Last Sunday was the Union Vale Road Race, which featured a big finishing climb. I was on domestique duty for my buddy Al, so I'll let his race report tell the story. As you'll see, the team was successful. Three of us were in the top 10 and we put Al on the podium.
I'll try to keep this short and sweet. This was my best result so far and I can attribute it to a few things. 1. I have been training with William and Mattio in the hills near Union Vale in the past two weeks. 2. I was able to pre ride the course a week ago. And 3, I have been eating substantially better in the past 3 weeks. With all these factors coming together, I was coming into this race feeling very strong and confident in my abilities.
The race kicked off at 9:07 on a beautiful Sunday morning. Mattio, David, Brian, Todd, Dan and myself were immediately in the top 20 and stayed there almost the entire time. As with the 35+ field, Kissena was the major player in the Cat 4/5 field throughout the entire race. Not too much happened on the flats of the first stage, including the first climb, but once the second climb came, I took 2nd wheel and then half way up the climb I moved into the lead and pushed the pace a bit, stringing out the field and making short work of the climb. Hitting the top, I continued to set the pace until I heard Mattio yell to me to get back into the draft. Mattio was correct since we had decided prior to the race that I was to shoot for a strong final finish and he would work for me to soften up the field.
Once the third and final climb of the 14 mile circuit came into view I was feeling thoroughly warmed up and feeling that the pace was not being pushed enough. I was also concerned about the approaching descent and wanted to be at the front of the peloton when we took the 50+ mph downhill that would kick off the second lap. I positioned myself 4 wheels back and waited until I was halfway up the climb and then moved to the front and turned up the pace. Arriving at the top, I could hear no one else and looked back. Inadvertently I had opened up a good gap. "Why not make them work?" I thought, and started hammering it on the flat approaching the downhill. I took the down hill solo, commencing the 2nd lap with a rather large gap. After a bit of hard effort I accumulated approx a 20 second gap but decided a solo break was not the way to go. I soft pedaled and waited for the peloton to pick me up.
As I was pulled in, Mattio looked at me, smiled and did what all good teammates do: he counterattacked hard, drawing out a single racer and quickly going up the road. At this point I decided to block for mattio and have the other teams do a bit of work. Mattio and his breakaway companion were eventually reeled in. Brian D broke next at the base of the second climb and brought another rider with him. He disappeared up the road rather quickly. After the climb, Mattio and another rider jumped with the intention of bridging up to Brian. They successfully got away as well.
On the 3rd climb of the second lap, I started thinking about bridging up as well, while also again avoiding a possibly dangerous pack descent. As with the end of the first lap, I jumped on the 3rd climb, opened up a gap, took the descent solo and eventually bridged up to Mattio and his break companion. We worked for a bit attempting to catch the lead breakaway, but then I decided to pull off and move back into the peloton, which at this point was about 15 seconds back.
Fast forwarding to the final 4 miles of the race, everything had been pulled back together and I was feeling confident about the final climb. I had been listening to the breath of my fellow racers on the second climb of the last lap and could tell a lot of them were hurting. I, on the other hand was feeling relatively good.
Finally, the peloton hit the final 1.2 mile killer climb, a climb which had been in the back of everyone's head all race. At the base, I was 10 wheels back. A good pace was set and immediately riders around me began falling back. Within in a minute or two there were only two riders right in front of me and I could hear the sound of riders behind me shifting and searching for that right climbing gear.
Here is where things got a bit harder. The pace was hard yet managable and I moved up along the side of the NYVelocity rider on second wheel; blocking his possible attack while also watching the front rider who was setting the pace. We climbed like this for minutes and minutes but it actually felt a lot shorter. Here is where I made my critical mistake that cost me the race. Looking up the road, I saw what I thought was the finish; a bunch of racers and spectators sitting on either side of he road. It was about 250 meters away. I waited a few more seconds. "Did the other two not see the finish? Were they too blinded by the pain to look uphill and see the finish?".
I jumped.......or more accurately, increased my cadence in my 23 tooth and began to confidently spin away from them. They didn't respond and I put my head down, grabbed the hoods and spun and spun and spun. I could no longer hear them and I began to actually think I was going to win this. The finish was less than 100 meters away and I had it....
I was wrong. It wasn't the finish, it was just a bunch of spectators. The finish was at least another 500 meters ahead. Realizing this I pushed on, bordering on a total blow up. I could hear the two gaining and eventually one came around and then the other at the 200 meter mark. I was able to hold off another racer charging hard for my 3rd place.
All in all this was a spectacular race on the part of Kissena. We were without a doubt the most aggressive team while also producing big results, placing three racers in the top ten. Todd took 5th and Mattio took 10th.