James and I hit the road for Globe at 5am drinking coffee and enjoying an early morning together. We got to the race with plenty of time but everything went meshugina from that point. Long line for pre-reg riders. I blew my rear tire out riding to the start line. I pinned the wrong bib and had to re-pin. And the kicker...I lubed and donned James's size small shorts. Nice, eh?
The good thing in all this was the race was delayed a half-hour for some reason and this actually worked to my benefit with tall the chaos circulating. Meanwhile, I ride by the Marcucci's and they are wired tight and organized to the hilt. How do they do that?
The race started finally and GST and Landis attacked the field from the gun. I'm still confused at this strategy. I mean, what is it going to accomplish? Was anyone going to sit idly by in the first 7 miles on one of the few flat stretches? The attacks went nowhere and we settled down for the first wave of searing pain that would be ours on the first 1.5 mile burner hill. Yes, it did hurt. Last year it cost me 373 watts. This year the price went up to 376. I made it with the main group as the field split nicely in two. We hit the next climb just a mile later and this time I dropped off the back. Near the top of the hill a Landis rider caught up with me and said, "Let's go", and we did. We chased the entire way down that stupid six mile hill. It hurt even more than the uphill part. We traded short hard pulls until we made it back on. It was so sweet! With a lot of help I made it to the lead group of riders, (albeit half dead), and began to count the number of 45+ jerseys in the group. Still quite a few. In fact, I think there may have been more 45+ than 40+.
Now, at this point in the race it was evident to me that I was a rather large TT specialist sharing space with guys who could really climb. My people were behind us now. I knew that six mile climb was going to get out of hand so I pledged to myself that I would sit in the back and try to get as much recovery as I could so as to limit the damage on the long climb. Two riders, (GST and a team I didn't recognize), were 30 seconds up the road. Landis had two guys in the group. One of them was the dude that worked with me to catch back on, Lemke. The other was a familiar skinny dude that can fly and my guess was he was being protected for that last climb and flurry into the finish because Lemke was working super hard now to bring back the two man break. He asked another guy riding without team mates to help him but left me alone. I wouldn't have helped if asked. I don't have anything against those guys but I why should I help them reel these guys in only to blow up on that long climb? Unless they totally collapsed I was going to get dropped and so I planned accordingly.
At the turn around we learned the break was 45 seconds in front of us and the group chasing us was 45 seconds behind us. I knew I could out climb those guys so long as I didn't blow up. This is pretty much how it played out. Once we hit the climb the power meter began pinging off 330 watts which I just couldn't do at this point so I dialed in 290 and just let them go. There was nothing else to be done. Limit the damage by maintaining my gap over the chasers. One or two of the elite guys did blow up and I managed to keep them behind me. That long hill is really long. Did I mention that? It really stinks watching your field just go off into the distance. Pretty soon I couldn't see them anymore which was fine. No one came by me except one skinny junior from Tribe. This kid was flying. I caught his skinny, junior-geared rear end on the downhill but he took off on the next climb. We basically road the rest of the course together. He really helped me keep the pace up. I passed Jake who complained of flats, out-of-true wheels and a sore butt.
As I rode the last ten miles I kept creeping up on and passing fields. Each time my hopes would rise that they were dropped riders from my field but alas, only women, juniors and some really, and I mean really, cooked cat 3's. No one passed me except one dude in the last 1K. He was a rider from a different field so I just let it slide. If he were one of the chasers I would have put up a fight but as it was it was taking 178 bpm to hold 250 watts. Clearly, my day was coming to a close.
I have no idea what my placing was nor do I care. This is not about the other racers now. It is about that course. I know this isn't rational but it's honest. Last year I managed 210 watts from mile 42 to mile 59. This year I did much, much better. Last year I got passed by women. This year I was the Andy Kaufman of the biking world. James and I were looking at some race pics on the internet tonight and I shuddered. The shot contained all the surrounding hills and that weird rising/curving road that reminded me of all the pain the course inflicted on me, again. I vow to you now, that next year, I will ride that course 10 pounds lighter. Before I die I will do one race as a climber and it will be next May.