Wow, finally a H8TR report! Last week was pretty crazy and there was not a lot of extra time to write. Dave and I even had to push back our vacation almost two days! More on that later…
I had planned to train through the race and was a bit tired going into it after a hard week. I slow-rolled it to the start in Fitchburg from the east side of Madison with a solid group of friends and was a bit surprised at how much it felt like a sanctioned race when we arrived.
The lead out was incredibly fast and I wanted to work on starting hard and finding a group to work (and stay) with as I knew there would be a headwind until the turnaround. A lot of the men at the front pulled away but they were still in sight. I was going about the same pace as Ron K. and a few other guys so I tried to hang on through the unfinished section. The groups were pretty well established by the time we hit the gravel path and we began to quicken the pace and work together. Ron was taking some monster pulls but everyone worked hard in the paceline. I knew I had a good position and felt really strong once I got into a good pace and made some pulls. We put a decent gap on everyone behind us and started to make progress towards the groups ahead. There had been a crash in Dave’s group and he was hurting but joined us for some good efforts through Belleville, then dropped off.
We made it to the tunnel in record pace and I have to admit that I was a bit nervous entering it. I totally forgot to take off my sunglasses and followed my tiny circle of light blindly…I knew the tunnel would have some surprises but I did not think that fireworks would be one of them! I heard about those later on and didn’t experience them firsthand. Our group had shifted a bit after that but we were still working well together into the wind. After what seemed like an eternity we saw the lead group headed our way and reached the turnaround 4 minutes after them. I was relieved to begin the second half and we started to fly with the wind behind us…
We picked up Luke BC and a few others from the first chase group shortly before the mountain stage. The hills really separated everyone and for a minute it was just me and Ron. Luke came back and attacked on the hill and Chad from Polska followed soon after. I did not feel like counter attacking for fear of blowing up, so Ron and I settled into a decent pace and really pinned it on the descent. We sprinted hard for a minute or two and caught the guys. From there Ron, Chad and I settled into a paceline again. Our group picked up a few stranglers and some of them would stay for a while and drop off. I was really shocked when I saw a GF 29er kit and arms covered in tattoos ahead of me (when does that happen?). It was James. I then realized that we had become the second group behind the leaders.
Returning to the unfinished section we kept a good fast pace but nothing too crazy. I felt pretty confident that no one would catch us before the finish and let the guys sprint it out since my race was over. I defended my title from last year and came in 14th out of ~80 riders. This was one of those rare days where everything just clicked; I felt awesome on my bike, my plans to stick with a group and bridge to those ahead of us were successful…it was a great day on the bike and the first day that I really FELT like a pro. Congrats to Marko for the big W and thank you Djonn, Cognition and Twin Six for the awesome race and awards!
As I mentioned earlier, last week was a difficult one (especially with horrible allergies to deal with) but it was a good week to rest and it makes vacation that much better. Before the weekend I managed to squeeze one ride in on my new bike, which we finally completed:
Dave and I decided to do some much-needed spring cleaning before we left and started on the road much later than we expected. We are getting really good at packing the car though!
We decided to take our time getting to Asheville and spent the night in Indianapolis. After a huge breakfast we headed out to Brown County State Park near Bloomington, IN for 3 hours of awesome riding today. The trails are reportedly some of the best in North America and they did not disappoint! We rode every trail except for Schooner Trace (might need more travel for that one) and experienced lots of fun, flowy singletrack with tons of berms, switchbacks and hills. Some of the overlooks made me forget we were still in the Midwest…
After a looong drive that included crossing the Smoky Mountains in the dark, the hot tub at our cabin was a much needed and welcome sight. Looking forward to a week of riding and relaxing!