Monday, August 11, 2008

Orrville Milk Race

Darn it, I thought I'd be cute and have the title Got Milk? and take a picture of my mug with the milky lips.. but alas I received an email from a friend this morning and he already used the catchy phrase....bummer.

I wondered pre-race how it would play out without some new cat.1's not in the field (Brian Batke and Dan Quinlan)this year. As the 30 or 40 of us rolled out it became clear that the aggression level compared to 2007 (the hardest first lap of any race that year) was a 1 vs a 9.5. Matt Weeks of Team Lake Effect rode up my right and said "wanna Go?" I said dully "no way, its too early".

My brain slowly munched on that thought for a few seconds. I thought that this race needs lit up and too long has the early aggression come form others like team mates Tris Hopkins and Brian Batke. I felt fine so I said back to Matt "what the hell, this is boring, lets go".

We were brought back quickly, but it did raise the pace for awhile. Later after pulling through I kept going as again my legs felt great at high speed and I rolled away with Rudy Sroka this time. But alas and with an unlikely rider on the front of the main field we were pulled in.

Eventually I think on the 3rd lap Rudy had been off for quite some time solo and no one interested in chasing when a group containing Eric Lesko (Stark Velo), Dave Steiner (Snake Bite) and team mate Tris got up the road and caught Rudy.

They immediately formed into a well working group and they held the gap to us for the next 20 to 25 miles. It would be very, very wrong to say that the race became boring at this point, but for me I was surfing wheels at the front end of the pack and the speed was kept surprisingly fast the entire time. No team or person in particular would or could take charge of the group to draw them back. A few attacks went up the road to try and bridge solo and Dave Chernosky (RGF) used his lightning sprint to jump the field. I didnt bother to go since I wouldnt be able to match the acceleration and would have just brought the field up with us.

I wasnt happy that I let the best sprinter in the race into the break wihtout chasing, but again I didnt have the posotion or speed to match Dave. There were a lot of UPMC, Chris Connelly (riding strong, but solo), Pro graphics, Trizilla and later Echelon riders finally pitching in with the chase. The most excitement came with repeated attempts by Andys Burns of COBC (National Engineering). Everytime he jumped I jumped and man can he jump. Same with a Trizilla rider who also was helping in the chase and also trying to bridge. In other words I chased down almost everything I saw as a legitimate threat to the breakaway then sat on.

I am sure by doing so I dulled the attacks, but also drew us closer to the break. Its like walking the knife edge on these things. You got to be there to bring more numbers into the break, especially if you get a free ride but you dont want to nullify a good break either.

Eventually on the bell lap as we went down the start finish straight the gap had closed to 200m or so and I jumped with everything i had at the moment and caught the break who were all looking very tired and went to the front. I pulled off and Tris told me to pull with everything i had. But guys were catching the break in ones and twos anyways.

Out of one of the corners I only meant to pull us hard, but i found myself pulling away from the group solo. I felt great and figured what the heck, its the last lap I'll try. Eric Lesko made it up to me and a Trizilla rider as well. I thought as hard as we were all pulling that we had jumped the break and the field, but we too were caught.

I faded to the back of the much smaller main field, but not before I almost went right in a left hand corner while leading the pack!! I heard guys yelling "Ray, Left!!" We rolled around as a group till we got on the descent that leads to the only significant hill on the course. I made sure to move from tail gunner all the way up and thankfully the pace up the hill the last time was also the most steady. I was contemplating a hard charge over the top, especially because I would top the hill this time with legs, unlike all the other laps where someone attacked up it every lap.

But the decision had been made for me when I saw Tris moving past me quite quickly out of the saddle on the left and his 25 mile breakaway companion Rudy Sroka right on his wheel. To make sure I didnt pull the field I jumped really hard and made it onto their wheels and the three of us started pulling through and we kept that up all the way around the last half of the lap. I tried to pull the longest and hardest and fastest because I knew they had already been in breaks, but thats not to say that they werent pulling hard and long too. Everyone of us suffered!!

Looking back we saw that we had gotten the gap. I think that all of the guys who should have or could have gone with us were either taken by surprise by Tris'attack on the hill or were tired from missing the original break and having to chase for an hour.

Anyways, we didn't play any games though I am sure we were all thinking about how to play the ending. Rudy, the fastest sprinter in our group against two team mates and me wanting to try and put Tris in position to win. The only thing I could do was I tried to take longer pulls leading up the rollers to the last right hander that is about a quarter mile from the line. A nasty, long uphill sprint awaited out of the corner.

When we rolled through the corner (which was almost blocked by a person in a car who chose to not hear the corner marshal asking him to move forward) I was third. Tris and Rudy slowed and I clicked a gear or two down and took off on the right. It looked like a good move and I stayed out of the saddle for as long as my legs would allow. I had a significant gap over the tired legs of Rudy and Tris. I had to sit back down and try and make it to the line.

I looked back and Rudy was catching me quickly and I looked forward and the line was so far away. Even the driveway that preceded it looked like I would never get to the other side of it where the finish line awaited. I thought about all the pain and how there is no way I can go any faster.
Then I also thought about how this is not the time to give up and I did what I call the dead leg sprint. I stood up and gave it all I had again, feeling at once like a drunk on a bike and that I had found a way to go even slower. Later I saw I picked up my speed a whole whopping 1.2mph.

At this point I didnt dare look back because I couldnt have gone any faster and even thought about throwing my bike just in case. A picture on Robert Sroka's blog shows just how close I came to losing first place. But at least it would have gone to my team mate.

This was again another great Team Columbus showing. Even though we only had 2 in the race we were able to take 1st and 2nd with solid team riding when it counted. Brian raced in the masters race and also took the win. Thanks to the Orrville folks for another great road race and to Tris and Rudy for being the studs you are and making the break happen and making it work.


Feel It: The Factory Rider said...

Great Job Ray! Thats what those 1k and 500m sprints will do for you at the track.

This week we are headed to Leroy TT.


Bill said...

Great racing Ray and congratulations on your win, you guys did a fine job! Looking forward to cyclocross thats for sure!


Ray Huang said...

Robert-nice job in your first road race and I'll see you Thursday night at Leroy.

Thanks Bill!!

JimmyNick said...

Congrats, Ray! Awesome race, and a nice account of it, too (surprisingly low-key for you!). First win since your return? Certainly your first as a C2, eh?

- JN

Ray Huang said...

JN-second road race win as a 2 which is pretty awesome!! Thanks. Ive had a great year so far.