Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hell's Kitchen Recap

Hell's Kitchen went really well for me, way better than I ever imagined in fact. I left of the race with my good friend and teammate Mike Rickey. Mike is also my coach so we did a lot of talking about mine, and his training, my racing, and what I needed to do this year to do well. We talked a lot about how I needed to be mentally tougher in races, and how mentally I go into races not thinking about winning but about working. A lot of it is just how I had to wire my mind in college I think. I was not a top super star in college. Compared to high school I really had to rethink about how it was ok to just be the helper and I was never going to win, but I did a job and that helped the team win, and that was what was important. I still believe that, but if I want to win some races I have to start thinking a bit differently on the days that I am supposed to win.

So we got to Fayetteville, AR and it was beautiful out. I mean perfect weather. We had great roads great temps, no rain, we got ready quickly and took a quick hour ride. After Mike and I met up with teammate Eric Finks to get some dinner. We went to this little hole in the wall called Pesto Cafe, that you would never think was a good Italian restaurant, but it was great. Turns out a lot of cyclist know about this place, as we saw Steve Tilford and a whole lot of other racers there. While we were there Eric, Mike, and I talked about where we were fitness wise for this part of the season. At this point I asked the guys if they minded if they raced for me this weekend. They said they were really happy I asked and we made our plans.

Now I am no climber, and I have to be pretty much on my game to climb with any type of form. Hell's Kitchen Road Race gets it's name from the big climb on the course and we were going to be going over it 3 times during our race. We determined that if we could get me over the climbs the first two times they guys would keep me out of the wind and get me close to the hill where I would take a dig with about a mile to go, try to get a gap, and hope I could hold it all the way. It didn't quite work that way, but pretty close.

At the start of the second lap Mike came up to me and said a team had talked to him about getting one of our guys into a break. We would have 3 of the stronger team members in the break and the guys in the pack could do a lot to shut down the rest of the race. As soon as I told Mike I thought I could go, the break went flying by. I asked Mike "those guys?" and took off. We began working together right away pretty well, and as soon as I saw there was a gap I fet we had almost a 99% chance of staying away. I felt my teammates could do such a good job that we were going to make it stick. It felt like in no time we had two and a half minute lead and I felt like we weren't really even trying. The little problem with that though was as soon as we heard that lead, we slowed down and settled into the rhythm of the break, but when the pack heard, I hear things started happening.

Our break made it over the Hell's Kitchen climb with 3 of the 4 originators still together and we put some hard work into a fast downhill section. And then all of a sudden our two and a half minute lead was down to a minute! And we started putting in some hard work for the next 15 miles. We were down to 40 seconds when we hit the hard headwind section of the course and we thought we had made it. The gap stayed at 40 seconds until we hit the final hill.

Now on our second time up the Hell's Kitchen hill, which is where the finish line was located at the top, I determined that the two riders with me were better climbers than I was. I was not going to be able to beat them to the top if I started the climb at the same time. So like Mike, Eric and I had decided the day before I was going to have to take a flyer and hope it sticked. I just didn't really know how far out I could go and still have any type of power to make it up the hill. So I did it as close to the hill as I could, but with enough time to get a decent gap. It wasn't nearly enough though, and I was only able to hold my gap for maybe a quarter of the climb. When my two break mates passed me I was pretty bummed, but when I saw the pack was closing quickly and there was a speedy dude from Big Shark gaining even faster, I really started to freak out! Big Shark passed me and one of the other break away guys from team OKC for second place. As I closed in on 200 meters to go the pack was breathing down my neck. But at the same time the road started to level out to a grade that suited me just a little more. I was able to find just enough power to put down some power again. I have no idea how close I was to being caught, but I'm pretty sure I threw my bike at the line. I couldn't have handled going from a "sure thing" podium spot to 5th place. 4th was still good and I was very happy with it! I waited for Eric and Mike to finish to give them the news. They were both really happy.

The result was beyond my expectations for the weekend. Like I said, I am not climber. I have great teammates that worked their ass off for me, and most likely did more work than I had to. It really has opened my eyes to what could be a great year for me, and that most likely all the hard work that I have been putting in for the last 6 months will not be for nothing.

We're the three best friends that anyone could have! :-)

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