I’m new to racing bikes. I just started road racing this June at the Tour Of Kansas City. After a few years of triathlon and a lot of years running I consider myself a steady state athlete – not a sprinter. So a photo-finish win in a field sprint is not something I expected. That’s what makes bicycle racing the most fun I’ve had in nearly 30 years of competitive athletics.
I woke up Sunday morning at 4:15 with a plan to leave the house at 5:00, pick up Luke Hall and drive to the Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina, KS for the Kansas State Road Race. By 5:20 Luke and I were on I-70 headed west. We arrived in Salina with plenty of time to get registered, pin on our numbers and mentally prepare ourselves.
I had spent a few minutes Saturday looking at the race profile on Strava and had noticed a couple of nice rollers about 10K from the finish line of the 36 mile race. I had decided, based on my previously stated status as a steady-state athlete, that I would launch an attack there and attempt to time trial home at threshold pace for the win. I talked the strategy over with Bruce Kay who would be racing with me. We also discussed which guys to keep an eye on during the race in case they tried to get away early.
The race started around 9:30 with a neutral roll out onto the race course. Somehow I found myself at the front of the pack from the start, but I kept the pace nice and slow and within a few minutes I was right where I wanted to be – sitting about 5th wheel. The attacks started pretty early, but they were all covered easily by the pack. When we made the turn north I did find myself boxed-in a bit and had to rely on Bruce to cover anyone going off the front while I sat comfortably out of the wind with my heart rate at about 115 BPM. He did a perfect job. After making the turn east, I was back to about 5th wheel and was able to start covering the more and more frequent attempted breaks. We turned south toward the finish line and the pace quickened and then went to a lull over and over in rapid succession.
I kept my eye on the road and on my Garmin waiting for the two rollers where I planned to try and time trial away from the pack. At 30.4 miles into the race, half way up a hill, I went for it. It didn’t stick. So I tried again after a short recovery. A few of us got a gap, but we couldn’t get organized. It was going to come down to a field sprint which I dreaded.
The lack of oxygen in my brain leaves me a little fuzzy here, but I think about 6 or 8 of the 16-man field went hard for the line. At about 250 meters from the line I found myself at the front thinking that I’d gone way too early. I dug deep up the little hill where they diabolically placed the finish line. Out of my left peripheral I saw another rider that had a good run on me. I made a last push and we both gave a loud grunt as we pushed across the line. Neither one of us had a clue who won so we had to wait for the photo. Just before the podium ceremony we got a look at the video and I had edged him by a half wheel.
It took me nearly 35 years, but I’m finally state champ at something and it came in a way that I couldn’t have foreseen.
A big thanks to Luke, Tim, Will and Brad for their pre-race advice and support – and I can’t thank Bruce enough for covering me and giving me a nice ride to the finale so I had a chance to contest the win.
It was a great day for GP Velotek with great representation across the board. Tim Jansen won the Cat 4 race in a sprint after Will Petersen did plenty of work. Molly Benton got a podium spot with 3rd in the women’s 1/2/3 race. Luke Hall took 5th in the Cat 3 race after Brad Wiltfong kept the pace high in the final miles. And, MK Thompson took 4th in the women’s master’s race.