So how'd it go? I'd say pretty darn well! I’ll get to the racing in a moment. First, the team/weekend as a whole - was awesome! I was able to get to know teammates Meghan and Dave and met Stephen for the first time and got to experience a full on PRO set up. We made camp each day right alongside the other top level teams and had a top-notch mechanic (Dave) tuning our bikes and taking care of us in the pits! Thanks to all of our sponsors and supporters for making this possible, including Bob's Red Mill, Stevens Bikes/Sinclair Imports, Carroll Composites, Panache Cyclewear, Mad Alchemy, PrincetonTec, SquirtLube, Challenge Tires and Feedback Sports
Now the racing…
Now the racing…
Friday we raced the Darkhorse Stampede at Devou Park....
I had car issues on the way up and didn't warm up or preview the course at all; I simply knew the course was muddy. For obvious reasons, I chose not to try for the holeshot and went into the first turn in the top ten. Guys slid out all over the place, but soon there was order among chaos with about six of us strung out on the front including Jason Monk (Main Street Velo) and Chris Mayhew (JBV Coaching), two I knew to watch. I followed wheels, hoping they knew where the course turned next and eventually we finished a lap. There was plenty of mud and climbing and all the suffering I wanted.
Mentally I never checked into this race and before I knew it I'd slid to seventh, made two PRO bike exchanges thanks to Dave and Larry in the pits, and we only had one lap to go. I was used to racing an hour and the shortened 45 minute race was certainly different. I dug in and started fishing for the next guy up the road eventually catching Chris with a half lap remaining and putting in one last attack to overtake him. The rest of the lap I spent holding off a late charger from behind only to miscalculate the finish and get beat in an uncontested sprint. He was in the U19 race though, so I finished 4th with Monk on the top step.
Saturday was Java Johny's in Sunset Park, Middletown, OH....
This was, hands down, my favorite course of the 2010 UCI3 weekend. There's not much elevation change, but the small pitches included are steep and punchy. It flows and you can gain time in every turn if you're alert and it generally fits my power profile with very few diesel sections and plenty of short duration, high power sections.
|Opening a gap in lap one (Photo by VeloVivid Photography)|
Preparation for the race was like night and day compared to the previous day with plenty of course recon, warm-up, mental readiness, and bike prep by Dave, our team mechanic (This gave a PRO feeling to the day). I started in the first row and went to the front immediately, building a ten second gap to the field in the first half lap. About 1.5 laps in, Travis Mullen joined me and we began to work together, even though he complained of marathon training eating into his bike time. He held steady until Etheridge (Raleigh), Monk, and Hurt joined us when Mullen faded a bit. Etheridge slipped off the front and built a minute gap – alone – in his second race of the day!
|Holding an early gap (Photo by VeloVivid Photography)|
Around the midpoint of the race, I slid out in the only muddy turn on the course and got gapped off second and third. As I came by the Papa John’s camp, I heard Mandrola encouraging me to, “just give it 1500 watts one time and you’re back in it!” With two to go I mentally dug deep and clawed back onto the back just in time to hear Gatch say over the loudspeaker, “If Monk has anything right now, he’ll attack the group and drop Smith again.” I cursed him under my breath until he began to give better advice like, “…but if Smith has anything, or even if he doesn’t, he’ll fake it and go to the front to set his own pace and recover a bit.” So I listened, and it worked. Somehow, though, I got dropped again and as Monk and Hurt got the bell I was six seconds down again and on the limit.
I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a game of cat and mouse. Whether it was or not I’ll never know, but it gave me enough motivation to push forward and latch onto the back with half a lap to go. The pace was killing me; I wanted to move to the front but didn’t have enough to make a pass so I just held on. Again, I heard Gatch over the loudspeaker, “…this is going to be a battle to the end for second. So far today we’ve not seen anyone come from behind after the barriers, it’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out!” Thanks John, you were right! I didn’t hear anything else over the loudspeaker the rest of the race, but I knew where I would make my move.
We crossed the road for the final time and I sat at the back, gas tank empty, waiting. In the last straight before the sweeper leading to barriers Monk and Hurt left the window open on the right and I jumped out with all I had. My breakfast almost got left in that sweeper as I managed to recover and then push the pace through the barriers forcing a mistake from Hurt. I landed on the pavement with Monk inches from my wheel and adrenaline took over – I gave all that was left and some and managed to hold him off!!! 20 more meters and I’d have been a step lower on the podium – 2nd place after fighting back not once but twice was dubbed the “most heroic race of the day!”
|Leaving it all on the line (Photo by Jen Farmer)|
|Second step with Etheridge and Monk (Photo by Jen Farmer)|
Sunday was one of the best-known courses in the area at Harbin Park, also just north of Cincinnati in Fairfield, OH...
This course has it all – uphill sand, downhill sand, power sections, mud sections, steep downhill sections, pavement, and uphill barriers. Even in 2010 when it was dusty dry it was the heaviest course of the weekend and this year was even more so. Nearly the entire course was either slippery or soft and power sucking.
After two hard race days and digging deeper the previous day than I ever thought possible, my legs were dead. After a preview lap with a couple second looks I opted for an easy trainer warm-up to get the blood flowing. At the start line I learned I’d forgotten to sign in (oops) and had to give my John Hancock before taking another first row start. As we waited for the whistle I had good feelings from the mental battles won the previous day, but not so good feelings about how my legs/body would fare on the third day of racing.
The whistle blew, I charged ahead and was the first off the pavement. I quickly opened a gap on the field and raced my own race without worry of someone crashing around me. The gap grew to around 15 seconds until Travis Mullen (Shamrock Cycles) joined me at the front once again. Soon Matthew Means (C3-Athletes Serving Athletes), Monk, and Etheridge joined us; Mullen may have even gotten away by himself for a bit. While riding in a group of four, I managed to find a root in the mud hole near the start line and ended up flailing to get out from under my bike.
|Navigating the sand (Photo by Marcia Seiler)|
A gap opened and from there my body had little more to give. I sat fifth and even with the knowledge of the previous day’s chase in my mind the gap wouldn’t shrink. Late in the race Mullen had a mechanical and had to DNF and Zeb King (Appalachian State University) powered by me leaving me in fifth with a lap to go. I managed to keep the gap to King in check, while he seemed to be gaining on second and third up the road. There was a ten second gap when we entered the last off camber technical section and only about two seconds when we came out. At that point I knew I had to wait to jump with a few hundred meters of heavy uphill remaining to the finish and with about 150 to go I emptied the tank and grabbed 4th on the day. We always want more, but to be honest – if you’d offered me 4-2-4 finishes on Friday, I’d have taken it! It was an awesome weekend with easily three of my best five races lifetime!
Video from Harbin Park, I believe by one of the Roberson brothers.
Next up is USGP just a few miles from home – hopefully the good form will continue and I can put together another solid weekend!