What started off as a causal training ride was amped up by the peloton of Bozeman Masters’ Velo riders that dominated the pack of 25+ riders. Of course there were a ton of GAS/Intrinsik riders in the field as well, but Helena held its place with all three Helena racing clubs represented. Your team fielded the largest number of riders (our sponsors should be proud) with Randall, Byron and Mark, followed by MT Velo (Rick Finley and Frank Gonzolez), and Big Sky had Dave and Chad representing. Frank raced 70 miles (two laps) and looked like he was running third at the base of the hill. The rest of us rode 37 miles from the turnoff to L&C Caverns east over to Sappington Jct., up the hill towards Harrison, west to Cardwell, then back to the Caverns finishing with a 5k uphill finish at the upper parking lot.
The Bozeman riders set the pace for most of the race with a short pulls and coasts—they tried to control the race pace by getting to the front and sitting in. At about mile 18 Rick was having none of this so he did a wonderful run off the front on a nice long gradual climb and I closed the back door behind another GAS rider and forced a long attack by the Bozeman peloton. Lisa Curry was mixing it up with the boys and was practicing some of her cyclocross moves on the edge of the asphalt shoulder squeezing a line in the wind shadow. Unfortunately, Lisa’s race ended at about mile 29 when she and another rider responded to a mild attack by shifting and standing up and in the process violated one of the laws of Newtonian physics. She broke some spokes and hurt her hip and got some rash on her arms, knuckles and knees but had a great attitude. That first shower is going to hurt! All in all, very lucky considering we were running around 25 mph at that point. She’s a fighter and we’ll surely see her back racing soon.
For those of you that time trial, race triathlons, mountain bike, or just ride recreationally, the one distinguishing element about road racing is the peloton. Riding with a group of riders you don’t know for two hours at road rash speeds can be an unnerving experience. For me it has been one of the hardest things to train for because during the week I prefer to ride in small groups so that we don’t present as much of a profile to overtaking traffic. The rules change on the weekends though. During racing, the peloton owns the road. Sure there is overtaking, on-coming, or slow traffic, but when you are in a group running at 20 to 30 mph traffic moves around you, not vice versa. I don’t think one ever gets used to running at these speeds with 6 inches of wheel to wheel separation, but that is one of the hallmarks of the sport.
At the 5K mark I turned in with the leaders to start my climb to the upper parking lot. All of a sudden guys started throwing water bottles to the ditch, so I did the same and was thinking what other useless weight I could jettison. I was smart enough to sit in and not take any deep pulls before the turn to the hill and wanted to concentrate on my tempo and try to keep my cadence up. Hey it’s only 5K right, 3.2 miles, this is the finish, it hurts for everybody right? Well the math doesn’t matter on race day, it matters on the days leading up to the race. The long and the short is I need more hill work but I finished with the lead pack at 5th. Chad was in my sights and probably put about 30 seconds into me. Randall came in about two minutes behind me and the rest of the finish order for the Helena riders was Rick, then Dave and Byron. Strong effort by all.
Hope to see more of you all out there riding and racing soon.