Thirsty Bear Team: Alan Roberts (DNP), Holger Steinbach (9th), Gardie Jackson (35th), Max Thompson (DNP), Duane Coughlin (14th), Lance Haag (33rd) , and me (6th) (49 started the race).
We talked about the race a little in advance it seemed that Max, Holger, and I had aspirations to be active on the front while Duane, Lance, and Alan were hoping to stick with the pack over all the hills. Gardie was uncertain after being off the bike for a couple weeks, but we knew he’d be mixing it up. It was great to have so many teammates and a couple that I’ve raced with often (Max and Holger). The field was loaded. The list was impressive and deep. With that size field and all the strong riders, it was set up to be a hard race. And it was. One of the best race experiences I’ve been a part of in that there was a lot of action a lot of the time. Never a dull moment and the climbs were tough too.
After a number of attempts in the first lap, things calmed down and we went up Haskins Hill controlled but still pretty fast. We lost some guys but then they caught back on during the descent. Not before Holger (TB), Hunter Z (Hammer), Jay Klein (former TB), and Chris Courtney (SJBC) got away. We slowed to a crawl and I was fine with that as I thought we had the strongest guy in the break. On the Stage Road hills, things heated up again and by the time we hit Route 84, Cale Reeder (Hammer), Dirk Himley (Hammer), Chris Wire (Prime Time) were up the road. Our pack was down to about 8 other guys including Kevin Metcalfe (Specialized), John Hunt (Cal Giant), Kevin Susco (Strava), David Passmore (SJBC), Max Thompson (TB) and some other dudes.
It was a good group but then John Cavanaugh (Prime Time) bridged up and a few of us got it together to bring that back quickly. Once together, we saw the break up the road. We kept them in front of us but right before the feed zone, a group of 20 caught us including Duane and Gardie. We hit the climb, we popped some guys, and we caught the break. Over the top with a lap to go there were about a dozen guys. Only two more caught on and as we came toward town, I got in a few attempts with Alex Osborne and Courtney but things came together with our pack of about 14 heading into the sprint prime. That is when Hunter Z decided to ride his bike right into Max and Hunter’s pedals caught Max’s spokes which ended Max’s race and ruined his expensive race wheel. Hunter didn’t look back in his sprint for the prime. Later, he shrugged it off as if it was all part of the race.
We went up the first Stage climb strong and then down the hill in a long line. I hate that descent and got behind the one other guy who hated it more. When we hit the bottom, the leaders were 100 yards up the hill and going. I had to push hard to get around the destruction going on behind them and then cresting the top closed to within about 10 secs of the 5-man break forming.
This is where I had to make a decision. Try to catch them down the hill or ride in with whoever came up behind me and give up a chance to be in the final selection. I went for it and caught them at the bottom (in 2011, I lost contact with the 3-man break here so I was eager to do it right this time!). I couldn’t believe it. Especially since there were cars and trucks and bikes all over that road. It probably helped to slow those guys down a bit but it was also a pain for me. We rotated well all the way along Hwy 84 and hit the climb together well ahead of anyone else in our race.
I was feeling great to be in this group and if I had a pen would have tried for a few autographs. I went as hard as I could and fortunately was able to watch the race unfold with Metcalfe leading Cale, Dirk and Susco duking it out, Hunt dangling off them and just out of reach of me. Cale came around Metcalfe for the win; Dirk closed to a bike length on Metcalfe while Susco was easily 4th. I followed John Hunt in by about 15 secs and then turned to see Holger come in a minute or two later with the next couple guys.
It was real fun today. I was impressed with all of our guys on the team. How fun is it to have 7 guys in the front pack after one lap? I think we did well as a team and each of us had good opportunities to race how we wanted. We always had at least one or two guys right up there at the front (or off the front). I felt like Max was riding fantastic and have absolutely no doubt that he would have been in our 6-man final selection if it weren’t for a very unsafe maneuver that knocked him out of the race with a lap to go.
Official results: http://www.usacycling.org/results/index.php?permit=2013-516