This was the second installment of the three-part Hunter-Greene race. Having not raced the spring version, I felt like I was at a bit of a disadvantage. I didn’t know the course or the climbs, and had only a rough course profile as my guide.
I realized shortly after arriving that the start line was more than two miles from registration. I hadn’t factored the extra time needed to ride there into my schedule, so I rode at close to TT effort to get myself to the start in time. Not the warmup I had in mind for the day’s 75-mile course, which was no warmup at all.
When I finally arrived at the start, I took a few deep breaths and turned my attention toward racing. The start was a neutral roll out down the finishing climb, and that was doubly helpful in that I got a chance to feel out the finish, albeit in reverse, and take a little more time to calm the rushed nerves. Both tasks were somewhat sabotaged, though, by the insane potholes littering the descent.
When we finally cleared the minefield and started racing on the flat, the field rode at a conservative, almost casual pace. I had no interest in riding at the front, so I chilled out in the back and tried to keep the real start of my race from happening as long as possible. Eventually some half-hearted attacks started to go off the front, but very few riders had more than a couple teammates, so everything was getting reeled back in pretty quickly.
About 30 miles in or so, a more promising attack of four riders rode off the front. The body language of the riders in the attack communicated an urgency that was not at all met by the small peloton, and I started to sweat a bit, both literally and figuratively. I decided I would put in a strong pull to energize the group and speed up the rate of catching the break, but that turned into me riding straight off the front. Partially out of frustration and partially out of a belief that this first half break could actually stay away to the final climb, I bridged up to the break. I joined the rotation and took a few turns, but before long the field was showing an appropriate level of panic about letting an even larger breakaway off the front.
We were reeled back in, and I was mentally kicking myself for using up so much energy. I rode the rest of the race determined not to use any unnecessary energy. When the first climb came along, everyone seemed pretty content to get over it without any major fireworks. This is more or less how the second half of the race played out, with the exception of only a couple riders eventually breaking away in a two-man group.
I was worried the group could stay away after watching the seconds between us and them steadily increase, so I did my part to try to make sure they didn’t get too much time on us before the climb, banking on both riders cracking on the climb if they did manage to beat us to it. I was visually and orally frustrated with my fellow racers as we all tried to pretend to put in work while not really doing anything to bring the break back. Luckily there were still a lot of miles left in the road.
When the second climb came around, only 10 miles or so from the finish, I picked up the pace and separated from the group with another rider. We let the field catch back up while we recovered and the pace seemed to pick up a bit, fortunately. Unfortunately, I realized I had to pee…pretty badly. The idea of holding it for another half hour as well as carrying it up the entire climb was enough to convince myself that I should slink away to the back and try to get rid of it on the road.
This was one of the more uncomfortable moments on a bike for me as I tried to relax and let nature take its course. Some sweet old grandmother was forced to watch what she could only hope was a spare water bottle pour over the side of my bike as I tried to keep up with the group on a slight downhill. Eventually the ordeal was over for both of us, and I rejoined the group feeling lighter and with a strange sense of personal accomplishment.
At this point, there wasn’t much time left before the final climb, so I moved quickly through the pack toward the front so that I wouldn’t be caught on the climb behind heavier riders going backward. One of two breakaway riders were caught before we reached the climb, which was promising. When the real climbing started, I saw a “1km to go” sign and started to think that my non-pure-climber body might actually have a chance if the pace didn’t get out of control.
A few hundred meters later, we saw the final breakaway rider and the pace vehicle. Adrenaline started rushing as I knew I was racing for first place and the State Championship again. I rode in second wheel waiting to go with any attacks that might come around the outside. The meters counted down from 500 all the way to 100 without any change in pace and no attacks from other riders. I knew I had to attack before it was too late. With 100 to go, I got out of the saddle and gave it everything I had. I either caught him by surprise or he didn’t have anything left, because the rider in front of me didn’t put up much of a fight. I rode across the line well clear of the field. I could hardly believe that I just won the Category 3 State Championship!
This was an awesome way to end my racing block before going on vacation to see friends and family over the 4th of July week. I definitely couldn’t have done it without the support of my BOLD Racing Team, getting me out of bed at ungodly hours to train in the park, joining me at races, and keeping a super positive attitude. I also want to shout to EnduranceWerx for designing an excellent training plan that took into account the team’s abilities, available time, and racing focus. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and working toward the next big race.
Chris Young – Cat 3 Road Racer