I never gave my report about Stillwater and the rest of NVGP because I have been going nonstop since leaving for Minnesota, returning back to work, heading to Georgia for Nationals, and getting back this morning at 4:00AM. I left for work this morning at 6:30AM. I'm writing more to stay awake than anything today, but I want to replay the race while it's still fresh in my mind. I apologizing for not completing the final part of the NVGP series: Dreams... but let's just say that dreams came true and new ones are developing.
Stillwater Criterium - Initiating the break of the day.
Most Aggressive Musta...err Rider
Honored to be up there with those guys.
Road Race National Championship
Located on the Fort Gordon Army base, I started the race at the very back to keep myself from being anxious in the beginning and burning up at the high noon, 100 degree start with 219 Elite National racers from all over the country. Chuck attacked from the gun, because he is about as inpatient as myself, but he does an awesome job getting exposure for the US Military team and for our team.
I kept it cool and surfed the back for the first say, 40 miles. My numbers won't be accurate, because I stopped using a computer in May and started listening to my body more and trying to focus on the race as it is happening. Despite my numbers discrepancy, I can guarantee this to be a lot more accurate than the online cycling journal reports available. I sometimes wonder if they are even at the races.
A threatening 7-man move was up the road on the start of the 4th lap. I had tried to bridge up solo on the start of the 3rd lap unsuccessfully as teammates from those represented in the break were trying to shut down any attempt to get across to the move. This worried me, so I discussed with one of my teammates the need to bridge across. I told him I would do everything it took to get there and keep it away, or just work to bring the field back together later if I can't, since he had a better chance in the field sprint than me. I saw my chance on the first substantial climb of the lap and bridged the 40 second gap in a matter of minutes and immediately began taking extended pulls, getting our gap up to 1:15 by the start of the 5th lap.
On the 5th lap it was me, Rick Norton, and a Monster Media rider trying to up the pace. I had started this off with aggressive pulls up the climb with moaning and groaning behind me about keeping it smooth. In any other race... I would have probably chilled out... but this was the National Championships! We had 8 guys and this was probably all of our best chance, and guys were still trying to conserve energy... And for what? Every guy in the break had teammates. Bury yourself, if not for you... then for your teammates, make the field suffer chasing. Luckily Rick and the Monter Media guy understood the since of urgency and we rolled most of the lap quicker with less participation than the previous lap. Two riders bridged up near the end of the 5th lap. I forgot to mention that these were just over 14 mile laps and their were 7 laps of racing. We came to the feed zone near the end of the 5th lap and we had split our group down to 5 riders through the start/finish with the field charging at 35 seconds back.
The writing was on the walls but the Monster Media rider, myself, and Rick would not give up. I was loving it. We had a couple stragglers that eventually led to everyone but myself willing to work. I made my last cry for our glory expecting that to be the end of our day and a job well done, and drilled it on the front for a few miles while the remainder of the guys were soaked up by the field. I didn't stop going until the field caught me.
I took a deep breathe and on the next hill I ramped it up again with a Cal Berry and Metlife rider. After about a minute I looked back and we were gone
Here we go again! Probably about 24 miles left to go at this point. We rotated at a quick rate, both of the riders doing a fare share more work, myself never missing a pull... but beginning to fade. Halfway into the lap we were joined to make a group of 15 riders with a 50 second gap. I was a bit heartbroken to find out none of my teammates had taken the free ride up and relented to the rear of this large group realizing I had to do whatever possible to stay with this move as long as possible. We came through the feed zone near the finish at an alarming rate and the group got a little smaller.
The field was on our tails and after a couple strong attempts from riders to get away, we were dangling out front with about 8 riders remaining. For sure this was it for the breaks of the day and it was surely going to come to a field sprint now. So I did the only thing I know how to do. Attack. I went solo. Most of the remainder of the break was being swept up while I was increasing my gap and I just kept thinking to myself, "At least I gave it all", when 4 guys came charging up about a mile later. I latched on to the group including Max Korus, Jesse Moore, Greg Krause, and Austin Roach.
Austin was the Metlife rider from my earlier 3-up self counter attack. He was a big strong man on the flats along with Greg while Jesse and Max pushed it up the hills. I contributed as much as possible but I was all but finished, I knew it, and I couldn't hide it... but I wanted to keep trying to pull through... because I don't care how tired I am - I'm always going to contest the finish. I just wanted to make sure they knew I was working while not accidentally popping myself.
We had 50 seconds going into the last mile of the race. It was certain we'd stay away and I was fairly certain I'd finish 5th because I was barely able to pull through and sometimes unable to on the flats... but there was a 500 meter kicker before the 500 meter drag to the line. I covered the first attack to the right by Greg, surprisingly, while Austin had fell off the change of pace on the incline. On the other side of the road I watched my chance at the Stars and Stripes jersey attack up the road with Max Korus being towed by Jesse Moore up the climb. I made enough of a dig to grab separation from Greg before the road flattened out, but I would never see a chance to contest the two riders claiming Gold and Silver. Huge congrats go out to the young Max Korus, 23. Keck, my teammate, finished 4th in the field sprint to get himself in the top 10 at 9th. Not bad for a team to send 4 guys and have 2 finish in the top 10!
I am happy with Bronze and am happy knowing that I raced with all my heart and strength and probably had one of my best rides ever on a bike. I am happy to have shared the podium with some really strong guys and to have had the learning experience. The weekend was long and hot but thanks to the support I have had as of late from my team, cycling community, friends, and family - it has been a fun ride and I hope it continues through July where I will be racing Tour De Toona in Altoona, PA and the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, OR. Just look out for the mustache and you will find me.