I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats! Well, these days maybe anything is better than Cats but the 2012 Hellride season ranks right up there with some of the most exciting seasons ever. There were several elements that made it enjoyable this year. The major change that I noticed this year over previous seasons was the depth of talent on the bench. Between the triathletes (strongly represented by Aubrey, but also having nice support from outgoing president Mike Jacobsen and Greg Wirth), some new comers like Jamul Hahn who changed the dynamic some and gave seasoned riders like Robert Ray, Jason Ames and Mark B. an opportunity to do some higher math, and the marked improvements from the ol’ regulars (especially Bryon and Randall Green) each leg of the race was pretty much up for grabs. Several new tactics were tried throughout the season including several attacks from the start (especially on the 3rd leg), earlier attacks, some team lead outs on the second and third leg, and folks were better at working the wind to their advantage against their competitors. There were also several great rotating pace lines that ripped the pack apart and were exhilarating to organize on the fly and work in. Some folks learned that they had newfound skills and roles. I think Byron could be our new lead out man, Randall the green diesel engine is great at not blowing up and working guys back into the group, and Mark learned he was a sprinter. Robert as always is the metronome for setting the tempo on climbs (his pace and ride over the top of the hill on Cow Country was a defining moment of the season), Aubrey is mister TT and is becoming a great roadie and able to get in tighter with the pace lines. Jamal, aka the hand of God, brings a great spirit and tactical mix to the group. Several women also participated on many of the Hellrides Jane O., super spirit Rebecca Shaw, Megan, Jennifer were in attendance and we missed the X-chromosomes when absent.
In attendance from your team for the last ride were Randall, John (I don’t wanna run no more) Tietz, Aubrey, Mark, Byron the blowtorch, and the leader of the 2012 Hellrides, Robert Ray. Others in the mix included Buck Rae and his son Silas with the junior Velo team, Jason Ames and Jamul Hahn. The number of yellow and red jersey’s was pretty cool to see and bespeaks well of the camaraderie developed over what has become a long road racing season.
The Velo boys also showed up for the last ride of the season. That band of brothers consisted of the first showing of Jeff Proctor for the year and the enjoyable return of Landen to the group and Scott, the other elder statesman of that worthy group of competitors.
As the lucky 13 rolled on course temps were about 90 and we were bucking a 10-15 mph headwind from the west. Most folks were trying to keep their nose out of the wind and save their matches. Robert graciously offered to ride with the slowest group (a new role instituted at the end of this season for one elected individual per ride) and brought Silas and Buck through thick and thin. For the first leg I recall seeing Jason, Byron and John up near the front early on, then Landen kicked at the base which brought Scott, Jeff, Aubrey, Mark, and Jason to the scene like sharks to blood in the water. Jason and Landen were mixing it up for a while and then Scott decided to see what gear everybody was running in and attacked the group. I fell off only to be paced back up by Jason (I think) and then getting dropped at the false summit but could see Scott and Jeff trading blows in what was I believe a Scott, Jeff, Landen finish with no contest from me for the podium. Jeff and Scott demurred confirmation.
Off again on the second leg and chaos ensued! Speeds of 30 mph were achieved through the Silver Creek crossing and Byron was out in front with Jeff and Landen! Scott was hanging back in 4th wisely not attacking his teammates and waiting to see what Team Great Divide had up its sleeve. Aubrey and Mark were pacing Scott and Mark was pushing Aubrey to the front to bridge to save his legs for a duel against Velo for the sprint finish. Aubrey must have been overheating and fogging his glasses because I later found out that he mistook Byron for John in the front. When Aubrey kicked, it pushed the pace up through the drainage and then as your team started to flag, Jamal gave Mark the hand of God boost which spurred Scott into a counter attack and we swept up Bryon like he was standing still (which he wasn’t). Fortunately he held his line like the master he is but Mark could not stand the heat that Scott was throwing down and ran another 4th to the Velo boys.
The third leg was going to be different, somehow. That is when Jason rode up to Mark and said he was just going to TT to the base of the hill at the end of the third leg. True to form Jason laid out four miles of watts and kept the pace going above 30 mph and peaking around 37 mph the entire way! Granted there was a tailwind and it is a downhill reach but it was not a 30 mph tailwind… When he pulled off the front Scott and Mark were looking at each other waiting for another wheel when Byron stepped into the chamber. Click, click, boom! The pace jumped to almost 39, yes 39 mph as Scott and Mark were turning it over looking forward, never looking back, running for the line. Scott, Mark and John were 1, 2, 3 cresting the hill at 28 mph over the line. The last stage was covered in seven minutes flat.
It was nice to get on the podium and a worthy second in some respects is better fuel than the bragging rights of first. If the Hellride is a lab to try new techniques and strategies, your teammates got passing grades for the season. This series is a forge that tests the mettle of everybody on the road, from the first guy to the last. If you watch what is going on and train regularly the series quickens your reaction time and uncovers new strengths.
The fires that burned this summer around Birdseye will light the spirit during the darkest days of winter training. Hope to see you next year!