Saturday, June 18th brought the 4th round of the 2011 ABRA Road Race Series to Philippi, WV for a hilly 33-mile loop. There were only 3 of us in the 3/4 field, so they combined our start with the 4-5 and 5 racers making our overall field a decent size. Last year, I was dropped on the climb out of Belington, so this year I went into the race knowing I had to be near the front at the start of the climb if I had any chance to claim victory. Teammate Derek Clark, my good friend Billy Slutz and I made up the 3-4 field, and took turns dragging the combined field up the long climb out of Philippi. I had mentioned to Derek before the race that my right knee just didn't feel right - no real pain, but just discomfort. We rode at a moderate pace up the first 3-mile climb, and heading towards Belington, Derek got a nice gap so I sat up at the front of the field and let Billy chase for a few miles until he reeled Derek back in. Once in to Belington, we took a right turn, followed by another right and then across some train tracks. At this point, we all felt bad because the local authorities had actually held up a funeral procession to let us pass...in the pack we all thought that the race should've been neutralized to let the funeral procession have the right of way - it would have been the right thing to do.
Anyhow, as we rolled through Belington, I rode off the front as we approached the climb that I had trouble with previously. Two 4-5 riders came with me but Billy and Derek did not. When I realized this, I really pushed the pace at the base of the climb, trying to see if my knee would be okay with a vigorous pace. It seemed to be doing okay, so I kept it red-lined up the climb. The race really got strung out at this point, so each time I would steal a quick glance over my shoulder and see people trying to catch back on, I would up the pace a little more, knowing that I am a good decender (I think it has more than a little to do with my weight...). I knew that if I could be the first to the top with nobody in sight, I would have a good chance to keep going in TT mode for the rest of the race. With the combining of the fields, one of the wheel trucks became our lead vehicle, so I just spent the next 20 miles with my head down following the blue and white truck in front (team colors, right?). I was guilty of checking my progress on each straight stretch, but luckily did not see any wheels behind me when I did so. Having done this course twice previously, I knew that there were only a few small rises in the final 10 miles, but mostly it was slightly down-hill until the final 2-mile decent to the finish back in Philippi. The last little uphill did give me fits, as I pushed a huge gear to try to maintain my speed. Luckily, with that out of the way, I was able to decend into Philippi at top speed with no traffic, very unlike the previous two years. As the lead truck crossed the second covered bridge into town, I knew I had the victory, and was even able to raise my arms across the line!
My wife, daughter and parents were all in attendance and all cheered me across the line - I was very glad they all decided to see me race this day as it was my first road victory in 2 years. A big shoudout to Derek for stringing out the field from the gun so I could time a counter-move near the base of the big climb of the day! On the day, it was very successful for the team with Gunnar also winning solo, as well as Nicole (nice bike!) taking another victory in her field and Betsy finishing second in hers!
Post by Ben K.