The Ohio State Road Race takes place in Shreve, Ohio. The course itself was 9 mile loops with 750 feet of elevation gain per lap, most of it coming from a climb right at the start of the course. Our race was 8 laps of this course which put the total elevation gain for the day at over 6,000 feet. The race started quickly, with the first attacks coming as soon as we hit the hill, I stayed patient and just tried to follow wheels keeping a close eye on both Paul Martin and Kirk Albers with Panther. The second time up the hill Paul countered an early attack, knowing that this could be the winning break I gave everything up the hill to stay in contact with Paul and the other 3 to 4 guys who had joined him. Paul must have sensed the break was not the right combination of guys, the field was too fresh, or maybe he was simply trying to wear out the legs of those of us who were eager enough to follow him out, because as quickly as he started the break he ended it by sitting up. He certainly did the latter to me because on paper this would turn out to be my biggest effort of the entire race. The remainder of the second lap continued to be fueled by attacks and small breaks forming off of the front and being brought back. Of course none of this happened on flat or downhill sections, so there were many other serious efforts that had to be made. At the start of the third lap you could sense a change in what was left of the field, almost as if everyone somehow knew that this would be “the lap”. As we hit the hill for the third time I could see a familiar jersey of Mark Sobb just ahead. Mark had started in the Cat 5 field ten minutes after our start and was turning for the last of his three lap race, at that point it gave me perspective on just how fast our first two laps had been. I didn’t get much time to reflect on that or to even to as much as say hi because as soon as we got around him it was on, with attacks coming from both Paul and Kirk. By the top of the hill a large break had formed and I found myself faced with a pretty big gap to get across, it took another huge effort, but I made it. The disappointing part was that it seemed that I had pulled a few people up with me and several more got on during a downhill section that was a bit later, so all of that work for what felt like nothing. To make things worse I was feeling pretty bad and the attacks were not letting up. Finally on a headwind, uphill section with what seemed to be a harmless three man break off of the front, Kirk went hard to get across the gap. What followed was a mad scramble of wheels and pedals that left me trying to make it across on my own. My main concern was making it across so I didn’t really bother to look behind me until I was nearly there, legs exploding, but when I did I realized I was pulling a guy who I had raced with as a 3 across. In hopes that he would help me finish closing the last 50-feet, I flicked him through, but he jumped me leaving me to finish it on my own. I made it onto the back, but was guttered and into a cross wind and the pace of the break was not letting up, so dry heaving and stamping on the pedals was all I could do to stay on for maybe 30 seconds and then I fell back to what was left of the main field.
I was not real sure how many guys made it into the break, it seemed like 20 because when the main field swept me up there was only maybe 12 guys left and it was obvious that every single one of them had a teammate in the break. The nice part was that the pace for the remainder of that lap was as civilized as it had been since the start of the race, unfortunately that only lasted until we hit the hill for the fourth time and then the racing commenced. The cramps started on the 5th time up the hill and they were bad, the kind that make you afraid to get out of the saddle, all I could do was focus on the wheel in front of me and suffer. At the turn of the 6th lap, excitement ensued when the guy in front of me decided it would be cool to grab my bottle that Jeff Smith was handing off for me. I am not sure how he thought it was his, given that it was purple and Jeff was wearing a MVW jersey, but he did. I yelled out indicating that he had just grabbed my bottle and his response was to turn around and try to hand it back, the only problem was he took my front wheel out. Somehow I managed to get to the grass on my feet and was able to “run it off”, leaving my bike in the middle of the street. Fortunately I had some great teammates who had my bike ready to go, and with a push I was off. As I started my chase back on, someone yelled about using the adrenaline, which was useful advice had I not been suffering severe leg cramps and the main climb was not within a mile of the incident. To put it simple that time up the hill was hell. For the most part my legs seemed fine on the flat ground and I was able to do my share of work to keep the pace up and with two laps to go there were only seven of us left, the rest had just disappeared. We hit the hill for the last time and two guys attacked; I was in the middle of a giant leg cramp, so I just simply could not follow. The attack had dropped two guys off of the back, so now it was my group of three chasing a group of two and by midway through the last lap it was apparent that we were not catching them. I found myself on the front with about 2K to go and could not get either of the other two to pull through, so I set a steady tempo that I knew I at least had a slight chance of sprinting from. In the end I was only able to hold one of the two off, but was surprised to find I had finished 14th. It was just enough to cover my entry and pay for dinner the next day, but it was my first payday in the Pro/1/2 field! The race itself was maybe my hardest effort ever on a bike; compared to racing in the Cat 3 field, just finishing the race felt like a top ten, finishing in the money was like a podium finish, so I was certainly satisfied with the result.