Last year’s road race was difficult to say the least and with promise of this year’s racing being more difficult than last year, I was prepared to hurt. The course was a 27 mile loop that we would do twice and nothing about it was flat, even the “flat” parts were just false flats. The worst part of the course was a series of “rollers” from miles 11 to 21, we would call them mountains around here, every one of them were over .5-miles long with the longest at over 1 mile. What made this section so difficult was that it was literally climb and then descend right into the next climb, which gave your legs no time to unload. My strategy was to stay towards the front on the climbs, as I was certain that there would be many attacks and splits in the group. I would take a cautiously passive role on the first lap and then become more aggressive on the second lap, when everyone was not quite as fresh.
The guy in the yellow jersey (yes they actually have a yellow jersey, which makes this race that much cooler), was on a team called The Bike Shop, out of New York. They were a strong team that had about seven guys in the field. From the start of the race they had a strong presence, from protecting the yellow jersey well to sending a guy up the road, setting up what I thought was a move for the guy in yellow to go clear and have a team mate to work with. Knowing that he had a better time than me in the time trial and making the observation that he was about 30 lbs lighter than me I figured he would be the guy to watch. Then half way through the 1st time over the “rollers” and after their guy up the road was pulled back, the entire team just vanished. I figured they were setting something up for the second time across the rollers, but later was surprised to find out that the yellow jersey was struggling to hang on. The 10 mile stretch of rollers, was followed by a long false flat which was not any easier on the legs and left me wondering if I had the physical ability to do what we just did over again, but by the time we made the long gradual descent back into town for the second lap I was ready to go. We hit the “rollers” for the second time hard and it seemed that I was not the only one holding back a bit the first time around because there was attack after attack. Seeing that there were others who were willing to do some damage, I decided that I would just try to cover pretty much everything and hopefully end up in a break, or throughout the process we would destroy the field and there would only be a few of us left. Then the muscle cramps started. I think through a combination of increasing heat/humidity and the relentlessness of the “rollers” my quads had enough and I began to have severe muscle cramps. These were the type of cramps that threaten to put you down on the side of the road, and they were relentless. While I was in a pretty bad place with the cramping, I knew that I could not fall back in the field, one because I had no clue how many people were behind me and two because if a cramp hit that made it impossible to pedal, I wanted to at least give myself a chance to stay on once it lifted. So I just looked straight ahead, trying to flush my legs on the descents and thinking about anything to take my mind off of the pain on the climbs. After finally making it through the rollers, I discovered I was not out of the woods yet when my quads continued cramping on a flat section as the group lined out after an attack. As we started our final descent into town, as I began to see new faces joining me at the front, I realize that we had not done the damage that I had thought through the rollers. The lead out into the sprint was fast and long, to make things worse we only had a single lane with gates setup on both sides of the field from 100 meters on that made it feel like you were cattle being herded into a pen. I held strong in the front, then at 1k out some one decided to advance positions on the other side of the yellow. Upon hearing protest from the field, he tried to tuck in making contact with a guy in front of me, which set off a chain reaction of banging bikes and caused the guy in front of me to come over on my front wheel. Having your front tire buried in someone’s rear tire so deep that you are threatening to take off his rear derailleur at 46 mph is never a good feeling. All of the commotion took me out of position and opened up opportunities for others and the best I could do was grab 13th place, legs cramping so bad I could not even stand to sprint. Given the work I had done throughout the race and the position I felt like I was in before chaos ensued, I was disappointed with a 13th place finish. The one good thing about the whole situation was that the race referee for once actually witnessed the flagrant yellow line violation and relegated the rider, but this in no way made the result easier to digest. I was also surprised to find out that we finished with a field of 30, which given the nature of the course and the pace of the race I am still not sure how that happened.