I did this race last year for the first time – it was a bit of a drive from St. Louis (5½ hours), but a Saturday TT and Sunday RR made for a fun, full weekend of racing. I was a surprise winner in last year’s 40-49 TT, even though I was only 11th in the overalls, and got a very cool championship jersey. I also finished well in the RR the next day, although I was just out of the money. This year the TT and RR were on separate weekends – I wasn’t too crazy about the long drive for just one race, but as a jersey winner last year I figured I had to show up and give it a shot.
There had been rain during the night, and chances continued into the morning, but it held off and the overcast skies resulted in near perfect temperatures. There was, however, wind! I didn’t preregister, so I got a later start (#51) even though I was like the 2nd or 3rd person there. I didn’t mind having the extra time to get ready and do my warmup, but by the time I approached the start line the winds were blowing pretty hard up from the south. The course was a relatively flat, W-shaped, 32k out-and-back, slightly undulating and rough in spots, with three overpass “hills” and three turns (two sweepers and one hard). The first leg went straight south, so right off the bat I had to deal with those headwinds. I hate those headwind starts – it’s hard enough to find your rhythm in the beginning without worrying about trying to put time into your competition at the same time (headwinds and hills are the best place to do that). Still, I got up to speed and settled in and was happy with the 24-26 mph pace I was holding. After a couple of turns and overpass climbs the course turned eastward for the latter half of the way out. At this point it was mostly a crosswind, with just the slightest hint of a tailwind assist. I could see my minute-man in the distance and knew that I was gaining on him, so I used what little assist I got from the wind to up the tempo a bit. Before long I saw him catch and pass what would turn out to be my 5-minute man (er, woman), who I caught and passed at the base of the 3rd overpass. I came down the other side and caught my minute-man, passed him just before the turnaround, made the turn and checked my clock – 23:20 (25.7 mph). Not bad, but I knew I’d have to go back much faster. Those first 8k back were probably the hardest part of the course because of the strong crosswinds with a bit of a headwind push. I shifted back and forth between my 14t and 15t cogs to try to optimize my cadence in the shifting winds and undulating terrain. I caught my 4-minute man near the end of that stretch and my 2-minute man soon afterwards, so I knew then I was having a good ride. I made the right sweeper into a wonderful cross-tailwind and soon passed my 3-minute man (cool – got all five riders in front of me), then made the hard left onto what would be a short but very difficult cross-headwind stretch with a nasty overpass climb right at the end. I felt like I faded a tad on the climb, but I got over without too much loss of speed and made the right sweeper into the final 4k stretch. By now the cross-tailwinds were quite stiff and I wasn’t holding anything back. I cranked ~30-32 mph over that last stretch and crossed the line at 44:35 (26.5 mph). I was feeling pretty good about my chances for a win at that point – I felt good out there, passed five people, and churned a good pace on a not very fast course (I didn’t hold near that pace on a similar course last year). HAH! Even though my time was good enough for 7th in the overalls (versus 11th last year), I only got 6th place in the 40-49 category – WTF! It seems a number of riders in the 30-39 category last year moved into the 40-49 ranks this year. My time would’ve placed 2nd in the 30-39 category (versus 9th last year) and would’ve won the 50-59 category (versus only 2nd last year). Cash went three deep and medals five deep, so I was the highest placed rider in the overalls that walked away with nothing! Oh well, I’m not too upset because I wasn’t at all disappointed in my performance. Also, I am not gonna blame anything on wind (unlike some people did here in Missouri) – five other guys in my category showed up and rode faster than me, period. Besides, I turn 50 in April, so perhaps I have a good shot at reclaiming that jersey in the 50-59 category next year!