A couple of months ago we saw info that the crit and road courses would be the 2013 Masters State Championship races I started looking for something else to do that weekend. Without going into much details I will just say that was not a huge fan of the crit and road courses. Some will tell you they love both of them. "The crit is fast and dangerous!" I don't mind that. I love crits. I just never liked racing in that alley with crappy pavement and lighting. The road race is epic and usually is raced in temps around 90 degrees. I've always lost contact with the pure climbers five miles into the race. I think a few years ago I rode the last 40 miles solo, thinking I'd finished around 30th only to be surprised that I finished 7th. So many guys went out super hard only to quit before starting up the climb again. I wasn't sure if I'd make the trip or not.
That all changed when I found out that both the crit and road courses were going to be changed....."I'm listening!" The crit course was moved up a block and it looked like the front and backstretches were a little longer. The overall road surface was better and instead of a downhill corner 2 we had a downhill corner 4. The road race was wiped off the map and moved over to the town of Waterville on the other side of the river, high up on the plateau. It was stated to have NO long, sustained, steep climbs. They said there would be a lot of rolling terrain and that the wind and heat would be our biggest enemies. OK, sign me up!
Denise, the dog and I loaded up and headed over to Leavenworth Friday night for a little relaxation. The weather and scenery were incredible and we had a great time. The temps for the weekend looked like they could rise to near 90 degrees. That could be a factor for the West side crew.....as usual.
Day 1: Time Trial:
Skipped it. It wasn't part of the Masters State Championships for some reason and I decided I'd rather sleep in than battle the wind. Oh...I can come into the crit with fresh legs. :)
Day 1: Criterium:
My big complaint leading up to the crit was that it was only 30 minutes. I know they had to make adjustments to get all the races in (Pro/1/2 race was at 8:50PM) but 30 minutes for a higher category state championship race seemed like a joke. We were also racing at 4:15 which was the hottest, windiest time of the day......hydrate or die!!
I was able to get in a couple of laps on the course before our race. Seany Like!! Just like in previous years we were racing the course clockwise. The Start/Finish was on the lower side of the course so the uphill section was after corner 1 instead of corner 3. That meant that the finish was after going downhill through corner three. With the wind at our backs the finish was going to be insanely fast.
We had a talented field that included our local sprint freaks and guys from Montana, Oregon and Canada. There were only three from Garage lined up (me, Kevin and Mike B.) With primes, and a 30 minute race were were going to be in for a barn burner. Here we go!
Right from the start Matt(Montana Velo) took off hard and got things going. He was out for a lap or two before Brad(HSP) and Paul(Veloce Racing) decided he needed to be brought back. After they pulled for a while I jumped to the front and put in the final effort to bring him back. After that there were a lot of individual attacks that really kept the group strung out. Anytime there was the slightly lag, Brad jumped to the front and forced guys to feel the pain. Midway through the race I started noticing that Audi and Tete de la Course (aka the Frenchies) were doing a lot of talking. Rob(Audi) was sitting 2nd in the Omnium and I knew wanted this to end in a mass sprint. Gary(Tete de la Course) has been on his game (won the crit at Walla Walla) and I knew they would be trying to set him up. Mike was doing a great job covering attacks and before I knew it we saw the timer shut down and 6 laps to go on the board.....Time go. I pushed super hard through corner one and made my way to the front. I knew that if you would have no chance if you didn't come through corner 4 up front. I think Paul attacked and the surge was a little painful. I had to work really hard to stay up front. The next four laps seemed brutally hard and we were strung out in one long line. I was sitting right where I wanted when we got the bell for the final lap. When we started the climb between corners 1 and 2 I thought I was done but everyone else must have been feeling it as well because no one came around me. As we neared corner 3 I was sitting 3rd wheel when Jeff(Oly Ortho) jumped hard. I went to respond but I think it was Nathan(Tete de la Course) that jumped first. Jeff had a small gap but I felt I was sitting pretty when Nathan sat up and I was left to hang in the wind. Shit!! This is a long as finish. I had no other choice but to put my head down and go. I had no idea who was on my wheel. With about 50 meters to go I realized I was not going to get Jeff but 2nd was looking good. Little did I know that super sprinters Rob and Gary were on my ass and they literally got me at the line.......Normally finishing 4th behind guys like that would have me smiling but finishing one place out of medal contention totally sucked. I got over it during dinner. Jeff deserved that win by taking a huge chance and jumping like that. No guts, no glory!!
Day 2 - Waterville Road Race:
We picked up Erik Anderson on our way out of the campground and made the 20 mile trek up to Waterville. It was going to be hot, windy and hot...Yes, I said that twice! Guys from the morning races who did 48 miles looked haggard. Most said that it was a much harder race than they anticipated. Great, I'm getting ready to do 82 miles in what seemed to now be hotter and windier conditions. Would the hills be longer and steeper too? They combined our field with the 35+ guys so we had a pretty good sized crowd. This road race was the time this year that the tables were turned on us. We only had four lining up (Me, Kevin, Ed and Mike B.) Audi had 9 or 10, Bikesale had about 8 and Tete de la Course good numbers as well. If Audi and Bikesale started throwing people off the front early and often things could get messy.
Rob(Audi) was sitting first overall in the omnium and he was corralling his troops. He mainly just sent guys up the road to cover early attacks. Brad(HSP) and Matt(Montana Velo) were active early, keeping the pace high. I made up my mind early that I was going to go all or nothing today. I was either going to get a medal or I was going to die trying. A couple of early breaks got gaps and I had no problem jumping on to help pull them back. I wasn't sure how long I could keep that up but I wanted to have one of us in any break attempt. About five miles in Brad attacked hard and got a nice little gap. I waited to see if anyone would follow suit but no one did. He stayed out there for a bit but was finally brought back. I jumped to cover another break that had about 5 guys in it and after that prayed that no one would jump for a bit. That's when things got interesting.
