Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tour of Page County

Yeah, haven't updated in over a week. Google doesn't work on my computer at work because of a virus and I usually do my blog entries there. So, I apologize to myself. And to anyone who reads this.

Pleasantries exchanged. Onto the good stuff!

Yesterday I raced in my second bike race of my young cycling career, the Tour of Page County cat 5 race in Stanley, VA, just south of Luray. Hills, hills and more hills were how Matias described the race to me. There was a 1.5 mile hill and a half miler with the finish line at the top of that. A competitive cat 5 field too. These all seemed like excellent reasons for me to enter this race. After my performance at Giro di Coppi, I was ready to try and win this race. I was strong, although a little tired from a hard week of training. I took Thursday and Friday easy, swimming and spinning to keep my legs moving and rested.

Race day... Sicar and I arrived at the race site and I met a fellow from the DC Tri Club who was racing also, Ron Benedict. Nice guy. I prepared Sicar for the battle that lay ahead. Warmed up, signed up, met Team Snapple (which I just joined) team member Zack Desmond at the starting line and then we were off! Zack and I lined up in the middle to rear of the pack, which is fine, we would benefit from the draft and thus an easier start to the race. We rolled in neutral for about 1.5 miles from the staging area and then the hammerfest began!

And, wow, did we hammer it. Zack immediately noted how hard we were going so early on... and it never let up. Giro di Coppi was much different, we didn't really pick it up until halfway through the last lap. We weren't even 3 miles into our first lap and we were cooking! I made a couple moves to get closer to the front, but it was tough to do... I started a little too far back. Finally the first mega hill came up... a 1.5 mile ascent that starts more as a false flat and builds into a pretty steep climb. I made my move here and stuck myself into the top 10. Zack joined me and we stayed here for the rest of the first lap into the second lap.

Then things got dicey. I lost the group I was with at the top of the half mile hill, just at the end of the second lap. I made it to the top with them, but they accelerated very quickly down the other side and I wasn't able to keep up... I got dropped! I pedaled hard to try and latch back onto the group (5 of us... we were chasing the lead group of 3-4 riders), pushing speeds of 28 mph by myself on a flat for about 2-3 miles. The group gained 30 seconds on me and I thought it was over for me. Then a pack of 4 riders caught up to me. Slightly embarrassed, I grabbed the wheel of one of the riders.... and we started pacelining. It was time to work together to catch up the group ahead of us! We switched leads until the 1.5 mile hill. We started climbing slowly, I was two riders off of the lead. I knew we wouldn't catch the group ahead at that rate. So I took off. I knew with my stamina and climbing, I could catch or get closer to them if I was leading. So for nearly 1.5 miles I led my group... and whaddya know! I caught the group that had dropped me earlier, much to the surprise of those riders. My group thanked me for the push and we made our way to the last hill.

800m to go, I was about 5 riders back from the front of our new combined pack. I waited... and then I saw the feedzone, marking 250m from the finish. It was now or never. I stood up and started POUNDING the pedals. I took the lead and focused on the finish line. 50m to go I hear breathing behind me, the fight was on. A guy from Whole Wheel Velo shot past me in a burst of power, but I held off a rider who was coming on hard to beat him by 1/5th of a wheel at the line... photo finish!

6th place! I was elated. It was a major comeback for me. I thought it was over... but I didn't give up. I may not have gotten podium this time, but this race meant a lot more to me than Giro di Coppi. I felt I learned some valuable lessons about road racing... the race is never over until you cross the finish line, unlike in running. And I learned the value of staying with a group. Not only will you go faster, but you can team up with your competition to help everyone do better, including yourself.

All in all, a great day and a great race. Two top 10s in two races... things are really looking good for me now.

Check out this news story from the race. Matias is the center of attention around the :52 mark (who got engaged earlier this week... congrats dude!)

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