Well, I wasn’t the winner

I arrived in Pelzer around one o’clock.  It was nice to get there early so I wasn’t rushing around trying to get ready.  Turns out I had more time that I thought I would.  Our race didn’t get started until more that 30 minutes after the announced start time.

It was soooooo hot.  I had started warming up after checking in and then learned that the race was delayed.  I didn’t want to keep riding around in that heat, so I went and found some shade and tried to stay as cool as I could.  Finally, they called us to the line.

We started off in the neutral zone.  I heard Jimmy Helms yell, “Ride smart, Jonathan!”  I was determined to do exactly that.

I started right up on the start line.  It took nearly the entire neutral zone to get my left shoe clicked in.  I’ve been having some trouble with it lately.  Thankfully, I got hooked up before we started picking up the pace.

The first lap was pretty uneventful.  I kept making sure I stayed in the top ten.  I would do this by riding up near the front until I noticed the front riders starting to get antsy.  I would then allow a rider or two to come around me and I would ride their wheels up past the guys falling off the front.  Doing this, I avoided doing any pulling on the first lap.

I came across the line in fifth place as we started our second and final lap.  Only about 37 minutes to go.  The pace picked up and I noticed some much stronger riders moving to the front.  I couldn’t play my little game as much this time.  I just tried to cover any large number of riders trying to break away.

It wasn’t a large group that ultimately messed me up.  I was near the front and watched two riders go off the front.  One guy looked like he was a pretty fit.  The other guy, to put it simply, was a pretty stocky, older looking guy.  It has been kind of fun riding around guys I knew.  I have ridden with them enough to know who I could let go or who I needed to watch.  However, when it came to these guys, I was in the dark.

I was at the mercy of the field at this point.  I kept myself from trying to chase them down.  I sat in the field watching the two riders sometimes 1000 meters in front of us.  They never really got out of our view, but we never seemed to bring them back.  They were doing a good job.

On the rolling hills of the back side of the course, I thought for sure we would catch them.  Indeed, the gap shrank, but again, we could not come up to them.  We simply could not get organized.  A couple of times a pace line formed, but it went away just as soon as it formed.  It was like everyone was wanting to race for third.

What I was thinking was, “I will not go out there and then have people tell me, ‘There you go again!'”  I wanted to go, but knew I would probably regret it.  I kept trying to go with riders that I thought would try to close the gap, but again and again they just fell apart.

On Dunklin we caught the Cat 5 -34 riders.  They neutralized their race and allowed us to go around.  This allowed the two breakaway riders to get even more distance on us.  We turned right and me and two other riders began to chase in more earnest.  We didn’t have much more time before it would be the moment to turn onto the final climb to the finish.

Just as we neared the left turn to the finish we really started to close.  It was a climb and I saw them start to push it.  I had the choice to try to climb up to them or ease up.  I made the decision to ease up.  At that point with the heat, I was afraid that I would use my last bullet and then end up losing multiple spots.  I still held out hope that the two riders ahead would crack.

I eased up and three riders went around me.  I settled in behind them and set my pace.  There is a spot on the climb when you go over a hill and up ahead you see the 500 meter sign.  I was in a small group at that point.  I moved around them and when I hit the 500 meter mark I started to drop the riders who had passed me earlier.  At three hundred meters I could see the two riders up front and I again picked up the pace.

At two hundred meters I went into a full sprint.  It was actually kind of fun to watch the nearest guy to me just deflate when I started to sprint. I was shocked at the power I still had in my legs.  When I launched I left the other guys in the dust, BUT I didn’t catch the guys ahead of me.  They did a great job and got what they deserved.

Talking with the winner afterwards, I learned he was a tri-athlete and time trials racer for the last eight years.  That would explain his ability to go off the front and stay there.  The other guy was just stout!  I don’t mean in stature, but in endurance.  He did a great job staying with the winner.  The two of them worked as a team while the field couldn’t do anything to counter them.  Good job, guys.  You deserved it.

So, that was that… I got a third place finish trying to chase down the winners.  Of course, I second guess myself as to what I could have done better.  What if I had gone with them when they first separated?  What if I had made the decision to chase them on that final climb before the finish?

I really, really wanted to win that race.  Well, there is always the BMW Summer Series… and the downtown race in October.

Thanks for reading.