I spent the day lying low in the condo killing time before my 3:50pm start. When I woke up this morning though, I was less than enthusiastic about my health. Babs has been in the throws of a cold for a week and I thought I was going to get away without catching it. I developed a sore throat and had a runny, sneezy nose a couple of days ago, but I was trying to write it off as allergies. Overnight, my sniffles stopped, but I awoke with a sharp ache in my chest and sore neck glands. I got the sickness. I was bummed as the timing couldn’t be worse heading into 4 days of hard racing. But, I looked at the positives: 1.) I’ve been healthy all season and hadn’t missed any races and 2.) I have 3 other teammates in this race so I could easily fill a support roll if I’m totally out of it.
Feeling no pressure, I warmed up, and slid in behind PVC’rs Paul Weiss, Mike Claus, and Stu Abramson. The event is an 8.2 mile mass start hill climb. Although there is potential to work together as a team on the lower section, as we near the top where the road gets steep, it’s pretty much every man for himself. I didn’t feel great during my warmup so I was really resigning myself to try and help whoever was up front.
The Cat. 3 start:
As we rolled off and began our neutral start through town, it was apparent Stu was having a cleat/pedal disagreement. He couldn’t seem to clip in his left foot. Upon closer examination, it looked like he stepped on a PowerBar and it clogged his cleat to the point it wouldn’t catch despite his best one footed pedaling while trying to scrape the crap off. It didn’t work so we talked it over and decided this is the best time to stop and take care of it before the racing began. We pulled to the side of the road and the neutral support guy came up with a screwdriver and scraped the stuff out. I wasn’t sure if it really worked, but we had to catch up to the field as they were nearing the end of neutral zone. Stu pulled in behind me and we picked our way through the traffic and bridged the gap just as the racing began.
I quickly worked my way to the front and settled in. Amazingly, a group of 5 or so took off right away which I thought was strange for a hillclimb. Because I didn’t know how I was going to fare, I stuck with the field and relied on strength in numbers. There was a bit of a headwind, so conserving energy now was hopefully going to pay dividends later. Mike made a bid for King of the Mountain points mid-way up the climb, but the top-3 places were gobbled up by the breakaway. Stu made his way to the front of the pack so I got up there and got in front of him, hoping to lead him up. But as the pitch got steeper, others came around so it was time to just hang on and see where we ended up. I was behind a few of the GC contenders so I figured I was in good shape. As the finish neared, the pack thinned. Some accelerated and I couldn’t match their speed so I focused on a few of the guys around me. Because the GC is based on finish, not time, it was apparent I couldn’t improve or lose my position, so I didn’t have to sprint for the line. Stu came up a little after, followed by Mike then Paul.
I knew a top-10 would be sweet, but really I couldn't have imagined actually getting it. I’m really psyched with my finish, given my health. It’s a good start and I just have to try to maintain position in tomorrow’s circuit race which is my least favorite event. Stu came in 19th with Mike right behind at 21st and Paul gutting it out in 56th.