Capital Region Road Race. That’s right, road race. That means we’ll go uphill, and hills are my nemesis. On paper, this race shouldn’t suit a cyclist like me. There are a solid amount of hills and super punchy drawn out spots, with a gut busting finish that crests about 50 meters over a series of 4 pretty steep kickers, totaling about 1k long. However the other half of the course is gently rolling terrain and wide-open flatter roads. Theoretically, if I could somehow survive all the uphill madness, I had a shot. Three times, that is. The course is a 20+ mile loop, which meant I had to survive the hurt in the hills again and again and again.
Knowing that, I came into this race with confidence, but accepting that it was going to be nothing but excruciating. This race is always later on the calendar too, when I’m peaking for the season and I have serious legs. This time it was almost a month earlier, so I had my work cut out for me.
Pre-race and Zig-Zagging through the parking lot, I knew I had been tagged. I kept getting the “hey Greg”, and “don’t be afraid to get spit out the back, Greg” remarks from people that I had never seen before. So I made sure I got to the start-line at the last possible moment so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. The start was neutral for about 3 miles, but I immediately wormed my way to the front where my teammates Nick and Justin were, and where they actually would stay for the entire race either aiding in its control, or waiting for the right break to fly.
The first of the hills hit me. Hard. I tried to be the first wheel or two to hit the climbs so I could fade to the back, and catch back on over the crest and downhill. There were enough rollers that I had strategized and planned where I would give harder efforts. I really tried not to absolutely max out, because I knew it would cause me to get muscle cramps later. We all have pushed through cramps before, and it just plain sucks. I figured it all out by the second lap.
There had been a few solo efforts off the front, which never really stuck and had only seized in the last legs of the final lap. Only then was it a consensus that nobody could really get away, so the race instantly became a crit. Bedsides the anxiety and madness of people fighting for position elbowing, yelling, and bumping I thought to myself, “awesome.” Just stay with the group, and then you know when to empty the tank. I knew I wasn’t going to lead the group up the final kilometer of hills to the finish line.
We hit the final 1k to go sign, right at the bottom of the quadruple steep section. So I stayed tucked in, and knew it was just time to really, really, hurt. The climbers took the show and started gapping the group, when I felt my left hamstring starting to cramp. I also looked down to see my heart rate at 183 beats per minute… and about to go up.
I slogged a pretty solid effort to catch back on the group of about 8-10 guys and we went over the 3rd (of 4) steep shots before the line. They again started gapping me, and the road flattened out a bit before the very last steep to the line. Instantly, they all spread out like a birds wings taking the whole road. They had started their sprint. I was so hurt at this point I could only do one more thing.
So I clicked up like 3 gears, got in the drops and layed down a sprint like it was the crit world championships. I chose the left side where there was only room for about 1.2 bikes to fit through, and I assaulted the group who seemed to almost have stopped dead. About 2 bike lengths in front of them who I couldn’t see until I was around them, was one rider on his hoods looking back at me. I overtook him just from the effort I had given to get around the group. So I kept digging and put a couple lengths on him, and didn’t stop until the line. I crossed the line in 1st place absolutely maxed out with no more pedal strokes left in my legs. I sat up and threw my hands in the air. “That’s how its done”, I muttered to myself. And that’s how I felt. Done.