As a review, the racing for both days (Skills based on Sat/Aged based on Sun) was held outside of Copperas Cove on Ft. Hood. As luck would have it, the Army was conducting tank maneuvers for troops that are deploying for Afghanistan in the near future, and made for an exciting background. Also of interest, it rained cats and dogs all day long on Sat, but became mostly cloudy on Sun with no rain.
Back to the M40+ race in particular, Chris attacked on the last big climb on back side of 33 mile loop, and Willy Ross of Austin TX and Russ Walker from Louisana went up the road for the winning break, and Chris took the sprint for the win:
It’s Monday, seven days before my final road race of the year and not just any road race, but the Texas State Championships. I’ve been having some issues with my bike and dropped it off at Richardson Bike Mart for Jim Hoyt and team to look at. Having ridden for Jim for years, I know he and the team will do their best to get it sorted and ready for the weekend. For many of us, this is still not the thing you want to be doing leading into a big event. Later that afternoon, I get a call from the team mechanic, Michael Hinton telling me my bike is ready…hmmm, wonder what he fixed…so I call him. Come to find out, the fix was a brand new Specialized Venge wearing SRAM Red and Zipp 404s…yes, that will fix it! However, now the nervous challenge of getting the fit dead on…not a problem for Gary Woolfolk and his trusty RETUL and eye! So off to Ft. Hood locked and loaded with a new weapon!
With both the 40-44 & the 45-49 racing together the field was a strong 80+. We woke up to find the roads had dried, but the wind was blowing steady from the North and would be a dead headwind the first 13mi or so and up the first few climbs. I love climbing, and use every rise to test the field on the way out, checking to see who might be up for an escape, yet have the power on the flats and descents to help power the move. Nothing happened in the headwind, just a few short breaks that were quickly reeled in. Then we made the right hand turn heading into the second leg of the triangular course where we had a great tailwind with just enough crosswind to make it a little work in some sections. I knew with this wind I had a shot at escaping, but I needed some power to make the move stick once I was off the climbs. As we approached a relatively long climb, Will Ross moved off the front; it was not a hard attack, but a separation. About a quarter of the way up I spotted one of the strongest riders in the field, Russ Walker, moving up the right side with that, ‘I’m fixing to attack look’. He moved strongly off the front to the right side of the road and I knew this was the time. Bam, I attacked hard to the right and went clear, picked up Russ and Will and we drove it. I looked back about half way down the other side and the field was chasing. There were two riders making a serious bid to reach us, one of which was the 2010 winner, Cord Offerman. I knew if we could sustain our advantage for a few more minutes we would break them; that’s where Russ came in. He’s got huge power and wasn’t afraid to work for the move, which is exactly what he did, putting his head down and hitting speeds of 41-42mph; Will and I were working hard just to stay with him. I pulled through each time, long enough to let him breathe for a second, and then he was right back at it. The three of us went all-in, and totally committed to making the break work.
We were clear and on the third leg of the course, but back into the crosswind and heading for the headwind leg. We finished the crosswind section and turned into the headwind with a 1 minute gap. This was good, but we had 6 chasing and Will was struggling to stay on and had difficulty adding to the power of the move. Will’s a great guy and a great competitor and I knew when he said he was struggling that he really meant it. We didn’t want to attack each other, so we decided to work and he would do what he could when he could.
No down to business, this headwind wasn’t the hardest ever, but it was constant and relentless, and with 6 chasing we had to stay focused. I asked the guys to focus on the right hand turn that led us back to the tailwind. If we could get there with at least that full minute gap, then I knew we would win. I wanted two plus minutes in case any of us had a mechanical, so I pushed us on the climbs just hard enough to not drop Will. Every time we got over the climb, Russ “big daddy” Walker crushed it down the other side. Between the two, we drove the pace to 2:25 by the end of the headwind section. Mission almost accomplished, just needed to stay diligent for the next two sections.
We were flying in the tailwind! Russ knew he was going to win the 45-49, and I felt confident for the 40-44, so all three of us worked as hard as we could. We had a great moto ref following and giving splits, and when the gap hit 3:30 we knew it was done. When the moto came up and said the gap had gone beyond his radio reception we all started to realize what kind of ride it had been. On to the start finish road, and to the WIN! Days like these don’t happen all the time and the older you get, they happen even less. It was a great race, great tactics, the willingness to lose, the belief in winning and couple of guys that made it a great day in the break! Big thanks to the support of my teammates in the race- Chris Carlson and Chris Kutach, and a huge thank you to Jim Hoyt and his staff at Richardson Bike Mart!