Although it is fun to fantasize that because Cleveland had a mild winter and we were riding 50 to 60 mile rides in February on a regular basis that we were some fit dudes up north, the fact is everyone in Ohio (Pa, Indiana...) also had the same winter. So going into the first race at Deer Creek State Park which was reported to be a ridiculous 75 miles on March 18th the only emotion I could say that was prevalent was self doubt.
70 miles....70 miles.....70 miles....
I am on Team Spin this year. We have generous sponsors and I was rolling a new bike, new clothes and some choice bits like socks and a Specialized Prevail helmet. No I didn't get a free bike, but it is pretty awesome. But again, I wasn't feeling that confident. I hadn't done much in the way of hard riding until a couple weeks before the race and had just finished a long week of construction work which left me very exhausted by the end of the week and only 2 hours of riding for the past 7 days.
But I line up with 56 other riders and as the neutral roll out is over I am in the top 10 and immediately cover an early break. Now I am feeling that groove, but when we hit the wide open road that has a favorable cross/tail wind good feelings are gone. We are flying and it we don't let up. The first hour of the race goes by and we have covered 26 miles.
The race is fun and not negative which is nice, especially in a field this large with so many teams and fast racers. Uberti, Clarke for Panther, Gatch, Pendleberry, Grimm for RGF, Spin has a 9 rider line up and the list goes on and on. We get Jason Halloran away with Pendleberry and Grimm. That is a lap or two and then we get Joe Holmes away for awhile. Unknown ot me rob Thompson crashes out hard and cannot rejoin. He and his bike are fine, but look the part of a fast crash.
I bridge up to a very small group including a Panther rider, Pendleberry and I drag two or three across who don't help even with my flipping my elbow like I have a nervous tick. Our move sticks for a full lap on lap 4 of 6 and were working smoother and smoother with every passing mile. I guess it takes a few miles t get everyone on the same page in March.
The race gets really hard for the peleton I hear afterwards when Clarke decides he doesn't like the odds of his one man in a break of 5 or 6 so he puts the hammer down and drags 3 or 5 of the disintegrating pack back to us and then attacks at mile 52. By mile 54 guys are still attacking left and right and i am chasing them all down. Finally the field comes back together for the final lap and our team of 9 is still 6 strong with Rob Thompson crashing out and others just coming off only when Clarke put in his killer pull.
Zak Dieringer got away for us on the last lap with one rider, but they were pulled back by a chasing group who was bent on flying at mach speeds. But it was a good move to and they got some real estate quick.
One last time down the wide open cross wind stretch and I move Jason up to get in position for the finish then he flats shortly after. I lose maybe 3' to Gatch's rear wheel and hammering in my 53x11 and 12 hold that 3' for a couple miles. Talk about scary to be so close and not be able to close it so late in the race. It was so difficult and I was pedaling so fast and so hard I was quite sure I was done for the last time up the short climb and the 500m sprint to the line.
Derek Wilford remained second wheel to Clark the last half a lap and topped the hill 5th, but faded to the line. Dave Steiner was in the money up the climb too, but got pushed aside and hit his brakes and was out. I faded up the climb, no cramping, but legs screaming in pain and no speed and already too far back for money and picked up the pace to the line "just because" for 27th as I passed a half dozen riders.
67 miles was the race length and we finished in 2:37 for an ave speed of 25.8 for the first race of the season for most of us. Uberti won solo and the Grimm took the field sprint. Our team, well we got guys in all of the breaks and we held back a few for the sprint, but it didnt work out this time. But there is no doubt we have guys who can race their bikes and were covering what needs to be covered. I think were gonna be one fast team, just like the speed of the first race. As for the self doubt? That was gone after 12 miles and damn it felt good to be racing again.