I thought that mechBgon/Tom McFadden's write up of his Washington State Road Race Championship race warranted its own space on this blog, so here it is repeated from its original home: http://spokanrocktvelo.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=roadracing&action=display&thread=1384
I was in the Masters C group, since I'm a 39-year-old Cat5. We started at 10:30AM and the temperature wasn't peaking yet. The wind was also not as strong as it would become later. I hadn't gotten much warmup time (other than sweeping the corner with a push broom ;)), so I was glad of the neutral hill climb.
When we got to the top and the racing began, I was "riding the bus" somewhere near the middle of the pack, which is a little frustrating because if someone went off the front, it'd take a long time to get free if I wanted to go. Thankfully, the pack stayed together. We passed the Finish line, turned left onto Wood Road, and the change of wind direction made my right-flank position a bad one.
After hitting the high point on Wood Road, we began descending towards the next left turn when Ron Belfis (SRV) had a sudden flat rear tire. He managed to get stopped safely despite being right at the core of the pack, but I felt bad for Ron :(
Then we turned left onto Coulee Hite Road and caught the tailwind, went flying down the grade into the valley, and after a couple minutes there's a tap on my hip. Ron was back! :) The neutral-support car swapped him a wheel and motorpaced him back to us (still not an easy task, especially with his high gear now consisting of a 50x12 thanks to the wheel change!). So that was cool :)
But at this point, I was still stuck near the back of the "bus," we were coming up to the big hill again, and it seemed likely that some of the racers would make their key move on the hill. So I was all, ??? how am I going to get unboxed in time-- Ahhh, I know!
I remembered that at the place marked with the red arrow, Coulee Hite Road suddenly develops a shoulder. I was on the right side of the pack, so as soon as the shoulder presented itself, I accelerated and passed probably 20 people on the outside, putting me close enough to the front for my purposes. We hit the climb, but no one threw down any heroic moves yet. At this point, I should've guzzled a waterbottle so I could swap for a full one when we reached the feed zone, but I didn't.
Once up top, it appeared we'd lost about 1/3 of the pack, but it still wasn't going to be simple to cover breaks. Joel tried to get one going, but his wheelman wouldn't pull through. The other one that I specifically recall is when Royce made a break and some riders bridged up to him; I thought that one might stick, but the pack followed the next bridger up and reabsorbed them after a few minutes. We were still a few miles from the Finish line, with one more lap to go after we passed it.
After his break, Royce filtered back and asked how I was feeling. I felt all right, having been pretty passive up 'til then. We discussed strategy; I'd been thinking to conserve energy until the final trip up the big climb, then try to make a decisive move, but Royce pointed out that everyone else would probably be doing the same, and hinted that a break might be worth a try.
So I was thinking about that, when I got towards the left edge of the pack and oh look, Paul Main (Team Two Wheel) was maybe 100 meters out front, solo. I saw Royce spooling up to go join him, and I went too. Coming up on Paul, I yelled "hey Paul! Grab on!" and he dropped onto our wheel. We were probably 5k from the Finish area. The pack didn't seem to be responding, maybe judging this to be another short-lived feint.
By the time we came through the Finish area, I was in bad shape. Heart rate mid-180s, breathing raggedly, barely hanging onto Paul's wheel and temporarily unable to pull. So when we came to Wood Road, I was attempting to not blow sky-high on my pull, when Royce cracked the whip ;D "FULL GAS, TOM! Give it everything you've got!" And he was right, because with Baddlands, Emde and a group of State Championship contenders bent on catching us, it was going to take some real work to stay clear. And there was still 20 miles to go.
Coming up to the left turn onto Coulee Hite Road, I lost Royce's wheel and couldn't get back on. We made the left, the tailwind kicked in, and Royce dropped speed a little so I could get back. Then we hauled downwind, down the grade at 45mph+, and were pulling at ~30-33mph down the valley. Turning the corner from Coulee Hite back onto Four Mound, for the final trip up the big climb, I knew I had a problem: my calves were knotting up :o Looking across the fields, we saw the pack coming through the S-bend. *JAWS music*
Up the climb we went. Paul was head-down on the hoods, pulling ahead slightly. Royce was sounding pretty hammered, alternating in & out of the saddle. I was grinding along in the saddle (hmm, maybe the 39-23 is a tad tall after all...). We reached the feed zone and people were still handing out bottles. I thought we weren't supposed to feed on the last climb, but I guess they didn't know. Royce handed one over to me, and I got a gulp before going to stow it, but then the Official's Car came up and they said "sorry guys" so I handed over the bottle, feeling sheepish (although slightly annoyed that just when we finally could use a feed zone, it's not supposed to be used).
So at the top of the climb, Royce and I regrouped with Paul. On the long straight-stretch of the climb, I'd seen the pack in my helmet mirror, and knew that we were probably a minute ahead, so my plan was ok, I'll try to give good pulls to keep us clear of the chase, then Royce and Paul can settle the sprint. Meanwhile, my calves were getting worse cramps, the kind where you feel like a lockup is imminent.
However, at around the 3k mark, I looked around and Royce wasn't there, just Paul. Unbeknownst to me, Royce had cramped up and had to stop to deal with the cramp. My own cramps were subsiding, however. We reached the point where I knew it was all downhill to the Finish area, and I pulled for the rest of the way, appreciating that our break wouldn't have made it without Paul's dogged work :) Coming into the Finish line, the road began to go uphill, and Paul was echeloned on my right. I picked up speed in the saddle a bit and then sprinted from maybe 150m. Paul was edging up on my right, and given another 50m he might've taken it, but I didn't give up and I think I was ahead by a wheel. Maybe less...
Then it was time to guzzle some water and head back to the Start area to marshal the corner of Four Mound & Coulee Hite until about 5PM. I discovered that there are limits to even SPF 50 sunscreen, especially in light of my receding hairline! >:( Ok, next year I'm bringing a hat :P