Utah Highway 72 is a quiet country road that runs through Fremont, Utah and up into the mountains where Highway 25 splits off to take you towards Fish Lake. My grandfather had a pasture off of this road, and my uncles still graze their cattle there today.
Nearly thirty years ago when we were visiting my grandparents, my sister and I went with my grandfather out to this pasture to get the cows and bring them back to the corral for milking. We all drove out there together on my grandpa's old tractor.
As cows are wont to do, they weren't cooperating about being driven in front of the tractor, so my grandfather needed to get off to drive them on foot. But my sister, who was eight at the time, and I, along with the tractor, needed to get back to the house. So my grandfather put my sister and me side-by-side on the seat of the tractor, set the throttle, and told us to drive it home.
Approaching the first corner we needed to turn, my sister said "I think we need to start turning now." We still had a good 20-30 meters to the corner.
I told her "no, we need to wait until we get to the corner, or we'll end up in the ditch."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure."
"Then you drive." She moved over and gave me the wheel. I was six years old.
We rounded the first corner with no problem, and then the second, which put us on the road leading up to the house. As we approached, I saw my grandma on the porch. But instead of beaming with pride at the sight of her two young grandchildren driving the tractor unassisted, she had a look of fear and promptly went back inside.
My mom came out next, followed by my dad, who didn't even stop on the porch to look but immediately hurdled a fence, ran across the corral, hurdled another fence, jumped on the tractor, and brought it to a stop.
Angered as I was that my dad stopped the tractor for me rather than just telling me how to do it (as if I could have reached the pedals anyway), it was still my greatest moment of glory to that point in my life and perhaps even to this day.
And so it was with high hopes that I went into the Capitol Reef Classic hoping that being back on Highway 72 for at least part of the course would see a repeat of my former majesty. It was not to be.
Going into Friday morning's time trial, I pondered abandoning all hopes in the GC and just soft pedaling to save my legs for the subsequent stages. I didn't and should have. I rode the TT Danilo Di Luca style, on a normal road bike with no aero bars or TT helmet. About five minutes in, I got passed by my 30 second man on full TT setup. A few minutes after that, my minute man went by on a similar rig. As if that weren't enough, one of the Cat. 1/2/3 field blew by me a little later.
I didn't feel great after the TT effort, and when we came back in the afternoon for the circuit race and it was 103 degrees, I didn't feel any better. Nevertheless, I thought my best shot for glory would be if the circuit race came down to a bunch sprint. Unfortunately it's hard to set up a bunch sprint when another team sends a break and the only teammate available to chase him down is also your leadout man. After Steve and Steve alone led the chase from the front of the pack with literally nobody else taking a pull, I knew that even if we did chase down the break, Steve would have nothing left for the sprint.
So I took a flyer solo to try and join the break. This got the attention of the rest of the field, and just before I caught the break, they caught me and hammered up the hill. I was gassed from the effort and couldn't hold the pace. Dropped as I was, I just soft-pedaled the rest of the way in. I was shocked not to be DFL, but there was one more down the road behind me.
Judging by the speed of the climbing in the circuit race, I knew Saturday's road race was going to be just a matter of survival. I barely hung on up the first climb. Once we passed Mill Meadow and the feed zone (which Rachel handled flawlessly handing up a musette bag) and started the climb towards Johnson Valley Reservoir, the small Cat. 4 field of 14 was strung out all over the road.
Once at the top, I worked with two other riders to catch Steve and a couple Skull Candy guys, Kevin and Eric. By the time we got to them, Brooks and Tyler from Team Wright had dropped back, and the eight of us formed a gruppetto. The fact that Tyler had been dropped was indicative of just how fast the pace was--Tyler had led the field up the climbs at the State Championships, and then at High Uintas, his first race as a Cat. 4, he and Alex duked it out, and Tyler ended up taking the win.
The attitude in the gruppetto was more that of a group ride than a race. We cooperated well in the paceline and moderated the pace as necessary to keep everyone together. We lost one racer to a flat at the last feed zone. Then on the final climb, Tyler attacked and took a couple guys with him. I wasn't in the mood to challenge for sixth place.
I told Steve when we got done that the difference between him and me is that he has no quit until he crosses the finish line. I had given up once I chased back onto the gruppetto. Though had it come down to a bunch sprint, my attitude may have been different--I think I could muster the motivation for a 30 second flat out effort, but ten more minutes at threshold, not so much.
I rolled across the finish line feeling like a dry, overbaked biscuit. I downed a 24 ounce water bottle immediately and still felt parched. I got a 44 ounce diet coke at the gas station and was still thirsty, even after another bottle of water, so I had another on the drive home. At 6:00 p.m., five hours after finishing, and having consumed over eight pounds of fluid in the interim, I finally had to pee. Welcome to stage racing I guess. I was just glad that we got to start the road race in the morning rather than waiting until mid day like they do in the Tour.
After carrying the Lanterne Rouge after the TT, I picked up a spot or two in each of the subsequent events. Not what I had hoped for, but I guess not too terribly bad in my first race as a Cat. 4, especially considering there were only 14 of us, a few of whom should be upgrading to Cat. 3 after this event. I'll gladly take this experience over sandbagging my way to a podium as a Cat. 5, even if it is a harder transition than I expected.