On a beautiful Sunday morning the Masters 35+ field lined up for the start of another day of racing during the Greenville Spring Training Series. One of my teammates, John James, was waiting for the pre-race officiating announcements to end when he overheard a comment that set the stage for the day. “Welcome to POA Hell,” quipped a rider near by.
It started right from the gun. POA rider, Phil Ball, made it up with another rider to start an early break. For a while, the field let them go. Then about half-way, the attacks started coming fast and furious. The end result was that by the end of the first lap the race was busted into about four groups.
Out of this emerged Phil and Thomas Smith in a two man break. The other POA riders – Rodney Dender, Jae Bowen, John James, Cleve Blackwell, Mark Caskey, and Gen Kogure – were spread out in the various groups. By the end of the second lap the race was pretty much decided.
I asked Thomas how things happened from his vantage point, “Phillip and I were away from about mile 5. So I simply asked him to stay with me… no matter how much he was suffering and sure enough he did and we took the podium. He will say he didn’t do anything… but he did, he stayed with me.” That is saying something. That means those guys were out there – the two of them – for about five laps of the course.
Phil showed some true grit by staying in there after working to form the break. He then would come through to give Thomas a break from the front now and then. In the end, it worked out great for both of them.
Rodney and Jae were there following up any moves to reach their teammates in the break. That allowed Rodney to have the position he needed to bring home the podium sweep for the team. Jae was there to notch a seventh place finish as well.
Farther back, the rest of the team was dealing with a field that seems to have lost its will to race. The Masters 45+ field caught the Masters 35+ riders. The official neutralized the first group about two minutes before the second group caught them. Then all kinds of confusion ensued.
Once the 45+ riders passed, Cleve got a little tired of just soft pedaling around the course. He attacked the group with the intention of trying to catch the 45+ group, ride through it, and then exit the field. John James was there with him when Cleve attacked. John pinned the field in the gutter as they came into a crosswind. The remaining field began to shatter.
Before long Cleve caught the 45+ group and the rest of the 35+ riders caught the 45+ group trying to chase him down. However, rather than neutralize the 45+ field, the officials let them go and the two fields started getting mixed as the 45+ group started accelerating in the midst of the 35+ riders.
So, it would appear that even some of the POA riders got caught up in the results of “POA Hell.” However, for Thomas and Phil – and Rodney – it was a totally different story. I guess when it comes to days like that, one man’s hell is another man’s heaven.
Once again, Eddie Helton does an incredible job telling the story with his camera. Be sure to go by Eddie’s web site to see more photos from the weekend events. If you find yourself in a photo, Eddie’s prices are VERY reasonable for you to get your very own copy.