Saturday, I won a race. I'm not going to lie: it was awesome.
And now I have to document, because that's what we do.
Fulton Road Race. Fifty-eight starters. Five laps around a 10 mile course for a total of 50 miles. A fair amount of climbing--about 750 ft per lap, most of that over two steeper climbs, the rest over a long false flat / 1-2 percent grade and a few rollers.
Short story: First place after an 18-mile solo break.
Long story: Things started out chill enough, but then you hit those hills and everybody races, races, races up. After the first time over the climbs you got the sense about 35 percent of the group had fallen behind...but they probably caught back on again...then fell back once more the second time through...
And so it continued until the beginning of lap four. People seemed to realize that the race was now between the folks left riding together and things slowed significantly. There couldn't have been more than 30 riders left in the field. No one up the road, no one pushing the pace.
So about two miles into lap four six to eight of us sat around at the front. Chatting. Playing around. Then Jon came up and took a bit of a pull--sort of stretching his legs--and as we came down and then up from the little valley between a couple rollers I accelerated and rode right away. (I say "accelerated," but it was a real effort.) No one chased. And I can only assume they all just kept dinking around like they were before.
My effort was half-hearted at first. I figured I'd be off the front for a few miles and they'd get motivated and catch me so I didn't want to burn too many matches. But after getting to the top of the first climb and seeing I still had a significant gap I started to push it 100 percent. I was hoping that a couple of guys might bridge up to me, using one of the climbs as a catalyst for their attack--and they appeared to try to do just that--but no one ever got that close.
On the second climb, fourth lap, I could see the advancing hoard maybe 20 seconds behind me and thought they'd easily catch on by the start/finish, but I poured on the gas anyway and after the climb they must have just shut it down (no one wanting to be the one chasing) because going through the start/finish I had 1:30 on the field.
And that's where you begin to think you might just have it--when you get out-of-sight. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind in these sorts of races.
I turned myself inside-out on the last lap. Again, I thought they'd get me just after the second climb--I could see a chasing group of two--but while they seemed to get awfully close on the accent, once the road leveled out I couldn't see them behind me anymore. Later, I found out the two weren't really cooperating and were content merely to stay away from the field and sprint for second. Their loss. :-)
At the 200m mark I knew I had it and sort of just rolled in across the line. Second and third came in maybe 15 seconds behind me...and the field maybe 10 seconds after that.
On the last major climb, which tops out some two miles from the finish, I'm sure Jon could have bridged up to the two chasers. He's good at that sort of thing--plus he said he wanted to. But had he done so he likely would have pulled up others, which may have sped the chase considerably, which then may have caught me. So many thanks to Jon for the smart team racing.
* The motorcycle official would occasionally come up to me, get a time split, tell the chasing pack the split, but not me. How lame is that?
* It's funny, Jon and I were trying to talk ourselves into not going on Thursday. I had completely forgotten that I had done this course before, two years ago (Ryan and I finished 11th & 12th), and that it is easily my favorite Lancaster Co. course. I figured this out on the drive there, and then I got all excited about the race. Even if I hadn't done well, it would have been a shame not to have been there--if I'd figured out later what course this actually was I'd been sad to have missed it.
* Rich (Ruoff) puts on an organized race and all, but they really are kind of boring. No announcer (and they had a megaphone there, they could have at least done a little announcing). No podium. No leader's jersey for the series (which I would be wearing; which would be awesome). No real hullabaloo at all. To me, it's that sort of stuff that makes the difference. It's a very inexpensive way of making the race more interesting and endearing for participants. It's how you make just a boring race into an event...into something. Anyway, promoters could be a little (a lot) more creative.
* I don't know how (some) pros have the energy to throw out those exuberant displays of excitement at the finish. I could barely get my hands off the bars for an understated (but heartfelt, believe me) fist pump.
* This is my first non-TT road win since August of 2006. It feels good to win. It's been a long time.