May 21st, 2011
Belterra. More like Puketerra.
Wow, what a deceptively difficult course. Trying to tackle that long, quad-burning hill capped off with the sprint up the kicker in 95°F heat and 90% humidity was the perfect puke-storm. Add in all the red candy water that people could drink and it was like being at a junior high science fair. Little volcanoes spewing liquid hot red-tinted magma all over their bikes. I counted stories of at least four people, including our own hydraulic ejector, Adrian. At least Adrian did everybody a favor and pulled over (we give him props for gently putting his bike down in the grass, drive-side up, before collapsing) and proceeding to throw up the contents of his stomach into the median.
What is Adrian doing throwing up in the median? How did the race come to this, you ask? Let’s go see.
The race started for me as almost every other race I do, with an attack off the front in the first ten mintutes of the race to test the legs and wills of the peloton. I discovered just how difficult the course was on my first time up that hill on my solo attempt. Oh God, it was hard, and the pack was determined to chase me down, so I resigned myself to ride with the group for most of the race and we fell into a rhythm. I felt good because I was prepared for the race by people that had done it in the past. I knew I needed to be one of the first through each turn or risk burning too many matches catching up as the pack sprints out of every corner. Unfortunately, everybody I was racing against had the same advice, because there was a mad reorganization as the pack jostled for position coming into every turn. People sprinted up the hills on the two ends of the course to hit the hairpins first, and there was a high-speed shuffling of the deck as everybody tried to get situated for the 90 degree turn in the middle of the course. Position was everything in this race and my super secret strategy just turned out to be shared by almost everybody. Thus was the story for most of the race.
Toward the end of the penultimate lap, Chad Hardt got brave and made his bid for victory and the pack sort of stared (some yelled like babies) as he opened a gap on the field. He was first through the 90 degree turn starting the last lap and still the gap opened. It looked like the pack was just going to let him go, as nobody wanted to blow themselves up to make the chase. The little voice inside my head started yelling that nobody was going to chase, “Follow that move!” Adrian had the same thought, evidently, and exploded from the group to bridge the gap as the pack just started the grind to the far turnaround. CREDO Racing was off the hook for the chase; our bets were officially hedged. I created our backup plan as I rode up to Shaun and told him to get on my wheel and stay there.
As we hit the kicker (and passed Adrian puking in the grass) at the far end of the course, somebody slammed into me and pushed me to my left about a foot. Adrenaline fueled rage filled my vision and I was ready to rip somebody’s freaking head off. I turned yelling “COME ON! Learn to race your…” as I realized Shaun was the rider that had bumped me, just reminding me where he was, and that he was ready to go. Shortly after, he stood up and powered up the hill; 1st wheel through the turnaround. Time to go. I chased, made the turn and then yelled to Shaun to jump on the train as I started my sprint from the far end of the course. Shaun wound up his engine as I was closing the gap between us with my jump and then took shelter behind the wattage cottage as I passed him. This was the race. We built up a ridiculous amount of speed as we powered down the hill with Chad in our sights. I focused on Chad and just tried to rip the crank-arms off my bike. And then we passed him. Actually, we passed so close and so fast, that I would venture to say we buzzed him.
As Shaun and I crested the last speed-bump of a hill, the 90 degree turn came into view. My legs were fading and the puke was coming, but I did everything I could to crank out more watts to get Shaun to the turn first. We hit the turn and I went wide, giving Shaun the entire road, and Shaun Dean capitalized on an epic, leg busting lead-out to dance his way up the hill on his way to victory. I looked back and savored the gap as I more leisurely climbed my way to the 2nd step on the podium. The faint taste of vomit in the back of my throat never tasted so sweet.