Quick Summary: 14th in the road race. In the winning move early, but got shelled (along with two pros), chased nearly back on, got shelled again on the Sand Mountain climb, passed by a strong chase group, rode easy all the way to the finishing climb with what was left of the main field. Managed 5th from this group for 14th for the race.
The Details: I was in an early move that launched itself at the end of the neutral zone at the very beginning of the race. Tim Henry (Jittery Joe’s), Spencer Beamer (DLP Pro racing), Steve Carpenter (Hincapie Barkley), and I went off the front and were working pretty well together with a strong tailwind. Still, we could tell the field was chasing hard and I wasn’t sure that we were going to be able to stay away until Doug Ollerenshaw (Rock Racing) comes motoring up to us. He ramped up the pace about 5mph and we started to extend our lead.
We made a hard right off of US 11 and the road immediately pitched upwards. I was the only one from our group of 5 able to stay with the three pros and at the top of this climb I tied my all-time max heart rate and actually stayed at that heart rate for 25 seconds! I sat on and didn’t work on the downhill or flat leading into the first KOM climb. I was able to hang about halfway up when Spencer and I both got dropped from the leading duo of Doug and Tim. I turned around not too far from the top and saw Mike Olheiser (Marx and Bensdorf) bridging by himself. I took some deep breaths and then hit it as hard as I could to hop onto his wheel and hang on to the top and over the top of the climb. Again, I was struggling so I sat on and recovered on the downhill, but was able eventually to start working again in the rotation.
In the meantime, Ty Stanfield (Myogenesis) amazingly bridged up to us by himself and entered into the rotation. So at this point there are six of us and we are all working together pretty well. We continued like this for the next several miles passing along the beautiful Tennessee River and then the road pitched up again for a fairly gradual 1 mile climb. Mike and Doug just kept right on going at a fast pace and this shelled me, Spencer, and Tim. Only Ty was able to hang on. Over the top and for the next several miles we chased hard closing the gap to maybe 10-15 seconds at one point.
Then when we made the left turn to head into Alabama, the front three ramped up the pace and we never saw them again until the Sand Mountain climb when they were probably close to a minute ahead of us. I was leading into the sharp lefthand corner that takes you to the start of the climb when I came in too hot and just went straight off the road. I was able to keep riding in the grass and rejoin Spencer and Tim at the bottom of the climb. We went at a pretty fast pace, but one that I was able to maintain. The only problem is that a group of about 10 very strong riders had separated itself from the pack and caught us about halfway up the climb. None of us could hold onto this group so they just went right by us. More and more riders started going by me as I was really fatigued at this point. Eventually we made it to the top and a large group comprising the remnants of the field started working together. But with all the major teams represented in the chase group, not enough people had the right motivation to bring it all back together.
We cruised down the mountain, picked up the pace a little bit on the stair-stepper climb, but basically had an easy group ride all the way to the bottom of the Raccoon Mountain climb. I had slipped about 10-15 riders back from the front of the group so that when the pace really started to accelerate I had some catching up to do. I passed riders gradually always with the front three in sight. On the second slope of the climb I felt like I had a flat tire because my legs were so tired. Still, a kudzo.com rider attacked and I was the only one who was able to slowly bring him back. Less than 200 meters from the finish I passed him, but unfortunately Eric Murphy (Myogenesis) had also worked his way back up and was able to pass me with about 100 meters to go. I ramped it back up and challenged him for the sprint, but he still had the legs and was able to pull away from me again. Whew!
To summarize, I am not so disappointed that I got dropped from the winning breakaway, but rather that I didn’t have enough left in my legs to stay with that chase group on Sand Mountain. It’s easy to second guess and say that I should have been more conservative so that I would have been fresher for Sand Mountain. But oh well, I gave it my best shot, and it was definitely a top field with maybe 10 or more pros. I am happy that I still had the legs to do well on the final climb.
Here’s the story as told by my heart rate and power data. Whew!
2008 River Gorge Road Race
- The initial attack and move (Tim Henry – Jittery Joe’s, Spencer Beamer – DLP, Steve Carpenter – Hincapie Barkley, Me – Tria Market / Ivan Leonard Chevrolet)
- Top of the first kicker climb, all-time max HR of 195 sustained for 25 seconds
- First KOM climb, shelled halfway up but tagged onto Mike Olheiser who had bridged solo and was able to hang on over the top
- Sitting on, recovering (or at least trying to!)
- Shelled on this climb along with Tim and Spencer
- Ran off the road right before the climb
- Shelled halfway up this climb (Sand Mountain), couldn’t hang on to the “who’s who of southeast cycling” chase group
- Easy group riding in the remnants of the field. With nine riders up the road, we were still competing for one money spot (10th) and omnium points
- The final climb up Raccoon Mountain
OK, time to get ready for the time trial. I go off at about 6:30 tonight. Four mile, beautiful TT, very scenic.