Without any spectacular results this season, I knew I had to come up with something good for Kinzua. And luckily, the KwikFill Kinzua Classic is nice and hilly, with a mountain top finish.

But it also starts with a steady, two or three mile climb. So what better than to attack like crazy on the first hill, then ride solo for 30 miles to take the win? Nothing… Which is exactly why I planned an attack on that first hill! I even had a couple guys crazy enough to help me make the most of the attack.

Everything seemed perfect on the eve of the big day, and I went to the Kinzua / KwikFill Classic website to get even more pumped up. But when I got there, there was a notice that the course would be reversed due to road construction. What??! Were they going to send us out for 30 miles of hills only to finish off of a long downhill??

Whatever. I still rolled out of bed before 5 AM so I could meet the guys and caravan up to Warren. Not knowing what to expect, I had to strategize for all the possibilities: the normal course, a reversed course with a downhill finish, and a reversed course with an extra climb at the finish.

After all that thought, I came up with a new plan: Just freakin attack whenever we get to a hill. I figured that would at least provide some good times and a good workout.

mike yankevich at start line

After more debate and questioning, I overheard some kids talking about the “new” course this year. The course was indeed reversed, but luckily for me and Mike Yankevich, the course still had a nice long climb to the finish. (Mike probably didn’t know this, but I was getting some good training rides in between my beer drinking, junk food eating, and fairgoing times of the past weekend.)

Anyway, we all got warmed-up and gathered at the start at 9 AM for a little racer’s meeting where we went over the new route and the “center line rule.” Unfortunately I was pretty far back off the start line, but I figured things would thin out some on the climb…

Then at 9:10 the buzzer went off and I clipped in… and immediately clipped out as the guy in front of me dropped his chain or something. But then I got into motion on the highway and rolled along over the bridge, waiting to attack on the hill.

But things didn’t go quite as planned. I was ready to deal with the fairly slow first climb by attacking like a madman. But I wasn’t ready to deal with being stuck in the pack as they climbed slowly… So I kept watching for little openings I could squeeze through to get up front, only to get passed by a bunch of riders who disregarded the center line rule.

That pissed me off just a tad, and we were getting closer and closer to the summit, so I had no choice but to skirt up along the yellow line to get up front. Then I noticed someone else already off the front, so I launched my attack and chased him down so I could cross the top as the leader.

He followed me and we worked together for a bit, even losing sight of the pack. But then we hit a long, steep downhill which allowed the pack to swallow us up without a problem.

And that was that. We had a pack of probably 35 people that stayed together for the rest of the 30 miles. I saw a few moves, but there was nothing big enough to do any damage. (Although the people that rode about 5 seconds in front of the pack probably wasted some energy…)

I think it was another kid named David that kept trying to push the pace, only to be left off the front, alone, to fry in the morning sun. No one wanted to go any harder or leave the comfort of the pack, but he kept pushing ahead on his own. More power to him, but Kinzua consists of riding in a big pack until the last climb, where the climbers launch their attacks. I doubt anyone riding the 30 mile citizen race has the legs to successfully do a solo breakaway.

Anyway, back to the race itself…

This course was pretty tough in reverse, because all the gentle downhills turned into steady uphills. And those can take a toll after 25 miles.

Hell, even when we thought we had hit the downhill, we still had a few more short climbs! But alas, we all hung in there and cruised down that long downhill, past the start line, over the bridge, and to the last climb.

It was pretty crazy because everyone was together as we took the sharp left turn at the base of the hill. I was worried because I was probably about 10-15 people off the front. But seconds later, everyone was gone. They must have all cracked at once!

I was feeling pretty good, but not great, so I just kept pace behind Mike Y. Out of nowhere, he was swerving to his left, and I somehow swerved up to his left before I even knew what was going on! Turns out the guy in front of him cracked and stopped dead in the middle of the road!

As I assessed the situation, it looked like there were 9 or 10 of us left up front. We kept climbing at a good pace, and I was sitting between fourth and seventh place as we turned off onto the final part of the final climb. At that point, my legs were begging for mercy, so I just kept hoping that the finish line was right around the corner…

But it wasn’t. We must have had another mile to go at that point. I held on and surveyed the competition. (Well, I glanced at them as they passed me…)

Then, like the light at the end of the tunnel, the finish banner appeared up ahead. Mike Y was duking it out with a guy in a red jersey, but somehow a 95 pound young gun named Chad Swanger nipped them both at the line. I must have been disoriented, because I didn’t really see him up there, and I missed the 15 year old that got in front of me and took fourth by a second, but I did hold off David to capture fifth by a second.

I was pretty happy with the fifth, although I was hoping Mike Y would have taken the overall. He rode a great race and did a lot of work on the front of the pack to keep things moving.

But you can’t change the past, so the only thing left to do was stock up on cookies, bananas, candy, and water at the finish!

Of course, we also waited around for the weird award ceremony to get our awards (i.e. slips of paper.) For some reason they don’t even announce the overall podium, whereas other smaller events in Clearfield and Brockway provide overall awards along with smaller trophies for the top 3 in each and every age group.

Hopefully the money they saved goes towards charity or pays to have the real bathrooms opened up for the 2008 Kinzua Classic.

I might have to write a letter to Kwik Fill and/or Red Apple letting them know that for as much as we spend on gas to get to the event, they should cover the cost of us having access to the real bathrooms!

Overall though, the race was tons of fun and a really good workout with the reversed course!

Want race results?

Photo credit: Times Observer

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