We completed the first lap and the field had slimmed down ever so slightly, but there were still lots of people around. This makes me antsy and I had to be patient to wait for the climb. This time the French Road section had significant crosswind and the field was single fine on the yellow line, moving at a decent pace as I held my position around 10-15 guys back. We could see two other race groups in front of us, just a ways off. As the smaller hills began again the intensity quickened slightly, but would again drop off on the flats/downhills and I continued to be patient.
By the time we turned on Gatzke road it was apparent we were going to catch the Cat 3s (who had to ride 3 laps vs. our 2). I was a bit worried the officials would take their time in letting us pass and we would get to the climbs with a larger group, thus making my plan of attack less effective. But we passed the first group without incident before getting to the Narlock climb.
As we rolled onto the climb I was about 10 men back and ticked up the intensity and rode to the front, where another rider was also making a move. Several guys responded, but at the top when the group's pace dropped off a bit I pushed on to try and string out the field. One guy went with me and we had a gap going into the second part of the climb. We turned onto Lime Lake Road and I went into TT mode and just tried to keep the pressure on. A couple more guys bridged up, but the group didn't really have the cohesiveness/drive/legs to open the gap up more and the gap between the chase slowly closed as I eased up to re-mount the attack on the last climb. I'm guessing there were about 20 riders in the main field at this point.
We turned onto Mountain Road for the final climb and I put the pressure back on, but this time no one went with me. It's hard to judge distance looking over your shoulder in an oxygen deprived state, but I'm guessing I had a 60-80m gap. I kept looking back, expecting to see them closing, but the gap stayed the same. I crested the hill, looked back again and went into red line freight train TT mode for the final 4ish K to the finish. It was almost frantic excitement to look back and see a group trying to chase me down. Another new sensation for me in bike racing. It was the energy and tension of watching cycling on TV and hoping the break makes it. But this time I was in the race, granted going like half the speed of the pro guys. The gap was closing, not quickly, but it wasn't a win yet by any shot.
I rounded the last corner, still very worried they were going to come flying past me. What I guess was less than 100m out I looked back and there were two guys rounding the corner in sprint mode. I attempted to stand up and give it a sprint, but that wasn't going to happen and I looked up and realized the finish line was right there and they weren't going to catch me. What an amazing feeling as I rolled across the line having a successful "you vs. many" breakaway.
|The Finish Line.|
So I was exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. I did a bit of a cool down and made my way back to the car. Daemian rolled up, and was pumped to hear I got the W. He said the longer climbs sapped him on the second lap. So it was time to hang out for the awards and watch the other races finish. I had a few quick conversations with some other guys in my category. It seems I had the element of surprise and no one knew who I was or where I was from (not surprising as I've been able to do two races a year). I assume that's why they didn't cover my pop off the front, as they all seem to know each other and their capabilities. So there goes my advantage of obscurity. Here is the link to the complete results.
They had the awards ceremony and I got my state champion jersey and medal and of most significance, a check for 200 bucks! First time I've ever won any money for an athletic event! This bike racing is really on to something. That will go into my PowerTap purchase fund. To cap off an amazing day we stopped by Don's Drive In for some greasy burgers and shakes. We then blared an eclectic variety of Hair Metal and 80s Pop as well as some Beastie Boys to ward off the food coma for the drive home. Now I'm looking forward to my triathlon return in Charlevoix this upcoming weekend. I guess I better go swim.