What a difference a week makes. Training had gone well and even though my hip was still hurting a little it was feeling a lot better. I had planned on racing in the Pro/1/2 field but was still worried about my hip and most the of my teammates were opting for the Masters 35+ race. On top of that the weather was supposed to be shitty again and I'd rather suffer through it with teammates then on my own. We crammed six guys and gear into my RV and drove the two hours to Homer Simpson's stomping grounds in the pouring rain. This week my warm up consisted of pumping up my tires and riding to the start a few minutes before the race. We didn't have a huge field but there was a lot of talent lined up. We really wanted to make up for our lackluster performance at IVRR and planned to attack like hell right from the start. The Vance Creek course is mostly flat and finishes on a long, gradual climb. We were doing five laps for a total of 66 miles.
It wasn't raining too hard at the start but that would change soon. The course starts off going downhill and after we took the right hand corner at the bottom of the initial descent we started to attack. We took turns attacking and realized the field was up for the challenge. After the super fast start we took the turn onto the narrow farm road. The first thing I noticed was the big stream of liquefied shit that a farmer was shooting out over his field right next to the road. I tried to remember to keep my mouth closed.
At the start we were told, like we do every year, that we are to treat this narrow road like there is a yellow line and not to cross it. I think everyone was a little nervous about missing out on a break and guys were moving out over the imaginary yellow line to move up. Pretty soon we were stretched out across the full road and not making any attempts to move back to the right. We attacking and I think it was Nikos who took off and got a gap. a short time later our lead car motioned at us to slow down and then made an abrupt stop right in front of Nikos......WTF??? I thought Nikos was going to fly right into his bumper. He got out of his car and told us the official wanted to talk to us. We got a stern lecture about staying to the right. He even threatened to DQ all of us and cancel the race. We all apologized except one person who felt the need to argue. I'm not sure why since the reason they had to stop us was because the official had no room to drive his car up next to us. After a couple of minutes this we were back to racing. We kept attacking and the pack kept bringing us back. I had gone a couple of times and so far I felt pretty good. I was actually worried about the pain coming back on the climb but I did a lot of climbing on training rides over the week and felt no pain.
When we reached the base of the climb for the first time we were all together. We were rolling up at a nice clip and I had no problem moving up to the front. No one tried to attack so about half way up I decided to give it a go. I shot off the front hard and didn't look back until I crossed the finish line. I took a look back and saw that along with my teammate Aaron (I'll call him Good Aaron since he is on my teem and the other Bad Aaron since he's not, just to make it easy), Joe(Tete de la Course), Anthony(Audi) and Aaron(Rocket) had all jumped on. Except for Bad Aaron we all had teammates in the pack that would help to discourage other from trying to bring us back. We dangled off the front with about a 30 second gap for a while before we started to slowly drift away.
The five of us were working really well together and I was already getting the feeling that this could be THE break to be in. We reached the climb for the 2nd time and I still wasn't comfortable with our lead and felt we were going to slow. I moved to the front and set tempo and let the whole way up. What a difference a week makes. Last week I was struggling to just hang on and now I was setting the pace.
We were told we had over a minute on the field so now it was time to make sure it stuck. Over the next couple of laps it was pretty much status quo......except that by now it was raining about as hard as it possibly could. Thank God I decided to wear the Gabba jersey. I'm not sure what it was but we were seeing tons of guys from other fields just standing on the side of the road with flats. I kid you not, there were tons. I looked back and saw our wheel car was no where to be seen and was praying I wouldn't suffer the same fate.
By the time we hit the climb for the 4th time we were told we had well over a two minute gap with two laps to go. Baring some major incident I knew it was our race to win. We definitely had the advantage of having two from out team in the break. I started to think about when Good Aaron and I should start attacking these guys. I been with Joe in a number of breaks and I knew he would work his ass off until the end. Anthony was riding super strong and I knew that if we brought Bad Aaron to the line with us he could out sprint all of us. I asked Good Aaron how he was doing and he told me his legs were starting to feel it. I looked at everyone else and no one was showing signs of weakness. I decided that I was going to punch it up the climb to see what would happen. When we started back down I was that the wrong Aaron and Joe were still on my wheel. Good Aaron and Anthony had fallen off. I thought about sitting up for a sec but then decided to gun it. We flew down the hill at 45 mpg in the pouring rain, taking a few risks along the way. Joe and I took turns at the front and before long we reached the shit water farm road for the last time. We started back into our rotation but Bad Aaron started skipping pulls. I had been warm all day but I started to notice that I was starting to lose feeling in my fingers. Now I just wanted to hurry up and finish this thing. I didn't care if Aaron pulled through or not. I just stayed out front and waited for Joe to relieve me. When Aaron would finally pull through he only stayed on the front long enough to drop back.
We hadn't received any intel on our lead for quite a while so when we took the right turn off of the farm road I took a look back to see if anyone was closing. No was there so I knew this was it. As we made our way towards the climb the games began and the two of them had no problems letting me sit on the front. I was still feeling good so I didn't care. I started wondering about how this was going to play out. I knew Aaron was just going to sit on and wait until the last possible second to make his move. I was waiting for Joe to come shooting by. We reached a little riser with about 2 miles to go and I decided to jump out of the saddle just to see what would happen. Both of them were right on me. I sat up in hopes of at least one of them would take the lead but that didn't happen. I saw the climb coming up and decided to wait until the 1K mark to do anything. Right about that time Joe attacked hard Aaron was quick to jump on his wheel and I was finally able to get on the back. Joe slowed way down and we were crawling. I somehow found myself back on the front. We had just under 1K to go and I decided that I was going to go all in. I didn't want to play games anymore. Worst case scenario is that I blow up classically and end up third. I had stayed in my big ring and was ready to unload. I put my head down and dug super hard. after about 10 seconds or so I took a quick look under my shoulder and was super surprised to see that Joe had cracked! Aaron was still right on my wheel. I eased up for a second. If I took Aaron to the top of the climb I knew he would just sit on my wheel and blow by me with about 50m to go. I wasn't going to lose it like that. I put in another attack and this time put myself into the hurt locker. After about another 10 seconds I took another quick look and HELL YEAH!!! Aaron was gone. Even though my lungs were about to explode I think I managed to giggle out loud. I kept going hard until I had about 100 meters to go and then sat up and enjoyed the win. I was going to win or lose it on my terms and I was super glad that it was for the win. This totally made up for last week's race.