Leesville Gap Road Race
That race was amazing.
I went into it feeling great, hunting a win and some upgrade points.
The course is tough, brutal even. A few miles of flat roads until the rough section starts (I rode front 1/3 very conservative through here) once we were bouncing our way through the pave the pace picked up and the road started tilting up. A 2 man break got a bit of a gap ~45 seconds and the group really didn’t respond. I was riding in the dirt to avoid the potholes, when we came around a curve one of th leaders was standing with a wheel off his bike. I thought that since the pack wasn’t chasing the 2 guys, maybe I should join and get to the climb ahead of the pack. I briged to the other leader and held off the group for ~10 minutes but was sucked up on a smooth dirt climb… Once caught I was shot out of the back of the group. Just moments later we reached the real climb. I started it about 30 seconds back from the group, I rode as hard of a pace as I thought I could maintain but didn’t make any progress. Guys had dropped off the lead group but it was still holding or maybe pulling away a bit and I started to despair. I was looking around thinking to get a chase group formed for the descent and flats coming up. A rider coming back from the lead group told me one guy was setting the pace and wasn’t even showing signs of working. I thought BS no one is going to drop me on a climb without working, I refocused on the chase. I was maybe a minute behind and pulled up maybe to my original 30 second gap over the top but the descent was just as rough as the climb and I was on my limit. I caught and passed riders having even more trouble with the descent than me. Finally when back on the rolling flats I linked with 2 riders including the guy who I’d met on the climb. He and I were matched pretty well and ended up dropping the 3rd rider and working together to chase. It felt like I was stronger (I took faster and longer pulls on the flats) but going over the second climb my ‘friend’ dropped me and built a gap on that descent. I rode tempo alone, again beginning to despair, when I grabbed a COLD neutral water bottle and got a handful of ice under my jersey. That was a life saver. I settled into a tuck and rode tempo trying to catch my ‘friend’. I was passed by a Safeway rider way off the front just before a brief descent and watched as he overtook my carrot. After that final descent we were back onto flat central valley roads and winds and I just kept chasing. A four man group with 3 Safeway riders passed here and I saw a few riders chasing slowly… cat 4s I was sure. My ‘carrot’ up ahead was working hard not to get caught which pissed me off a bit, so when I made the catch I sat on his wheel not taking any pulls for a few minutes. Another cat 4 caught us but we didn’t really get together until we were caught by 4 more 4s. My research of the course told me that we were going to cross over a canal with a left right chicane, and that that is just under 10 miles from the finish. As our group came around I was at the back I attacked out of the corner and drilled it at TT pace. I got a gap and gained until I saw 2 riders ahead and focused on catching them rather than staying away. I caught them, one asked me if the chase group was a danger? Yes, there’s 6 of them chasing. We started to rotate when I came off after my second pull the third guy hadn’t pulled yet, I told him to take his turn… he said “no I’m tired” so I attacked telling the other rider “leave him he’s worthless” I kicked into the last corner and again out of it and time trialled to the finish, I caught one more rider on the line but he was from a different field. When the dust settled, I’d finished 6th (worth 2 upgrade points) I didn’t win but I rode hard and executed my race ruthlessly. I’ve never attacked guys like that and been so rewarded, in crits there are always fresh legs willing to chase; at the end of a hard road race though…