|The Rookie Diaries: Durand Road Race|
I decided that I would chronicle my race experiences here. You know, for posterity and all that. And of course so that I can properly share in my adventures as an IC3'er. Here goes...
Durand, as everyone has already mentioned, was good and windy. According to the National Weather Service the wind was from the north at 13-15 MPH with gusts into the 20's. I think we can all agree that it was gusting for the entire race. I went into the race with a plan to hide from the wind between 7-10th places and watch to cover any serious breaks of 6 riders or more, then try to make something happen on lap two if nothing had big had happened yet.
Let me start by saying that it was an absolute blessing to go into the race with people I hadn't even met already offering their support during the race. I had opted for the Cat5 race knowing that Durand was a race for me to feel out road racing and learn a bit, but almost immediately Gerber and Ash were backing me up. They reaffirmed that on race day too.
To start the race I lined up next to Ash and found myself on the unprotected side of the peloton before rolling out. He was ready to ride for me though and when I said I was feeling good, he just said "All right, get behind me when we pull out." The race ramped up as we had a lot of crazy flyers off the front even in the wind but Ash and I stuck together until the back side. I had hoped the group wouldn't break so fast, but lots of guys in front were pushing the pace and we were hanging on to watch for the break. I can't say it enough, but another big thanks to Ash because as we came around corner number 2 to face the first hill he delivered me perfectly into the main break.
At the foot of the first climb there were about 12 of us and at the top there were 5. By the second climb the five of us had solidified our lead and were starting to figure out whether we were going to make it stick or not. We absorbed a couple other of the far leaders who had tried to make a long jump alone just before reaching the turn into the finishing straight for the first time and by the time we were starting the second lap we were just 4 men strong. At that point I knew we were in something serious and were going to stay away in lead.
The group pushed hard taking even leads on the top straight and recovered a little on the short southward stretch (the only time with a tailwind). We talked and agreed that we would need each others' help to get over the climbs and stay away from the chasers and decided that we would just let the wind decide the winner on the home stretch.
After finishing the second climb I started trying to figure out what was going to happen in the finale. My compatriots were Andrew, Matt and Steve. Andrew and Matt knew each other and I was getting a little concerned they were going to pull something and leave Steve and I to fend alone, but we stuck together until turning into the wind. Steve started to take off into the wind and I stuck with him with Andrew on my wheel. I was surprised to look behind me and find that we had become a group of three. As we approached the base of the sprint zone we started to fan out and I moved to the far right of the road to try and avoid giving anyone a draft. Then I jumped.
But it was too early. I could feel myself power away from them at the base of the final little climb to the finish and suddenly I thought "Oh no, I knew not to go until half way through the sprint!" I knew I'd be shot if I kept going so I sat, regeared and tried to jump again as the other two came up on me. Andrew started to come around me and I hid in his draft to try and take him at the finish, but the wind was giving him trouble and he wasn't holding a very straight line. I stuttered to avoid a crash and it cost me a chance at the finish, but it was worth staying upright and eeking out second place. IT WAS SO CLOSE!
So to wrap it all up, it came down to the line and it was thrilling. I had an awesome time and wouldn't have expected nearly the results going into this alone. Thanks for all the support everyone. A big shout out to Ash for being my super domestique for the day and to anyone who put a vote of confidence in me. It shows a lot about how the body can lift each other up and encourage one another (even when we race in different heats).
I know it's not officially a win, but it's definitely a victory and this one's dedicated to this team!