A couple of us made it west to the Boone Roubaix this past weekend. The Professor suited up in the Duke Blue and made a run for the podium in the Mens B race which went off right after the Pro's. I positioned myself on Big Hill Road on the first loop of the course and just after a big but paved climb up Castleford Road. Chris was sporting race number 113 and as I snapped this shot I couldn't help but think he should have seized the opportunity to turn it upside down. I know this is usually reserved for 13 and it could have cost him his standing at the end of the day but...
Since my race was not until 3pm and the day was beautiful I had plenty of time to nap in between laps. This is a luxury for me to be sure and I savored every minute. I was also wondering how hard the course was going to be. Having driven it the day before I knew there were a few difficult climbs and you never know what will happen on gravel, but there were also plenty of flats that offered some chance for recovery. I kinda got a feeling it wasn't so difficult for Chris when on the second to last lap he passed me again with a wry smile and a chipper hello. He would end up fourth on the day.
After excellent eating and sleeping at some old friends' house in Boone, a relaxing morning and what I thought was good preparation the week before I went over the bike again. All seemed well. Some foreshadowing was provided at the start of the 4/5 race when, lined up and ready to go the field got delayed when the lead sheriff's car pulled out and immediately flatted. We all laughed it off. Once we were on the road the paced picked up in the first 2 flat miles along River Road. I felt fine and was in good position heading into the first climb. About halfway up I noticed that a good many of the top 30 were starting to drop and a group of 8 were pulling away. I was able to latch onto that group and ended the climb feeling great. After a fast decent we hit another flat working well and putting a bit more time into the group behind. I imagine we had at least a 30 second gap heading into the second, longest climb of the day up Carter Miller Road. After passing a cheering Chris, and about 1/4 of the way up the climb I heard a pfisst from my front tire.
Now, even though I love to go up hills I will never claim to feel like Cadel Evans when I ride my bike in the mountians. But on this day I could in some small way relate to the frustrations he had at last year's Vuelta. After dismounting, I took stock of the situation. I was still ahead of the second group but I was on my feet not on the bike. I had a tube and cartridge but I had wheels in the truck which would be along any second now. Now the second group was passing me, I was still on my feet, I still had wheels on the truck but where was the truck. I briefly considered riding slowly back down but instead shouldered the bike and started walking up. Now I really considered the tube but I had wheels on the truck. The whole field was passing me and finally I could see the truck it was behind everyone.
Once I got a new wheel I went off as fast as I could in chase knowing it was rather hopeless to think of a good final placing but wanting to convince myself I was capable of it. I made my way past a number of riders on that climb up Hwy 194 and had a lovely descent until I realized I missed the turn. I turned the bike around and saw 15 or so riders I passed making the turn. That was it but I could still have a good ride and so I did. Despite the flat, the wrong turn and general lack of course markings I found my way to the next gravel climb and felt great. After another fast descent it was all flat for the next 8 or so miles. A guy latched onto me and I pulled for awhile. We got caught by a solo breakaway collegiate C rider and that gave me the last bit of motivation I needed - stay clear of the next C group. I hit the last climb, felt good again and somehow finished 20th.
The typical road racing course around our parts rarely splits the group like this one did. I must admit I was envigorated by this change and hope we can get some of you out there next year. In the meantime let's go do some riding in the mountains.