(I'll pick up the action from Anderson road on the first lap)
As we left the tailwind of Anderson behind a group of @15 riders cautiously approached the base of Bean Blossom. Last minute sips of water downed and gears for the climb selected, we began the ascent. The initial modest tempo widened the frontage of the group from shoulder to shoulder as every rider sought an advantageous position near the front. Feeling a bit claustrophobic and not wanting to be boxed in I flared to the left and rolled off the front to bring the pace up. Setting a tempo enough to stretch the group a bit I waited for the inevitable attack as we reached the end of the first stage of the climb. With clockwork like precision Erik launched a ferocious surge going into the second stage with Ren-Jay close on his wheel. Slow to react (but quicker to than the others behind) I accelerated to try and close the sudden and yawning gap. Slowly over the peak and down I closed in on the 2 man break but at great cost. For a brief moment (looking over my shoulder) I thought if I managed to make contact with the leaders we'd be clear, however, the leaders of the main group awake from their slumber and were now bearing down on me quickly. Riding the rivet I managed to make contact with Erik and Ren Jay about the time the main chase caught me. As we turned onto the forest road we merged into a break of 7 riders (Hamilton,Young, Atwell, Shanahan, Shei, Sherer, and Rose).
At this point a desperate game ensued. Riders alternately attempting to attack the group, keep the paceline moving to prevent any _one_ rider from getting clear, and everyone slipping out of the rotation now and againg just to catch an extra rest. Ryan, Renjay and Mike were particularly aggressive at this stage. Hamilton was being more mercurial, loitering at the back of the group and sizing up the threat of each new attack before responding. I, myself, was getting my legs back together and thought it wisest to hide in the eye of the storm. That's how I found myself following Sherer's wheel out as he attempted to respond to one of Renjay's many violent bursts. Halfway down the forest road Sherer was hurtling along at 30+ mph (with me seeking the shelter of his wheel). A surprising gap had opened. The others were either caught flat or reloading but for a minute it seemed they were ready to call it a day. Being unable to do more than rotate through I told Mike it was up to him if he wanted to drive the pace. By the time we got to Hindustan I had recovered enough to set tempo on the climb, but by then the chase was on and it was no longer if but when the two of us would be caught. We reached the Hindustan sign and the headwind began to blast. The ravening pack had caught us and Renjay seemed determined to prove he could match Sherer's aggressiveness. As soon as Mike and I were caught, Renjay barreled out of the group at speed, with Hamilton hot on his wheel. Only a well timed shout out from Shanahan gave me enough time to respond and saved me from being caught out. By the time we got halfway down 37 the familiar pattern of paceline, attack, and dodge the odd pull had resumed. The wind was bad enough that no one really wanted to be caught out. Only Ryan showed enough indifference to his potential fate to risk a solo break effort but the horsepower arrayed in the group was simply too much for any single rider to get clear.
By the time we turned onto the tailwind of Anderson again some semblance of a truce had formed (if only for a while). So as one we snaked down Anderson at speeds well over 30 mph. I was beginning to feel good, but some nagging questions lingered in my mind as we closed in on the turn off. (would we all play nice on Bean Blossom? How much did the others have in reserve? How would I respond?) Soon enough my questions were answered. At the first stage we climbed together, easy enough at first, but the tempo ratcheted steadily upward as we climbed. At the appointed time Sherer launched a surge that left everyone digging deep in order to find a response. Initially none was forthcoming and Mike soloed away towards the forest road. I tried to reach Sherer on my own but lacked the horsepower to do it solo. To my rescue came Atwell. As he came around me I clung to his wheel, cherishing each second I was able to use in recovering myself. In time the entire group settled on my wheel as Atwell went to work clawing at Mike's lead. The last rise came into view and Renjay used this opportunity to launch an attack along with Hamilton with Young smoothly settling in with the duo. The scramble was on and the surges overtook Sherer now and as we turned down the forest road one last time Hamilton and Young looked over their shoulder to find me very well pleased that I now had the legs to follow the moves taking us over the climbs. The attacks continued from all sides but (with the exception of Ryan's solo flyers)they became more half hearted nose tweaks than attacks as we became more and more resigned the the fact that there would be a sprint (which of course meant it was Young's to lose).
As the last couple of kilometers rolled by the usual jockeying for position ensued. Ryan made one last attempt to avoid a sprint by soloing off but was inevitably swallowed up by the accelerating pack. (he did, however, do a masterful job of keeping a lid on Sherer by boxing him in when the final acceleration came).
We could now see the escarpment before the bridge and with that Renjay launched a strong but premature bid for the line. Hamilton and Young followed him out (letting him pull for a while). Hoping to pick up the scraps I followed the trio but was confident that winning the sprint was not in the cards. As Hamilton launched off Shei's wheel Young simply bid his time so that as the bridge got within a 100 meters or so he effortlessly rolled past his former Cutter teammate. Renjay was now a spent force and surrendered the day as I came around him. Trying for 3rd I was painfully aware that I had a passenger. Atwell had caught my wheel as I made my bid. Redlining myself, I couldn't muster the legs to attack one more time. The bridge fast approaching, I new my fate. In the final meters Atwell eased by me for a solid 3rd on the day. Myself 4th and the rest content to soft pedal and trade stories as they crossed the line.
1 week ago