Written by Michael Green Tuesday, 11 October 2016 00:00
Encouraged by my Labor Day racing result, I had decided that perhaps my racing calendar for 2016 was not going to be a total loss. I'd broken my elbow in late July and had recently been given the clearance to ride. Notice I said ride, that's the same as racing... right?
A new gravel race had emerged this year - Uncle John's Dirty Ride at a popular cider mill. Held on 9/11 it held special significance and certainly placed a new perspective on the day to come. A fly by started the event in spectacular fashion. The gun started the race and 56 miles of dirty to go.
Although there was no singlespeed class, I had brought along my SSCX Kona Major Jake to get used to the "spin" at race pace. There was one solitary patch of blacktop right at the beginning and, as perhaps I had expected, I was jettisoned from the front group immediately, 42x16 was not enough for the smooth road and high speeds. The course profile had shown the course to be pancake flat with a climb close to the start. I waited and waited but it never materialized. I had hoped this would be an opportunity to make up ground and I'd be okay in the group as this hearing, on dirt, it pretty "solid". Instead I chased alone, in "no man's land" for 33 minutes - I sat up and waited.
Other riders were being kicked out of the front group but none wanted to join my chase. The group behind seemed further behind than the front was ahead of me but a small group of five were coming up fast; I waited, ate, drank and joined the rotation.
The group was a hodge-podge but three were clearly along for the ride. I had no chance at the front today, and as there was no singlespeed class, all I could do was animate my group, have some fun, and have a good workout, testing my elbow along the way.
The miles clicked away and with twenty to go it was time to jettison those along for the ride. I placed myself behind one of them on a long corner and after their short pull I kicked up the tempo a little... snap, the first piece of elastic broke.
I'm not sure if the other two stronger riders knew what was happening, but they certainly seemed to be up for the cause. We picked up the speed time and time again and "pop", another left our group. The final cord broke just like the first: take your pull and I'll elevate the pace as you pull off.
Now it was me and the final two. Each of us pulling our load but I was feeling good. I had no problem with the pace and had plenty to give. With five to go it was time to play some more. It was my time to pull at the front of our pace-line and I picked up the pace significantly. A gap appeared and I was gone. It seemed too easy, and then I realized why: with my head down and focused effort I missed a right turn. A couple of expletives later I was back on course and giving it my all to rejoin the others, who I may add, weren't waiting.
I caught them reasonably quickly and had to decide what to do: road racing "rules" would say attack the group, so that what I did. I rolled up to the rear wheel freewheeled for a few seconds and went. No reaction, perhaps they were tired, I certainly was!
A three mile or so time trial remained. They weren't coming back and I wanted to test myself so I buried myself in TT position with the requisite saliva running down my chin. My Schwalbe G-One's really smoothed out the gravel roads and I finished feeling good about the day. I'd missed the main pack but they were cheating with gears, so what could I do? The elbow is feeling at least 90% and not affecting riding in straight lines: singletrack? We'll see.
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