Since then I’ve moved. I’ve also learned I have ties to the host town of Spring City, a place I had never been but that my ancestors helped settle back in the 19th century. And thus I completed my tour of small Utah towns I have ties with and that one would never peg for hosting a road race but do anyway.
As we lined up for the start, Eric from Skull Candy, with whom I had carpooled to the race, said “there’s a few guys from Canyon who are planning to make our lives miserable today.”
And how. One of them, Alex (not that Alex), went on a break at the opening gun, er, cannon (they start the race with a cannon blast, which is really annoying after the first one). My plan, since I had no teammates, was to let solo breaks go, go with a break of three or more, and unless I was in a break that had a chance of success, stay out of the wind.
It didn’t take very long for someone to bridge. Then Eric bridged. They were up to three, so I went. And everyone followed.
Once Alex was back in the fold, he went again. This time he had one guy with him from the outset. Then another. Then everyone followed the fourth.
I figured the guy was tired of this by now, but no. He went yet again. Another guy was right on him, so I jumped again. And again, everyone was on my wheel, and we were all back together.
He wasn’t in the field five minutes before he went one more time. This time, he just hung out there alone for a while, not making any ground, and not losing any. Then a Simply Mac guy went, followed by Will from Spin Cycle, and a guy from Cyclesmith. They were about 40 seconds up the road when we hit some rollers and they disappeared. For a long time.
The waiting game began. Some Canyon guys got on the front and soft pedaled at a whopping 18 mph. The break was going 24-25. Nobody gave chase. Each of the guys in the break had at least two teammates back. With 31 starters, that left about 20 of us with nobody in the break. You’d think it wouldn’t take much to get us organized. But if you thought that, you’d be wrong.
Two things were clear: 1) The break would never be caught if nobody got serious about a chase; 2) Nobody would do anything about chasing until somebody did something. So I threw my race strategy out the window and got on the front. I had very little help for about 15 miles.
Then something good happened: the Cat. 5’s caught us. Even though it’s the furthest thing from the truth, every single Cat. 4 thinks he’s faster than every single Cat. 5. Or at least he wants to believe it enough that he’s willing to put in some effort to not be behind the Cat. 5 field that started five minutes back.
We got ahead of the Cat. 5’s but still weren’t moving real fast. I got back in the pack and figured I couldn’t do it alone, so I’d wait for someone else or sprint for fifth. Then Eric drifted back and told me he had four guys willing to chase, so I went back to the front and worked, this time with help.
Some Simply Mac and Canyon guys tried to get in the rotation to slow it down, but we just elbowed them out of the way. I didn’t watch the speed, but it was fast. Just before we caught the break, I was blown and had to drift back. Once we were in sight, though, the guys in the break sat up. Turns out Will (Spin) and Alex (Canyon) were the only guys working; Cyclesmith and Simply Mac were just sitting in.
Nobody did much until about 2K to go. We knew it was going to come to a sprint, and everyone was jittery. But instead of a team getting on the front and pushing the pace to set up their man, things slowed.
With 1K to go, a Simply Mac guy went on a solo flier. He had two teammates on the front blocking. Nobody chased. I knew if I went, I’d bring the whole field with me and ruin my chances in the sprint. We were now racing for 2nd place.
I had recovered a little but knew I didn’t have much in the legs, so I didn’t want to sprint too early. We crossed 200 meters to go and nobody moved. 150 to go and finally it went. I gave it what I had but was boxed in and couldn’t get around. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th all beat me by two bike lengths or less. 5th place beat me by less than half a wheel.
I don’t think any of those guys spent more than a minute or two on the front all race, so I was actually happy with the results. 6th place was in the points, albeit barely, and I'm quite certain nobody, except perhaps two of the four guys in the break, did as much work as I did. It was a good confidence boost that even when I’m tired, I can still hold my own in a sprint. Plus I never felt under any pressure on any of the short climbs.
We’ll see if the form holds for Lotoja. I hope it will. As weary as I am from a long season, I find myself wishing there were a few more races in the fall. Hopefully the motivation will carry through to next year.