Saturday marked my key race for the year. That 108 miles Iowa State Road Race Championships in West Branch, Iowa. There is something that intrigues me about that length of a race, especially around the midwest. I really enjoy it, as I believe it takes a sort of mentality, strength to do well rather than always doing well in 50-65mile road races.
Thought the weather was going to be nice when Bethany and I started our drive after a great breakfast at home and a stop at Starbucks on the way. Got registered and number pinned on with about 45 minutes to spare and just relaxed as no warmup was needed for a race of that distance. Lined up for the start with the other 45-50 riders but didn't see a lot of firepower that is usually present in the Cat 1,2 fields. Brian Eppen, Jerrod Osterloh, Lane Anderson, Paul Deninger, Lou Waugaman, Jeff Bradley were all not in attendance. I thought to myself this could be a good thing or make for a very boring race. Our Mercy-Specialized team was well represented with Jeff Barnes, Adam Price, Ryan Nenninger, Mattius Perret, John Olney, Brendan Keeley, and myself.
As soon as we got out of West Branch for the first lap, the skies opened up into a steady rain that would still with our peloton for the first 85 miles of this race. While this made the race hit a different mental game of slogging it out for 4.5 hours in the rain even harder, it was fun to say the least. The pace was pretty chill with only a couple attacks, but the one we were looking for got away, with Ryan and Clark Preibe getting away. This was the move of the day, with none of the other moves able to stick. At one point, we heard 4.5 minutes up the road for the break, but then all of a sudden heard Ryan had fallen off the pace. Clark's gap at it's highest was 6 minutes, he took it out that far by himself. We started to rotate on the front, and sure enough we caught Ryan. The next couple time gaps were surprising, 4 minutes, 2:45 and then 1:30 all within the span of a half lap. As we went through West Branch for the last time, we saw Clark up the road. After the race, he said he bonked so hard core he actually had to wave down the pace car for food. (Congrats to Clark for the great try).
The last lap really didn't get to heated, and the three hills on the course never made much of a difference. The wind was out of the south, and started to pick up a little bit neutralizing any attacks going of the front. Turning back West towards West Branch, I was sitting 4th wheel, and trying to mark attacks and keep Brendan and Jeff out of the wind. With about 4 miles to go, I hit the gas trying to get a half/hearted gap or see what was up, but this was marked and I was on the front. All of a sudden, an attack went up the left hand side with Ryan French and Will Greenwood. I was on the front and knew it was my job to bring it back, I was able to get to Will, but Ryan had a good gap.
All of a sudden Jeff made a soft attack(??) or so it seemed he just motored his way off the front, I was able to back off the gas and wait for the surge. It came and I got into the drafts with about 1.5 miles to go. This is where it got kinda hectic, on the last half lap, the official said we had the whole road from about 1 mile to go, but I don't think the whole peloton got a hold of this. Coming up to the finish, everyone seemed to want the right hand side of the road. As I was sprinting I saw Jeff cross the finish line for the WIN!!!!
I came across in 10th place, Brendan Kealey just behind, who ended up getting 5th in the Cat 3's. It was awesome to see Jeff get the win. Adam, Mattius, Ryan, Brendan, Jeff and I did a pretty good job when we needed to and got the result!
It was 9 minutes slower than last years race, maybe because of the rain or lack of horsepower in the field, but none the less, it was a fun race! Good to have a field of 50 guys. Always makes me leave wanting more races of that distance! Good job to everyone until next time.