All photos by Jim Wilson.
If the purpose of the first race of the year is to absolutely smack you in the brain with reality, then Black Hills achieved its purpose for me. I think I'm not alone in having received this bit of an ass-whooping. (And yes, my brain and ass are pretty much the same thing sometimes.)
Reality, in this case, being that bike racing isn't easy. I can't just float off the front with a national time trial champion just yet and expect to hold my own. Most of us, unless we are a certain Kenda pro, Joe Dombrowski, or Josh Frick, can't expect to win on strength alone.
Essentially, this is crushing and humiliating. To me, it's especially a bummer after my first off-season of reasonably dedicated training. It's also kind of gratifying, though, isn't it? Because bike racing is supposed to be hard as hell, a sport fit for the few at the edge, assassins born of freak chemical accidents and genetic mutations. We didn't go to Black Hills to don tweed and promenade.
The hill proved harder than we thought it would be. It proved harder than I thought it would be, even after I'd ridden it backwards.
Anyhow, I decided to attack two laps in. Right on my wheel was some DC Velo guy with a nice 'fro. We really killed it for a lap. I was on the edge. What for me had started as a nonchalant move had become a manic attack. I thought, "nice, get out of sight, then ease up." I'd never ridden with DC Velo before, and I'm trading pulls. The second lap off, I take a pull on the downhill, and when he swings around me on the climb, I realize I may not be able to hold his wheel. I also realize we're only four laps in. He's gone, and I'm drifting back to the peleton.
I tried a few attacks later, but I was toast. DC Velo did a nice job of controlling the rest of the race.
I later learned that the Afroed gentleman was Josh Frick. I will remember that.
Minutes after the finish of the 35+ I'm lying on the grass, and I wonder if Jose Nunez missed the start and is trying to catch on, or he's really that far off the front on the first lap.
And is he really climbing that fast?
Unfortunately, the pace of the peleton picked up, and after a while, the gap closed.
I was glad to see my old teammate Sexy Tony bridge to a small group and take second in the end. It was a powerful move, and I was glad to see him rewarded for it.
Also glad to see Jose taking the crit yesterday down in Richmond.
Here there was plenty of intimidation: two pros, several NRC caliber riders (including Mr. Frick, again), and the memory of my struggles in the first race. I decided to sit in and hang.
I did not see the Kenda rider, Phil, go. I didn't see him take Evan Fader with him. I heard that the two built a large gap, then Phil built an even larger gap. Apparently, he almost lapped us. Fantastic.
I did see Joe Dombrowski go with two NCVC riders, Paul Mica and Rob Sheffield. Hats off to Paul and Rob for sticking with a world-class rider.
My teammate, Brian Sacawa, joined a chase group which stayed away. Brian managed sixth, an impressive result.
After the masses of departing riders off the front, teammates settled in at the front, and the pace was tranquilo, actually much more manageable than the Masters' race.
I sat in on one DC Velo move toward the end, Win Elliot, I think. Tom Blonkowski of NCVC was also in the move, along with DJ Brew. I apologize, fellas--I was absolutely worthless.
I didn't see a single crash, the weather was beautiful, the organization was perfect, and I got to see a lot of old friends--what more could I ask for? Thanks, Bike Doctor, for putting on a great race.
(My thanks in particular to Pete Warner, who spent the whole day road guarding and personally escorted my vehicle to its parking spot. Next time, Pete, ya gotta get some Cat 5 dude to do the job during the race.)