrees when we arrived in Rochester at 12:15. I always call this the first "real" race of the season. Not that any of the previous races are easy (read my last blog) but this is the first race where we find out who's got their climbing legs on. There are two notable climbs on the 20 mile loop. The first climb, Michigan Hill Rd., which is not far from the start, can rip fields apart on the first lap. Then you get to climb it several more times!!! OUCH!
This week I lined up beside Nikos, Steve, Kevin, Tom, Neil and Mike. Once again Audi also had good numbers so we would be keeping a close eye on them. Our plan was to keep the pressure on and hopefully get one or two guys in an early break. I could hear guys from other teams joking loudly about marking my wheel and things like that. I was hoping that would allow one of my teammates to be able to sneak off the front.
We rode neutral for the first couple of miles and once we were set free a couple of guys tried to accelerate off the front with no success. I think everyone was really waiting to see what would develop during the first climb up Michigan Hill. I was experiencing muscle spasms in my right quad all morning and was a little worried that the first climb up would be my last. I stayed hydrated during the drive down and stretched as much as I could but I was still feeling a little "twinge" during quick accelerations. I would find out how things would pan out soon enough.
The pace was pretty tame at the base of the climb and for a minute I thought we would mosey our way all the way up. Nope! A couple of my teammates started it off and it was game on from there. It wasn't an all out assault but it did string out the field. All our guys got near the front by the time we reached crested I noticed that we had already dropped a several guys. Some were able to catch back on as we regrouped on the flats. A moment later my teammate Steve along with Brent(Audi) jumped hard. I was surprised that guys from other teams didn't react. Having a Garage and Audi guy up the road would be the perfect situation for guys on smaller teams. Before the gap got too big Ian (NWCC) jumped off the front and put in a huge effort to bridge up. After making contact the three of them slowly disappeared up the road. All was good.
Things went well during the rest of the lap. Greg and Ryan (Farestart) and Robert (Olympia Ortho) often came to the front to try to drive the pace but they were quickly shut down. We made it through the backstretch and when we arrived at the 2nd climb we pushed the pace up the hill to see what would happen. Anyone who fell off was able to jump back on during the long downhill section. I think the three leaders had 1:15 gap as we started lap two. After hitting the next flat section we slowed to somewhat of a "conversational" pace and discussed things that included which houses we thought might be providing all the meth for Thurston County.
When we started lap two I could tell that Farestart was getting anxious.
Greg and Ryan kept coming to the front to push the pace prior to getting to Michigan Hill. We reached the climb all together and again started up at a comfortable pace. It wasn't long before Ryan decided to mix things up and jumped hard out of the saddle. Nikos and Kevin responded quickly. I looked back and saw I had a gap so I hit the gas to hook up with my teammmates. Before reaching the top I took a quick look back and saw the rest of the group had finally responded. I could see that Tom, Neil and David were right with them. As we got near the summit they were starting to close on us. I decided the best thing to do was to sit up and not drag everyone up to Nikos and Neil. We dropped a few more guys on the climb but the rest of the guys were able to hook back on to my wheel on the downhill section. We regrouped on the flats but Kevin, Nikos and Ryan had now formed a 2nd break up the road. Now we had the potential to have three guys in the break. We worked hard to control the pace for the duration of the lap.We started lap three with information that the break was 4:00 minutes up the road! It looked like they were safe but we had idea how things were actually panning out. Did Nikos, Kevin and Ryan turn it into a single six man break? Did anyone make a move to go solo off the front? Our group rolled slowly up to the base of Michigan but as soon as we started the climb the gloves came off. We knew the break probably wouldn't loose four minutes to us so it was time to start racing again. Neil went to the front and set a mean pace. Tom, David and I followed and by the time we started down hill we had dropped everyone but Matt (Audi) and Greg (Farestart).
There were some good sprinters tyring to chase back on so we quickly got organized and were soon working a perfect TTT on the flats. We made are way up towards the 2nd climb and as we rounded one of the turns we could see two red kits up the road. Tom quickly told us to shut it down. I knew we were flying but no way did we make up four minutes. The break had to be further up the road. What confused us was that they had an Old Town guy with them and none of them were racing in our field. Was it the back of the Cat 3 field? We realized that our break had to be up the road but we decided to just keep a steady pace and let someone else do the work if they wanted to. After the downhill section I could see that they were looking back at us and still pushing hard. Guys dropped from other fields wouldn't give a shit. It had to be our guys. Pretty soon Greg and Matt came to the front and started to really push the pace.
With about 4K to Tom rolled up to me told me to drop to the back with him. We probably had the best chance of winning the field sprint so were were going to stop working. Neil and David started taking turns slowly accelerating off the front. If Greg or Matt didn't give chase then they would be able to escape up the road. Each time after a small gap developed Greg or Matt would finally give chase. Finally with under 1K to go I think Greg had enough and just went to the front and really pushed it. Things were looking good for us. With just over 200m to go we made our move. I took the field sprint with Tom and David right behind.
We soon found out that Steve had dropped off from the initial break during the last climb up Michigan. Ian attacked and won the thing going solo. Brent easily held on for 2nd. Steve later joined Nikos, Kevin and Ryan for a while. Eventually Nikos and Ryan went up the road and manged to hold the rest of the field off by about 30 seconds. Steve and Kevin were the guys we saw just up the road and fortunately they were able to hold on for 5th and 6th. Our team had a great race putting six guys in the top 10. A fun time was had.
photos 2,3,5 by Denise Phillips
photo # 4 by $%**___Q