2nd to Double First and Back... Oak Ridge Velo Classic 2018
I decided early on this year that I wanted to try my hand at some road racing. It just so happened that with the Oak Ridge Velo Classic being moved up to April, it fit perfectly in a nice little window in my racing schedule. Criterium racing holds absolutely no interest for me so I opted for the road race and (of course) the time trial.
This being my first foray into road racing, I didn’t really have any expectations for greatness but I did have some goals. My goals were to stay off the deck and finish in the front group. Beyond that, anything else would be gravy. My race plan for the road race was just to stay as close to the front of the pack as possible in order to stay out of trouble and to try and get in a breakaway. I knew that if it came to a bunch sprint, I had very little chance. I’m not a sprinter... like not even a little bit.
Race day came and I went through the normal routine. I finished my Cherry Pop Tarts (one day I’m gonna have to get some sort of sponsorship if I keep schilling them in my reports...), loaded up the Roadie and the TT and headed out the door. I was actually quite nervous. I know what to do when I get to a triathlon or multisport event. I know what to do when I get to a mountain bike race... I felt like a total fish out of water at a road race. I got my bike unloaded and set up on the trainer behind my car to warm up. As I was spinning on the trainer and going through my warmup, across the parking lot, I spotted my Podium teamies and my good friends from the Bike and Tri team all hanging out. They invited me to crash their party and happily accepted. Warmup done, it was time to line up for the Cat 5 roll out. Last minute instructions were relayed from the official and we headed out.
After the neutral rollout, once the ref gave us the signal, the race was on. I was mid pack, farther back than I wanted to be and it was a bit frantic. Guys were flinchy on the brakes and I could since the tension. When I saw my moment I moved slowly up toward the front and found myself sitting comfortable 4th or 5th wheel. I picked out a couple of guys who looked particularly strong and marked them as who I would try to stick around. Just as the race was starting to heat up a bit we caught the last of the juniors and the race came to a grinding halt behind the lead car. We sat behind the car at neutral speed for what seemed like forever until the lead official let us around. It wasn’t long after that we hit the climb. I metered my effort with the front two guys and crested in 3rd. One guy made his move at this point attacking the descent. One other guy and I went with him and I had hoped this would be the springboard we needed. Our break never organized, however, and the pack caught us not long after that. The rest of the race pretty much played out the same. There were a few times where guys would make a move but the peloton never let a break go. As the miles ticked away, I knew that my chances of catching an opportunity were fleeting. We made the turn toward the finish with a large group of around 16 guys. The finish is uphill so I hoped that when the pace lifted it would break a few guys off. It didn’t. At 1k to go everyone was still there. 500m to go and still together. The sprint opened up at 200m and I was a second or so late to open. I watched the “real” sprinters take off and I fought it out with a couple other guys for what was left.
After the dust settled, I was happy with my performance. I had accomplished both of my goals. I finished with the front group and I didn’t crash. After waiting around at the finish to see my friends across the line and watch the ladies come across, I headed back to the lot to spin down and recover before the TT in the afternoon. Once they posted the results I was shocked to see my name in 2nd!!! I was a little confused but my brain wasn’t working well enough to argue it at that point. Before long I heard there were protests to the results and updated results were posted. I went back to check, sure enough, my name was now further down in 11th (or Double First as Patrick put it) where I knew I should have been. Not a bad day at all. I’ll take it.
After my recovery spin, I was in uncharted territory. Never had I had to race in the morning then recover for a second race in the afternoon. I hung out under the tents, laughing and talking with my team and friends. Honestly, that was the thing I enjoyed most about the experience. I loved just sitting around shooting the stuff with my friends. It was actually quite relaxing. When a couple people left for food they offered to bring stuff back. I took them up on that since I had forgotten to bring anything other than Clif Bars and Untapped Waffles. After some time though I was getting very hungry and they hadn’t made it back yet. Katie offered me some pulled pork and sweet potato that she brought. Again, I accepted since my other food hadn’t made it back yet and I was getting close to my feed window closing before I had to warm up again for the TT. It is true, cycling is a team sport and I get by with a little help from my friends.
My coach gave me a pretty stout 30 minute warm up for the TT with some tempo efforts to wake the legs back up. I started this about 60 minutes before my start time. I was much happier to be on my TT bike. After all, Time Trial is my thing.. I just usually swim (or run) before it and run afterward. The plan was simple. Go hard. Go as hard as I could and use everything I had left. I was almost the last Cat 5 to go off so I had several guys in front of me to try and catch. That gave me some extra motivation. In the start house, the holder steadied me. I clipped in, started my Garmin (which worked this time... It decided NOT to record the road race data.) and waited for the count down. 3...2...1... GO! I stomped on the pedals out of the gate got up to speed before settling into aero. It became obvious very quickly I didn’t have much power left in my legs after the morning. I relied on a high cadence and my slippery Trek Speed Concept cutting the wind to help me keep the speed up. It was a real struggle any time the road turned up at all. I continued to focus on keeping my cadence over 100 and watching for the next guy up the road. I passed at least 4 guys. After that it was all tunnel vision and just trying to will my legs to keep turning over. I gave it one last push to cross the finish line in a time of 18:20. Good enough for 2nd place and my first road podium!
Looking back on the day, my only real regret is not having the data from the road race. I accomplished every goal I set before the race and I had a great time with my team and my friends. While I certainly won’t be giving up triathlon or mountain bike racing for a road career any time soon, this almost certainly will not be my last road race. Huge thanks go out to the race organizers and all the volunteers for a great race experience! Also a MASSIVE thanks to Bike and Tri for letting me hang out all day under their team tent, you guys are AWESOME! Lastly, thanks to my village: Amanda, Coach Lana, Kevin, Patrick and the Podium Sports
Medicine Crew, all my teammates, Dr. Chris at Healthsource Chiropractic, Jason and ORR Carbon Wheels, all the guys at Cedar Bluff Cycles and everyone who supports me!
Next up: XTERRA Ft. Yargo in two weeks!! Stay tuned!!