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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Two Hours of Power

I had so many options for riding Saturday morning. There was the option of a ride in Mauldin leaving at 6 AM. I learned at the last moment another option came up as some guys were planning to go check out the Fork Shoals course where we'll be racing the SC Road Racing Championships.

Not sure how many people would show up at the Mauldin ride and finding out too late about the Fork Shoals ride, I decided to do what I normally do on Saturday mornings; Sunshine Cycle Shop's Hour of Power. It's a ride I really enjoy so it isn't hard to make that choice. I'm glad I did.

There were a good number of riders. Some of them I haven't seen before or in a long time. It was neat to have Bryant Young along for the ride. He is a neighbor of mine who rides with one leg.

The ride ended up being two hours and we rode 33 miles. What probably made it most fun was we had most of the regular racing crew there... Art, Billy, Matt, John, and Peter were there. We had a good solid ride with us guys wanting to push it going for the sprints and then waiting up for the riders coming along afterward.

Peter and I went after the first print. I sat on his wheel up to the last couple of yards. He had worked his way up through about six riders. His work allowed me to slip around him at the last second to cross the line first.

The next big push came on Meece Bridge. I wanted to use this as a learning experience. I know how I tend to put myself in the wrong position. My goal was to be in the right place at the right time and then move at the right time.

I was sitting taking it easy and then saw John and another rider in a Les Amis kit come past. I figured they would be going for the line, so this wasn't a couple of riders I wanted to earn a gap. I jumped on their wheel and waited.

The second rider started to move around John. I moved to his wheel. The line was coming, so I jumped and started to push for the line. My thought was that since he had worked so much, it would be hard for him to come back on me.

What I didn't count on was Billy coming up with momentum. As I looked back between my legs, I caught a glimpse of red off to my left of my wheel. How hard did he have to work to get there? All I could do was keep turning the pedals.

Slowly Billy started inching up on me. I could hear the clicking of our gears as we kept looking for more speed by moving to a smaller rear gear. Then I had no more gear left. It was just who could turn faster. About ten feet from the line, Billy passed for good.

Still, I felt pretty good -- once I got my heart rate down. Hmmmm, how would I do on the quarry road climb? I tried to hang back and recover before we started the sprint to the top.

As we neared the base of the climb, I noticed John go away on the front. Knowing how well he has been climbing, I knew he could be dangerous. Still, it is a long climb and he had been riding off the front along for awhile.

We started the climb and he looked back. All I could think was he was testing me to see if I would go off on one of my stupid bridging moves. I stayed in the group hoping that we could bring him back.

At first it appeared that we might do it. However, once we crossed over the false flat in the middle, I knew John wasn't testing me... he was beating us! At that point, it was just a matter of second place.

We have added a new sprint point. On some road along the way, we go down to a bridge and once we cross over the sprint starts to the top of a short hill with a fire hydrant at the top. It is pretty soon after the quarry sprint, but we had waited up for the other riders. We were feeling better.

A couple of riders started the climb and I moved up with them. Then I launched. I knew I had trouble right away. I was in two hard of a gear. As I stroked, I was lifting my rear wheel off the ground. I couldn't shift down, so I just tried to grit it out.

From behind I heard someone yell, "Go, Jonathan, go!" I knew someone was gaining on me. I figured it was Peter. I thought perhaps he would be coming on my left. I turned my head to see if he was there. As I looked back, I didn't see anyone! Why did someone yell a warning?

I turned to finish the sprint and just as I crossed the line, I felt someone touch my right hand. Whoa! Where did Billy come from? Turns out he was the reason for the warning yell. I didn't see him when I looked back because he was in my right side blind spot. I had faded over on him toward the right line as he was trying to squeeze through.

The close racing didn't end there. I had talked with Peter about giving him a lead out into the State Park entrance sprint. He had done that for me earlier and I figured I owed him one. As we neared the attack zone, I was riding with Matt with Peter right behind me.

Matt looked over and told me he wasn't going for the sprint and he would just pull us to the climb. I climbed in behind him and then motioned back to Peter to get on my wheel. Instead, he pulled up beside me and told me that he was beat and didn't want to contest the sprint. He told me he would lead me out.

Okay, I was feeling good. I'd give it a try. We took off. Man, they were flying! If these guys were tired, I'd hate to see them feeling fresh! Until I could find my sweet spot, I was just trying to hang on to those two guys.

Matt pulled off and then it was just Peter and me. As we bottomed out before the climb (and rolling about 44 mph) Peter moved over to give me the clear. Suddenly, I saw Peter slow abruptly. His bars jerked right and then left. I was right beside him and had visions of Peter wiping out and taking both of us down.

Peter gathered it in and glanced at me with a wry smile. I got hit with a rush of adrenalin and attacked the climb. After all that work Matt and Peter did to get me in that position, I was determined to take the sprint.

I never looked back. I just assumed someone had come down right on my wheel and that person would be lurking there to sneak around me. Turns out that John was there, but I was able to build enough of a gap so that he yelled from behind that I had it. However, I wasn't sure what he was saying and thought it was another warning. So, I pushed on to the line when I didn't have to.

Turns out that Peter got grabbed by a branch on his right arm. He had blood at his elbow where the branch came close to pulling him off the bike. It could have been pretty nasty, but did a great job keeping control of his ride.

It was uneventful from that point to the end. I'm feeling pretty strong. It is a big boost to my confidence. Now, if I can just get my racing intelligence improved, I might just have a decent race at the end of the month.



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