"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Holy hell, that was fun!

I've always wanted to do a camping-slash-racing weekend in Wisconsin and it has finally become a reality, with great results as well.

This past Thursday night Liam, Patrick, Ryan and I claimed the last open campsite at Pike Lake State Park in Hartford around 10:45pm, 15 minutes before the grounds closed for the night. Note to new campers: if you've never used your tent before, be sure to practice setting up in your front yard rather than try the first time in the dark with flashlight and a 6 am wake up scheduled. It's good to have a grouchy, old Sourdough around like me to help out as well.

In the morning, we had less than a half mile ride to the registration and staging area by the lake and picnic area for the Tour of Holy Hill Road Race. There we found numerous teammates: William, El Presidente, Stocky, C-Mac, Loukas, Grosspietch, and Heck. And some new guys were racing with us, as well. We had a large presence, and XXX was definitely looking to control this race.

After a neutral rollout from the park, we turned left onto a 2 lane farm highway to begin the first of five, 8-mile laps, before turning off to the right on this starting stretch to finish 300 meters uphill to the line and podium.

At the gun a 14 year old junior of Team Flanders named Jordan took off on a flyer than had him off the front for over a lap. At first, the pack was content to keep letting the rope out, but after five or six miles Liam bridged up to him, and a few others followed piecemeal until the lap completed. Soon the pack was all back together - the pace slowed again and for a few miles Liam and I chatted lazily at the front.

Over the course of the third lap a few attacks went off, one after the other, several by the Flanders junior. Nothing stuck but it did manage to permanently drive up the pace. Nobody wanted to bridge and start something. At two to go, Liam attacked again, and as he was brought in we began one of the tougher hills on the course. Right at the top I countered on cue, got a gap, and began flailing helplessly just 100 meters off the front over rough pavement and a false flat, into a 15 mile an hour headwind.

Liam blocked as best he could, but not being that far out I was only off for maybe a mile or so. But it was enough. I came back in just about two miles before the fifth lap began, and Liam countered my counter and was off. Seemingly for good.

For the next eight miles I blocked my face off as Liam's gap grew. I don't think I've ever worked so hard trying stay 2nd wheel as at least five or six other riders tried to organize a chase. I could tell I was doing everything right, as I must've said, "sorry, man! Teammate's up there!" at least 20 times. Again, nobody actually attacked on a bridge attempt, however. I would've been happy to let Liam have help, but the chasing was just driving the pack ever closer, and it became an increasingly more complex game of Wack-a-Mole.

William joined me after a while, but soon it was apparent that Liam was going to come back. At the top of a hill he was finally doomed, and put in one last dig, as if to say, "f*** you guys!" Then he cracked like lightning, several of us patted him on the back, and it was on, as they say, like Donkey Kong.

The bunch to the end was fluid and dynamic. I lost 15 places after a sharp right and then a hill, and had flashbacks of 2008's Hillsboro-Roubaix as the rider two ahead of me let a gap open up on the following descent. I screamed expletives and I roared around them, not only reconnecting, but by the second to last turn I was sitting 6th wheel. From there it was only 500 meters to the penultimate last turn, and though I was almost taken out by someone swinging sharply right to move up on the shoulder, I came around the last turn sitting 3rd wheel.

Immediately, the Flanders junior, Jordan, launched to a huge gap, and I made the instant decision to chase. I was really moving, and as I watched the gap close, I began to entertain glorious visions in my head as time slowed to a standstill. Then the hill kicked up, my legs fell apart, and the six riders I'd been leading out behind me passed me in all to real time before I crossed the line 8th.

It was still a great and well-earned top ten, but with by far the largest team in the field, we should've had a podium, and I should've managed that sprint better. But, it wasn't for lack of trying that was sure. Liam was beside himself, but he certainly deserved the hard man and most-aggressive rider awards for the day.

We spent the rest of the day lounging around the campfire in folding chairs, napping, listening to tunes on Ryan's iPhone - fully living the High Life - in bottles. We dined on chicken legs, beans, and rice for dinner, and were all cashed by 10 pm.

Coming soon: the Schlitz Park race report.

No comments: