It’s no surprise that Rockleigh comes around once a week at this point. For those of you following along at home, Thursday was the 3rd Rockleigh of the second series, which leaves us with just three more weeks.
Thank you to my sponsors, as always.
Thank you Yehudah and John Ford for capturing the still images and to the Koops and Rojases for coming to lend their support. Oh and Jill, thank you Jill.
Seeing as how I’ve been a 3 for under a month, I’m still approaching 1/2/3 races with a conservative mindset. That attack now, attack often business is going to have to wait for greater strength and greater fitness. I tried it in the 3 field, but even there, my body was blown to bits.
I was to have 2 teammates in this race – Jorge and Shawn – but didn’t realize until we were already rolling. I located Jorge during the neutral laps, and Shawn just after attack #1 went.
Nobody really chased, we all kind of sat in until a counter attack developed which strung. us. out.
The race heated up pretty quickly, with more out-of-the-saddle efforts than I was used to. I can distinctly count 4 separate times when my body quit and my mind kept me going.
And they were brought back. No matter which German pro, who kept attacking, was in them.
Sitting in the middle, my plan was to…sit in the middle. I moved up when I felt comfortable and tried to stay on familiar wheels. Greg was one of these.
The race progressed. Greg watched Zach, Zach watched Greg…and I tried to watch them both. The main problem here is that they have strength and I have none. Regardless, I managed to find myself in a 6 man break with them.
For about a lap. Nothing really promising. After it was caught, I remember thinking how the power was definitely there…but the chemistry? Zach and Greg were in the same break. Could have been epic.
At some point, when I was almost popped off the back, Skoop passed me. I remember thinking that we were just lapped. But really, a little gap opened up with Skoop and a few others behind me…and he was just doing work back there. That’s all.
There were a crazy amount of surges. In fact, I remember recalling the race as surgey while talking to some racers aferwards. There was a VERY healthy dose of attacks, each one followed by at least one, if not numerous chases.
Eventually, Zach and Greg decide to shut down the German break. Which led to more pain in my legs, more suffering in my brain and more gut-wrenching efforts.
After continuing to hurt, I began to doubt myself. With every surge, I slid further and further back. My legs were screaming as little golf balls rose up in the area just above my knees.
I saw Dan Schmalz. After speaking with him and deciding he knew what he was doing, I decided to die on his wheel, rarther than continue to die on Brendan’s wheel, as I’d been doing most of the race. So I sucked Dan’s rubber for a few laps. Sucked isn’t the right word. I got dropped from his wheel, killed myself to get back on then held it until the next surge.
Eventually, someone on the side yelled out 2 to go. So soon? I had come to love the glorious pain that had consumed me and all of a sudden didn’t want it to end. Just like that, adrenaline flooded my bloodstream and took over my cerebral cortex.
All of a sudden, I was back in series 1, a B racer, and I felt completely in control. I knew exactly where I had to be. As everyone started moving up, vying for position, I sat patiently. I slid to the back a little to keep myself calm. To wait. To wait for the right moment to start moving up. I watched racers pass me. Kissena, Blue Ribbon, Team Boom – it didn’t matter. I was sitting safely towards the back, exactly where I wanted to be.
Then, I turned it on. I took turn 1 hot and wide, passing a rider in blue and orange. I pedaled hard, while seated, to pass him heading into turn 2 and chose a Blue Ribbon wheel. Gaps opened on the back stretch and I seized my opportunity. Out of the saddle, I sprinted for a wheel up the road. Someone’s anyone’s. I found Dan Wilson just as he was moving up. I latched on like a homing missile and let him carry me up the road to top 10.
With 1 to go, I was exactly where I wanted to be. This was Skoop’s playground (Eugene, 2013) and I was here to play.
Toe-mas led us out that last lap, ever faithful, and all I can remember was that the pace was blistering. As we came around turn 1, I was sure to focus on doing exactly what Dan was doing in front of me. Last week, I almost hit the curb following Ever’s line because he’s got the goods and I simply don’t.
Turn 1 was safe. As was turn 2. Already hammering, NaDaniel suddenly stood out of his saddle and started sprinting. I followed his wheel as he brought me up to the top 7 riders. He was a little wide so I pulled off behind him, just behind someone. I think they were a Bauer rider, it may have been Juan Jr.
Just over the speed-bump, Willie attacked on the right. I look, think to myself, “myself, do I go with that? Do I stay here behind Ever, Greg and Zach?” when suddenly, from behind (he must have slid behind me a second earlier), NaDaniel lets out a high-pitched, shrilly command. “ELI!! OUTSIDE!!”
That was my cue. I followed Willie on the outside, who took turn 3 super wide. Everyone else was tucked in real tight, so I did too. Sliding left, I found myself on Ever’s wheel, 6th wheel. We had 1 corner to go before it all went down.
The last corner was uneventful. Suddenly, we all slowed for the sprint. I had no idea what was happening behind me and I didn’t risk looking. As we slowed, the first 5 riders fanned out, me with them. As soon as I slid to the right so i wouldn’t hit Ever, I see NaDaniel flying out of the corner of my eye. He shoots by us, but I know I can’t go. It’s too soon.
For another second at least.
And then, it explodes. Ever’s body begins to shake violently as he swings his bike side to side. I’m doing everything I can to make sure he doesn’t pull away, to try and bring him back, but the gap opens slowly, a little bit. And then he pulls left.
The German Pro is there, sprinting…but not as fast as I’d have assumed he was. I make a beeline for his right side and fill the empty space with my bike and body, barreling towards the line…and I throw it.
I take him at the line, and take 5th place at the same time.
In the money, in the points.
I don’t belong.
Some sprint pictures of Skoop’s masterful sprint.