to We got an email via WSBA about three weeks ago letting us know of this race down Oregin on June 16th in Oregon........Delete......I didn't feel the need to drive a million miles to somewhere in the middle of nowhere Oregon for a Sunday race. I think my teammmate Alex had was a little more curious than I was and actually looked at the flyer. It turned out that the race wasn't called the "Rainier Road Race" because they were jeleous of our mountain that is taller than any of theirs. In case you reside in one of those square(ish) flat states, Rainier at 14,411 (the highest) and Mt. Hood is only 11,235. They are both volcanoes so if Rainier blows one day it might help to even things out. Anyway, it actually turns out that the race is in the town of Rainier, OR, (still could be a jeleousy issue) which is just across the river from Longview and is actually not that far away. It looked like a good one on paper. It was a 19 mile loop with 730 ft. of climbing per lap. We opted for the Masters 35+ - Cat 2/3 field which was 64 miles. The weather forcast looked great and the only real issue was having to get up at 5:30am so we could make our 10:00am start time.
When we rolled into town it was actually overcast with temps hovering just over 60 degrees, not what we expected but perfect for racing. After about a 20 minute delay we rolled to the line for staging. The promoter was actually surprised by the size of the field based on the pre-reg numbers. We had 50+ guys and it looked like could be in for a good, hard race. We were warned of the narrow roads and bad pavement on the backside of the course before being let loose. We had six guys in the field (Me, Alex, Aaron, Ed, Matt and Dave) and were actually one of the biggest teams.
I had no idea about the layout of the course. The only info I had was from guys saying they pre-rode it and it was "hillier" than they thought. I kind of wanted to get a lap in order to get an idea of how long and hard (save the jokes) the climbs were and where the good areas to attack. I didn't have to worry about that because right off the bat Aaron and Ed got into a break with Michael(Veloce Racing). No one else tried to bridge and after a short time they got a 30 second gap. We, along with guys from the Veloce team moved to the front and set tempo. The group disapeard up the road and still, no one took interest. I guess they thought it was too early in the race and that they wouldn't survive. This gave me a good chance to get a lay of the land. There was one short climb followed by a fairly long grinder that gained about 500 feet. It was one I could stay in the big ring all the way up. We actually dropped a few guys on the first lap here. During the downhill/flat section on the back side we started seeing the "bad road" they were talking about. Jeezus...They had most of the hazards maked in bright, pink paint but they were all over the road and almost impossible to avoid. A couple of them were as big around a manhole covers. It was definitely benefitial to be near the front. Dave ended up flatting and after a bad wheel exchange was not able to get back on. Following that there was another good climb and a short "Wall" before the run to the finish. OK, nothing against whomever laid this course out but they didn't have nearly enough volunteers (possibly due to the length of the lap) at intersections and finish in my opinion was f'ing stupid. It was on a long downhill section that allowed us to get up to speed of almost 40mph before leveling off just before the finish. The road was super narrow and because of that and the speed they gave us the whole road from 1K out. A mass sprint finish could be insane.
At the start of lap two we had no idea how far up the road the break was but guys did start trying to attack to close them down. We were always right there to counter and nothing was able to get away. I had no warm up before the race and I think it was taking a while to get my legs. I was up at the front going up the long climb and at the top realized I wasn't feeling too good. I didn't have a warmup and after constantly countering the attacks I decided to drop back to mid pack and rest. On the back side of the course I realized that this wasn't the place be. With the narrow roads it was hard to move up.
At some point we noticed that Ed had come back to the field. I was worried that this meant the break wasn't far up the road but we finally got word that they had about a 1:30 gap. I settled in and just tried to get my legs during the rest of the lap. I had to work pretty hard to stay with the leaders going up the 2nd to last climb and was actually worried that I could get dropped at some point.
We found out sometime during lap three that the gap was over 2 minutes. I still couldn't believe no teams assembled their guys at the front to really work to chase them down. There were constant single attacks that went up the road but we, along with the Veloce gusy were easily able to bring them back. Sometime near the top of the long climb Matt attacked hard. No one went with him and he stayed out for quite a while. Guys started asking who the hell were these guys in the green helmets? After Matt came back Alex attacked, followed by Ed. This was started to get good.
We started the final lap and I was now feeling really good. I took a look back and we were a much smaller field. Individual guys kept attacking but there was no real effort by whole teams to do much. We weren't sure if these constant attacks were working or if Aaron and Michael were starting to tire but after getting over a two minute lead at some point it was now at about 1:45. We hit the long, steady climb for the last time and I moved to the front and set tempo. When were near the top I noticed that I had a gap. I decided to to attack but instead of jumping out of the saddle and going all out I just got in a bigger gear and just rolled further off the front. I looked back and no one responded. With a 100 meters to the top I got out of the saddle and jumped super hard. I didn't looked back. After I hammered it for about 30 seconds I noticed one guy jumped to bridge. A short time later I looked back and was super surprised that it was a guy from the Veloce team. Really, the pack just let two guys go that were from the same teams as the guys in the break up the road get away??? I didn't think we had much of a chance but what the hell. I put my head down and kicked it up a notch. For a while it seemed the pack held us at about a 30 second gap but before long we started to gain more time. I planned to go all in and either finish third or die trying. After about two full minutes of pulling I flicked my elbow but there was no responce. OK, I kepted going for another 30 seconds and flicked again. Still nothing. I looked back and asked him what he was doing. He told me he would get all kinds of crap if he helped get me up to the leaders. I quickly told him that they were our teammates and since no one came with us all we could do is help them. He did pull through but only for a short time. After another minute or so I tried to get him to come through again but he didn't. For some reason I had gone from wondering if I'd finish to feeling super human and just stayed up front and continued to push the pace. He pulled through again for short time and then told me that if we held off the pack he wouldn't contest for 3rd. (I found out later he was recovering from pneumonia and was doing all he could to help) I didn't care about catching the leaders and only wanted to hold off the pack to be able to get third and NOT have to be in a group sprint at the finish. I actually started pulling even harder when we hit the hills and was feeling even better. We still had about ten miles to go and I wasn't sure if we could pull this off but someone was going to have to really put in an effort to catch us.
A minute or so later the we noticed an officials car behind us. Nice, this meant we had a big enough gap to warrent them leaving the main field. He pulled up and told us we had over a minute gap and.......we were only 20 seconds behind the leaders.....What? Sure enough we came around the next bend and there they were. At this point all they knew was that two guys were bridging up to them. They had no idea it was their teammates to they started to pick up the pace. Scott (Veloce) realized that we now could actually help them keep the lead and he jumped to the front. We were not making up anymore ground. We had hammered it all the way up and now were just matching their speed. A minute or so later we saw them turn around and they finally realzied who we were. They sat up and waited. As soon as we joined them are speed went up 8 to 10 mph. That was soon verified when the official told us we had a 1:30 gap on the field that was increasing. There was one guy out in no man's land 45 seconds back but I knew he wouldn't be able to match our speed. We still had about 8K to go but I knew there was no way we would get caught. Scott told us he was toast and we let him sit on the back. I think Aaron was starting to feel the effort of going this hard for this long (I only had been doing it for a lap) and skipped a few pulls as well. Michael and I traded pull and I could tell he was still feeling good. We came to the 2nd to last climb and I got to the front and set tempo. I didn't go too hard but wanted to see how Michael was really feeling........Apparently good becasue he was right on my wheel. Aaron and Scott were right on us. We made it down the hill and after the sharp right hander we went up the short wall and into the downhill section I let all the way to the top and into the descent. Scott had dropped off so it was just the three of us I tried to get Michael to move by but he stayed right on my wheel.