A 4x4 off-roading park, General Sam’s, is covered in lycra. Riders canter around nervously, eyeing the start line, wondering if they have time for one last desperate bathroom run. Cold brew adds to the morning chill, but the caffeine-addicted cyclists line up for a tasty glass regardless. As the neutral rollout starts, the gentle crunch of gravel, overlaid by friendly banter, is soon overrun by the tearing snaps of an attack. With only 65 miles of racing, things were getting heated fast. Thankfully, I came ready to add to the fire, even if the only thing I end up burning is myself.
Vite lines up on the front six deep, rotating smoothly, immediately intent on dragging anything back. Half an hour in and the pace has yet to let up as the front of the pack drives obsessively forward, fueled by the enthusiasm of the black and green squadron. I focus on staying near the front for the obvious benefit of avoiding crashes. NOT TODAY SATAN. Sure enough, as soon as the pace eases, the pack runs wide and wheels cross. In my peripheral, a bike somersaults into the air, its rider lost beneath the pile of bodies quickly filling the road. A close crash makes people nervous, and the pace tames for a few more minutes. Last year's winner, a South African who won solo averaging 36 kph, diesels past the front and I urge Austin Peterson to GO! He is not convinced and the job is left to me. Knowing the field will not let us both go, and not wanting to impersonate a ferry, I launch an attack to close the gap. Choo Choo! Everyone in the peloton aboard the Conor Express! Vite is still very much in the game and gets a clean counterpunch, generating a 10-second gap in moments. While a car comes past, the South African goes again and sneaks off the front to join the lone Vite rider, widening the bridge. The rancid feel of the race getting away fuels attacks from the field, only to be quickly shot down by Vite. Seeing an opportunity to force separation, I tuck into a corner hard and spring out, attempting to ride the edge of traction generated by the Teravail Cannonballs beneath me. Chase Collins of Vite counters with nuclear speed, attempting to close the 20 seconds as quickly as possible. Now the field will not let anyone loose willingly, and Bean with Vite follows each attack with tactical precision. Another set of corners appears in the distance, and with them another opportunity.
My attack was effective, trimming the chase from 90 to 5. Time to reel in the big fish. Our problem at this point is that the three strongest riders are all up the road and working together. If we can maintain our momentum AND the break becomes disorganized we will catch, but if not… no time to think about alternatives. We race to win and currently I am out of position to do that. Bean, in spite of his teammates up the road, is very civil: not taking pulls but not hindering our progress. Austin Peterson is as motivated as I am to catch, as is demonstrated by his enthusiasm when initially pulling through. The yoyo of the pace right after a hard pull dug into my legs over and over again, but Williams had prepared me for this. This guy is relentless though, and also coached by Williams. But if I have to choose between a motivated and surging breakmate versus an unmotivated one, there is not even a choice. One man from Columbia struggles on the back, but pulls through when he can. The last in the group is an older gentleman who takes steady, strong, and well-timed pulls. As we crest one of many small rollers, we see drama in the break. The South African attacks the two Vite riders and already has a 10 second gap.
The sweet waft of potential victory tinges the air, as the pace in our group continues to charge forward.
Another half hour and the gap is still 30 seconds to the two Vite riders, and 30 more to the lead. We are running out of roadway. Bean and the Columbian broke some time earlier, Austin is still surging his pulls away, and the older fellow begins to break. Hope begins to slip from my grasp.
If bike racing for 2 decades has taught me anything it is that the race ends at the line, so that is when you can sit up. For this reason, and that I like to cross a finish line incapable of standing, we fought on. Suddenly, as if by magic, the gap to both the Vite crew and the South African vanishes. As we close the last few meters, Vite sends an attack up the road, and no one has any desire to chase. With only 10k left, there is no time for gaps, especially when we would just drag Chase around for free. I cover gently and without enthusiasm, keeping the gap at three seconds or so before pulling off. We roll along gently, all eyeing one another nervously. The tension is palpable. An attempted attack closes the gap to the Vite rider, and puts him and the older gentleman off the back of our group. More tension builds. We start to test each other, launching attacks, and letting off the gas as soon as someone is in the draft. No one has a clear edge.
3k to go. A few more half-hearted attempts to separate the group results in no changes. It is coming down to a sprint. The last 350 meters consist of a climb that flattens just before the line. If I can hold on during the climb, I know I have the sprint. Victory looms. Chase goes first, followed by me and Austin. Austin lets off and I start to wind up the power to come around Chase. My right hamstring cramps so suddenly and violently I am sat down and paw desperately for 200 watts. Austin comes back around me as Chase crosses the line, arms raised in victory. 3rd on the day. 300 tss is 3 hours. Ouch.
Having pre-ridden the course, I selected 38 Teravail Cannonballs for the sandy/washboard/small-loose-rocky gravel. Before, I was considering Teravail’s faster rolling Washburns, but I would not have had time to ride on them before the race.
SMITH makes the Ignite aero-helmet, which saved me a few kilometers of chasing. Since bike racing is about being fast, and aerodynamics are a massive piece of that puzzle, the gains are significant. SMITH also makes the Ruckus sunglasses. A beautiful example of style and function, with intuitive design and smashing looks.
The journey with Williams has really only been allowed to prosper the last two months, since my injury cropped back up when I disobeyed orders to chill a bit and rode too much. They are patient, however, and got me where I needed to be by focusing on what needed to change. My cleat position, saddle width, and stretching habits were the culprits and soon after I was healed! These guys are so good at not just the workouts, which is the easy part if you can believe that, but the cyclist mentality and really honing in on what each individual needs to succeed at their goals. I cannot thank them enough and am so excited to keep working with them.
Jakroo offers aero-comfort in their echelon kit, which their design team and I customized in an efficient process. The suspended pockets really add a level of “oh I can actually stand up in my aero-kit” and “oh I can actually put something in my pockets without it trying to impale me in my aero-kit” that is wonderfully refreshing.
Letting the break get away early, with that mix of riders was not good. The amount of effort it took to drive the chase really could have been spared. So, next time, jump on the counter even if it costs me now, because it will save me later. Attacking in the corners is energy efficient and very fun, so that was well-executed. Cramping on the last climb cost me the win, and I cannot let that happen again. Williams recommends calcium tabs to prevent this in the future. All in all, Race Ready Repair puts on an awesome event. All the participants went home with something after the massive raffle at the end! Well-organized, with a helping of wonderful personalities.