Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.
This one was to be 103km of racing over two laps, including 4.8km of neutral rollout. The original course was supposed to be ~112km over a few 27km laps, or thereabouts, per lap, but road closures forced a return to the route used for the race several years ago. Each lap had an 8km descent down Baby Gap, which gave good perspective for how much climbing there was. Nothing upwards was very steep, you just steadily gained elevation for 25km each lap. The yellow line rule was in effect, so fitting all 83 racers on to the racing surface was going to be tough. After my lackluster TT, I was a nervous wreck.
I spent the entire first lap waiting for the point where I would be put in serious difficulty. Small rises came and went, then the King of the Mountains point, then the trip down Baby Gap, the rolling drag down Route 116, and finally across the line to begin lap two. That was it. Nothing serious. Relieved doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.
We rolled through lap two without much drama, the group aware that nothing was going to keep this one from finishing in a sprint. Everybody made it down Baby Gap in one piece, and we turned right on to Route 116 to begin the final 15km drag race to the finish line. I tried to simulataneously park myself on the yellow line so that I could be prepared to jump out when we got full use of the road 500m from the line, and surf wheels farther up the peloton. And as quickly as things had ramped up, the lead moto put the brakes on and neutralized us.
A crash in the women’s 3/4 field at the finish line was taking some time to clean up, and the officials needed to buy extra time to get their ducks in a row before we came through. So we rolled under neutral for a few kilometers. All
83 82 – somebody broke the center line rule – guys inching closer to the line. This would not be good. And it wasn’t. With no warning, the moto pulled away and we were racing again. A little over 5km from the line everybody stomped on the pedals.
I popped around it by crossing the center line and emerged unscatched. People were confused, somebody said the race leader was involved, the noises behind us sounded nasty, but the guys at pointy end of things were on a mission and we kept on it.
Around it safely again, but this time there was no hesitation or confusion in the field. We were just outside 3km from the finish and full gas.
My plan didn’t exactly work. As we closed in on the “500M To Go” sign, the sprint-winning train barreled past me on the right. The only place I had to go was left and that was the finish. 17th place. I was disappointed. But for my concerns of being dropped before the race started, and luck in avoiding the tarmac, a finish with the pack wasn’t anything to cry over.
I would advance another day, this time to fight the time cut on Appalchian Gap.