Sunday, July 13, 2008

Shreve Cycling Classic Race

Sunny, hot, humid weather met us at the good Doctor Schmidt's Shreve Challenge Race. A not so well attended, but super well run race last year. This year was a turnaround with more racers then volunteers and even the Cat2/3 race was 25 or more.

I'll tell you right now the rolling, twisting course is awesome with a variety of corners, some super fast sweepers, some slow 90 degree bends and even a 180 with a sharp little elevation drop right at the apex. I loved the course, just loved it!! And it was deceptively tough with headwinds and high heat added to the mix. Police escort the whole race added tot the professional feel.

Team Columbus (Tris Hopkins, Brian Batke and myself) and the rest of the fast field had a neutral start leading us to the official start when COBC's Andys Burns strung us out. Judging at how well warmed up he looked on the start line vs how little time I got to warm up I should have known it was coming (hes real strong). After the start finish hill which is a little more steep than a false flat with a kick at the end you went down hill a bit to a slow left hander corner and up the longest, steeper climb that finishes with a slight dip and a finish kick on Cemetery road.

My team mate Brian Batke decided what the heck and kept the pressure on all the way up the hill. This move immediately drew out John Lowry of Stark Velo and Matt Weeks. Not too long after that Shawn Adams went to bridge to Matt and Brian and that move drew out Tris who went in his usual style, really hard. This left some Team Lake effects in the group to block as well as myself. I was right on the front when Andy;s Burns went with his COBC team mate Josh Halvex and a rider from Saturn of Dayton.

Talk about conflicted, on one hand I could cruise for the next 43 miles of the 45 mile race, but once Halvex, Burns had gone up the road, believe it or not only a few miles into the race, the race was basically over for everyone else in the field.

So after a few moments of looking around at the pack that I am sure were thinking "this is too early" while also in utter disbelief were also thinking, oh shit, the race is over, I finally decided I had better get up there and I too took off and I came darn close to hitting my max HR in the bridge move and that was about the last time I looked at HR the rest of the race. No one else went with me which really surprised me AND made bridging to 3 really strong guys solo even harder.

Once I finally attached to the second group chasing on the road, Burns, Halvex, Saturn seemed content to let me take a free ride. Burns was taking these huge long pulls and if I ended up in front I pulled through and off. But once we hit the steep short climb on Shreve Eastern road we were so close so I gambled and I took off and punched it up the climb so we could attach shortly after the top. I felt bad bringing up two strong sprinters and 4 more bodies to the break, but they were gonna make it anyways, I just quickened up the process to just get up there and relax.

So the winning break came together at mile 5 of lap one and we were all pretty gassed already. We were Team Columbus (Tris, Brian and I), Matt Weeks and Shawn Adams of Team Lake Effect, Andys Burns and Josh Halvex of Raisin Rack-COBC and John Lowry representing for Stark Velo. and Saturn guy.

We kept the pressure on and small attacks meant to feel out the group occurred throughout the next two laps. The Saturn guy sadly got yelled at so many times, but he was strong. Eventually Burns and Lowry dropped form the break so we were seven strong.

I was letting Tris and Brian make the moves on lap one and two, more because I was feeling pretty tired than a tactical reason. I went with an attack by Josh, but when I caught him he sat up. We had a gap, but Josh said he was just feeling out who was strong. I expected a hard counter when we got caught soon after, but there really wasnt one.

ON lap three Tris threw down a hard attack at the top of the long hill and no one went with him or could. But Brian and I got to roll around and let the other teams chase. On laps 2 and 3 at least we climbed behind Brian who was setting the pace on the longer or steeper climb on Eastern Shreve. The climbs were really putting the burn on the legs too.

On lap 4 we were still 7 strong and with Tris safely back in the field I upped the pace over the start finish hill and held a small gap through the left hander and started the hill at what I hoped would be a tougher still pace. About ot the top I looked down to see I was maintaining 11.5 mph at the top, faster then the previous laps and I did finish the hill solo with a little gap. I pressed on hard, not hoping for any personal glory, but to draw out a rider from another team with one of my team mates getting a free ride and splitting the group yet again.

I think Shawn took off to try and solo to me. That would have been great for him because he would annihilate me in the sprint. But what ended up happening was Shawn started to come across, Brian went after which was ideal, but then everyone attached and I was caught on the downhill chip and seal road.

We came around with some relief to take the bell lap, but this time a new break had formed and really just as we had hoped pre-race. That was that we wanted to put Tris in the best position we could to win. He rode pretty aggressive all race, but he still had the legs to get away only with Matt Weeks.

We all sat up as we were all happy about the situation. Josh had to inform the Saturn guy to stop pulling because Matt and Tris were not coming back because Brian, myself and Shawn were gonna sit on those two. We slowed so much that I guess we might have been caught by Rudy Sroka who had soloed off of what remained of the group behind us.

As we rolled down Eastern Shreve again I talked to Brian briefly about the situation and whom we thought would win the sprint for third and without saying a word about what we were about to do, we just knew. We had slowed dramatically to let Matt and Tris go away and they were now gone. We rolled down to the steep short hill on Eastern Shreve and I drilled it, but I was pretty much in immediate pain as every muscle in my upper legs were cramping up the climb. I had electrolytes, plenty of water, etc. But Shawn was suffering the same issues too. YOu should heard him yelling for a bottle of water on the last lap. I cannot explain what I did, but I did something to get through it ( like a change in cadence or lightening up on the pedals each stroke to alleviate the cramps) and kept up the pace to make it hard for everyone.

Like clockwork as soon as I got caught Brian attacked and I darn nearly didnt attach. I was almost cool with that, but I dug deep and barely caught Josh's wheel as they rocketed past. After Brian got caught I knew I was supposed to go again, but I was still in fear of another series of cramps so I tried to hand signal Brian that I was cramping, but instead we rolled down to the end of Force road where you do a 90 left and a 90 right. I again pedaled just hard enough to get a small gap, but not attack.

I got to the corner and went in hot, leaned the bike, stuck out my knee and when I came out of the corner I stood up and gave it everything I had. I next got to the 90 deg right onto Shreve Eastern (going west) and wash, rinse and repeat. I thought of the words of Bernard Hinault about not looking back every 10 seconds when attacking, just go all out. Well, I did look back a couple of times and I could see them casually riding side by side. I kept it up into town where you do the left around the red helmet (covering a pot hole), right and then the final left where you get to see the finish hill.

All through the attack I was dying. I was in so much pain, but there was that level of pure amazement and joy that "this is gonna work". I am soloing in for third place with a team mate up the road!! It was very apparent when on S Wells street that I had an enormous gap, but I still tried to ride hard (if not very fast) till I got close to the finish line when I just sat-up and enjoyed the moment.

In the end Team Columbus didnt win the race for Tris, but we did take 2nd, 3rd and 5th. More importantly we had another solid team race where we all contributed to the teams success while also all riding at different times to insure personal success.

I wondered why they let me go at the end like they did. Josh said he wasnt going to chase me because I worked too hard in the race. I am glad for that respect but I think more than anything, if they had successfully chased me down, guess what, Brian would have immediately attacked. And thats some good team work. Congrats to Matt on a hard earned win in a great sprint with Tris and to the others in the break who worked so hard all race long. And also to Dr. Schmidt and his volunteers for having faith that his race would come around and it has.