well, that decided to auto-publish for no reason. apologies for the phantom feed, RSS subscribers.
This past Saturday was the now-fabled Eugene-Roubaix road race, put on by Midtown Racing. It was an absolute blast.
I rode out to the course because it was a beautiful day, I didn't start until mid-afternoon, and it isn't really all that far at all. The ride out was scenic - midday Saturday on the bike path, with the sun shining. Not terribly crowded, but definitely populated, with people and birds.
To get to the start/finish from the bike path, the most direct route took me up and over the one big climb in the course, Oak Hill Road. It's a bit of a climb. Not really terribly tall, but quite steep, and going the direction of the race, a really sketchy off-camber turn at the bottom of a flying descent. I climbed up this hill in reverse, watching lots of guys negotiate the descent as well as the climb as a warmup for their race. I got to the start area, registered and paid, and soon it was 2:00 and the men started lining up. Cat 3 and Cat 4-5 fields - both huge - went off before the women lined up.
I counted 12 women at the start, in a combined Cat 4/Masters field. We rolled out, neutral up and over the first hill, and started climbing, then descending, turning, up over a roller, a right hand turn, and then suddenly the lead car honked and we were racing. The pace quickened quite a bit immediately as a few girls started attacking. No one really had teams to speak of, so tactics were a lot different than in the races I've been used to. I planned ahead with Mackenzie, and based on what I've learned racing collegiate, figured i could get her the win (and place well myself) by exploiting a little strategy.
Crow road, heading south away from Eugene, has a little riser, and then a long descent, with some twisty sections but mostly flat for the most part. Coming up over the riser I attacked a little, then someone else would attack, but for the most part everyone toward the front of the group seemed intent mostly on holding onto the wheel they had, not sharing in the work, and certainly not letting in one who had just made an effort. So I got pretty tired of the fact that I had to attack from the back and then fall all the way back when I got tired.
Coming off a right turn onto Petzel (?) Road, the course started climbing a bit with a series of rollers. Nothing too high, but enough to break up the monotony of the flats, and wear some people out. The pack still held together for the most part through this section, then the course turned again, and the road was much flatter, with a bit of a head/crosswind. Again with the pacelining attempt, this time it got a bit more organized, and I thought we had it down for awhile. Then Mackenzie attacked, we chased - Serena attacked, we chased... and so on. Another right turn and we were onto the final stretch, with a few miles of flat plus a little kicker or two, and pretty soon the gravel section was coming up. I was leading going in when Mackenzie attacked and jumped into the gravel section right in front of me. I grabbed her wheel, and in we went.
I was so focused on holding onto MK's wheel I didn't really notice the point at which a gap opened up behind me; all I know is that at one point I could see someone's shadow behind me and then awhile later I couldn't. I stole a quick glance backwards after we hit pavement, and couldn't see anyone - though that doesn't mean they were far behind. I focused again on the race, gave Mackenzie a tow across the finish line for the first lap, and started to fade before we started climbing.
That hill - Oak Hill - crap. It seemed so easy when we did it neutral at the start; this time, though, I was chasing a rabbit all the way up, in hopes that we could work together to hold off the field. MK is a much better athlete in general, and a stronger climber in particular, than I am... by a long shot. (She is an elite triathlete after all.) So I was in full-on suffer mode, trying not to throw up, by the time I made it to the top. She was waiting. We descended, taking the turn cautiously, with me chasing the whole time to the corner of Crow Road again.
What happened for the next half lap was exactly this: Me focusing on MK's wheel, watching the pavement blur by, hanging on for dear life. We had a couple of updates from our lead and follow cars as to the time gaps: 35 seconds on the first chaser (Serena), and then 1:30 on her, 2:30 on the next chaser, and back from there. We had shattered the pack - oops! Er, intentionally.
So I hung on as long as I could, but at one point, I needed to swap out my water bottles and I couldn't use one of my cages, because I hadn't tightened it enough when I installed it that morning and it was rattling like crazy. I couldn't have a bottle in it or it got much worse, so I kept one in my jersey pocket for most of the race. But toward the end of the hilly section on the back side of the course, I wanted to swap bottles because the one in my functional cage was empty so I rolled back and handed the bottle to Galen. By the time the handoff was finished, Mackenzie was just far enough ahead that as hard as I chased, I never caught back onto her wheel. My race became a time trial. The only thing that mattered was holding off 3rd place. Time trial time... sufferfest time. I was slowing down. I knew I couldn't catch the elite fucking triathlete ahead of me, so I guess I dialed down the effort... well, it was enough for Galen to notice in the follow car, so he pulled up beside me to yell at me a bit. You're slowing down! Push harder! Catch her, dammit! "Ha! That girl is a fucking beast! I can't catch her!" STOP TALKING AND RACE.
Head down. Maximal effort plus 10%. Last right turn. Last kicker before the gravel. And then the gravel. Hold the line, avoid the holes, don't slow down. Halfway through the gravel section, a couple of cheering guys fixing a flat. Another group by the port-o-potties, a few more cheers and words of encouragement. Suddenly, the 1K sign. A quick backward glance: phew, no one right on my wheel. Head back down. Hammer time. 200M, flat becomes false flat, and then perceptibly uphill. The last few meters pass and I'm across the line, people are cheering, wow, that was so much fun. Holy cow I got 2nd place! I worked hard for it, definitely... but... wow, my efforts are actually paying off. That, I have to say, is the coolest feeling ever.