I think we were just 10 miles in when Joe(Frenchies) jumped hard and got a gap. No problem, let him suffer out there for a while. Then David(Bikesale) bridged up. Still, no problem. Then Rob told Doug(Audi) to go cover the attack....Big problem! Now we had the three biggest/strongest teams represented. This could suck. I made a split second decision to bolt. I jumped super hard and no one followed. I was actually hoping that Brad would go with me but he didn't. It took some work but I managed to get on Doug's wheel and we motored up to David and Joe. Joe took control and got us organized. At first we took super hard, short pulls and once we got a nice gap we started forming an echelon pace line to minimize our time in the wind. We were on these super long, straight, rolling roads and at times we could see miles back. We were not getting any info from are follow cars so it was hard to judge how big of a lead we had. It didn't matter, we just kept grinding. I was pretty amped. I was with strong guys from the right teams and the legs felt good. It would be hard for a group to get off the front to chase us. Oh shit!.....We have to do this for 70 more miles. This was getting real.
When we were about 30 miles in Doug started skipping pulls. We didn't let him drop because he was super valuable to us. If he fell back to the pack Audi would put all their guys up front and chase hard. A while later David started skipping a pull here and there as well. When they did come back up to pull they worked their asses off.. Joe was riding super strong and at the moment so was I. We did the brunt of the work and we finally got word that we had over a two minute gap. Sweet!! It motivated us but we just tried to ride tempo at this point. I felt I was hydrating perfectly but was craving the feed zone for some more fuel. The other guys had bottles in one of our follow cars but no one was behind us. They were getting a little worried as we neared the feed zone. I think the car finally joined us after our lead grew to around three minutes. They all got their bottles and a few minutes later my awesome feed zone wife handed me mine. All was good.
I was now starting to feel that we might actually pull this off. We were just over half way through the race and the pack was not digging into our lead. That was about to change. We drove past the start/finish area and started on the short course. We went up the first hill in the headwind (the hill did seem a lot bigger this time) and Doug finally fell off. He said he would race until he was caught. Crap, It was only a matter of time before we would start getting chased down like criminals. We kept a steady pace and with about 20 to go I started to falter for the first time. We reached another short climb and this time I was not able to stay on Joe's wheel. He could have dropped us but he still needed us for a while. He slowed up and we regrouped. I recovered and started going hard again. I was about to enter the pain cave!!
The next several miles were hell. My legs felt good but for the first in a road race my lower back started to aggravate me. I tried stretching and then got out of the saddle. Nothing really helped. I kept eating and drinking, hoping the pain would magically disappear. Was someone in the field carrying a Voodoo doll? Then, for the first time since our break started we got word that there about seven guys had separated from the main field and were charging hard. We still had about a 2 minute gap. I still felt if we could make it a few more miles we could pull this off. A few minutes later we were told that our lead was down to 1:40, then 1:00 and finally under a minute. We finally turned around and could see them coming. I was both pissed and relieved at the same time.
Joe decided to lift the pace one more time. I jumped out of saddle but the stabbing pain in my lower back said NO! I looked over at David and told him I had nothing left and he said the same back to me. Time to hang my head and try to jump on the back of this fast moving chase group. We sat up and waited for their arrival. When they flew by both of us had no trouble hitching a ride. We got a lot of "nice work" and "that was insane" by the guys but it didn't put the wind back in my sails. I was going to just sit in, do no work hope to have a little something left for the finish. Joe managed to hold a one minute gap and I was kind of hoping he would pull it off. For the first time in 60 hellish miles I was able to sit in and take a breather. I actually started to feel better again. I was battered but the next five miles seemed super easy. And then.....depression set in.
Finally, Matt decided that if we didn't go now, Joe was going to solo in for the victory. He jumped and we all followed. After about 1/2 mile of hard pedaling I felt that sharp pain in my back again. we reached a short kicker and when I jumped out of the saddle I had to shut it down. I tried stretching for a few seconds and then gunned it to catch back on. Shit, my legs felt good but I just couldn't do it. It was a horrible feeling. I had worked so hard for so long and now I was going to fall off and get left for the vultures. The group slowly disappeared up the road and I was no on my one with no one else in site. I hung my head started to soft pedal. The pain was now constant and I looked back to see if any cars were coming that could hall my sorry ass back to town. I was f'ing done!! I didn't want to finish anymore. There was no one in site and I still had about five miles to go. I hit another small kicker and tried to get out of the saddle to drag myself over but couldn't. I had to dismount my bike. I was standing on the side of the road when the main pack came by. They all asked if I was OK and I waved them on. I jumped back on the bike and started pedaling again. It felt better than to just stand in the heat. Finally I saw some cars coming up they road. Both of them were associated with the race but had no room for me. Mother F8#ker!! I kept pedaling and finally saw two guys from Audi coming up the road. I slowed up and when they arrived I saw it was Doug, who had been in the break with me and Bob. They basically babysat me the rest of the way in...Thanks guys!! It was the longest 5K of my life. . I don't remember crossing the line but I guess I did. I figured I would be listed as DNF but somehow came in 22nd. In the span of about 15 miles I went from being three minutes up the road to thirteen minutes back.
I had trouble getting off my bike after finishing and couldn't sit for a few minutes. I had trouble walking and could barely get out of my kit. My legs were feeling OK but I've never felt this shitty after a race. I didn't feel too bad about it. I told myself I was going to go "All or nothing" and that is what I did. Of course, I was hoping for the "All" part of that statement. Great job to Joe who managed to still finish 4th in the race. Well, there's another race next weekend and I'll be ready to wage war again.