After winning the cat 5 race at Washtenaw I put in to upgrade to cat 4, despite having less than the required 20 points. I didn't think that USA Cycling really cared that much...but I got rejected. Thus when Daemian and I signed up for the West Branch Classic road race we were both racing cat 5. Upon registration there was no course map, no info about number pickup or much specific info in general. There was a hand drawn map to the start staging area where the heading had North pointed down. Judging by this we were expecting an interesting race. The course was 44 miles, two loops, with plenty of rolling hills and one mile long steady climb to the finish.
Our race started at 10:30, and as we were standing in a group waiting and it was HOT! Not like Kona, just overcast, no air movement whatsoever. I hate waiting around to start in the first place and the heat only made it worse. However once we rolled off and got a breeze I didn't notice the heat for the rest of the race. There were about 30 or 35 in cat 5.
For the first lap everyone was in one group, no one was really pulling, just getting into it pretty easy. Like my experience with other cat 5 races, there was little organization and tons of brake use-age. Annoying blast up the hill, sit up and bunch together, etc. No one wanted to work to put in some pulls and break the group up. I just sat in the middle of the pack. At the finishing climb for the first lap, there was some more steady effort and some people fell off the back. Around mile 25, I started to move up to the front of the pack to try to work with some people to break the group up. I put in a pull and looked back and no one went with me, they were just hanging out. So I sat up and chilled.
A mile or two latter I made another move to see if anyone wanted to go in a break. No one did so I figured I'd try it solo, since they weren't very organized. I got probably 300ish meters off and the distance held as I worked for a mile or so. Then they closed the distance down and I re-grouped. Still, no one was making any moves. I guess everyone wanted a sprint finish.
After a couple more miles I tried to break again and get someone to work with. This time one guy went with me. We gained some distance and it looked like there was a mildly organized attempt to catch us. We started to catch a few cat 4 guys that had blown up, still gaining time on our pack. We made a right turn and were working together well as there were many rolling hills. At this point we had quite a distance on the pack, but kept the pressure on. As we approached the final right turn for the climb to the finish I new there was no chance we would be caught.
Getting into the "lets finish this race" mode, the began to distance the guy I had been working with. About half way up the hill I had about 100m on him and eased up as I crested the hill to the finish, getting my second win of the season. Now I can upgrade for sure.
With Daemien in the main pack he gave me the scoop after we broke away. There was an attempt to bridge up, but it didn't get organized. After the second to last right, everyone went back to the "chillin" mode and didn't work together. At one point, in reference to our breakaway, a guy asked, "Where'd those guys go?" (or something like that). Daemian said, "They're gone!", to which he responded, "WELL WHY DIDN'T ANYONE SAY SOMETHING!" Interesting, since I thought I was pretty obvious with my intentions.
After the finish there was pizza, sandwiches and beer for all participants. I'd never been at a race with "free" beer (even if it was Mich Ultra). Road races just keep looking better than triathlons. Tons of fun, cheaper, food, beer and good prizes. I won a beer tub with 6 beers, a beer mug, and a nice helmet. Granted I killed 8 flies, got bitten by mosquitoes and sweated my stones off waiting around for the awards, which should have been more organized, but it was worth the trip. I highly recommend any triathlete try road racing. I'll be doing a lot more of it.