With an 8:00 AM start time, it’s a good thing I was pumped up to do this race. It was also good that the start was just a few miles from my house!

I awoke at about 5:53 so that I had plenty of time to get ready and get a good warm-up. With the big hill at the very beginning, I knew that it would get pretty tough, real fast. (I also wanted some extra time to slide into my skinsuit!) During my ride to registration, there were two other riders out warming up on the foggy streets of Clearfield. Then there was a parking lot full of riders downtown! There were 55 or so riders, not too shabby for a small town race in its infancy!

Surprisingly, everything went well before the race. Got my timing chip, switched bottles, climbed a couple hills, and lined up in time to get towards the front. After waiting in line for about 15 minutes at my last road race to get my stuff, I was very pleased at how everything went.

At the line, I had to make a quick appraisal of the competition. I was kind of caught off guard by the amount of people that had shown up. I eyed up a few notorious local competitors, my training partner, and the crew from Spokes N Skis. Then I just sat back and waited for the gun…

We had a pretty smooth, straight road to start on so things rolled along nicely as everyone got organized. No one went crazy, but plenty of people sped up to get toward the front, and I drifted back to the middle of the pack. A minute later, we made a left turn and started the first climb!

My position was perfect because I was able to ride up the side of the pack and effortlessly join the front group. As the road kept tilting up, racers kept slowing and drifting back. I was looking around to see who would make the first attack.

About halfway up the hill, everything was pretty organized and the pack was thinning out a bit, but still big. I was sitting maybe around the 10th spot, and I sure didn’t want to crest the hill with all these people still around me. So, I decided to pick up the pace!

For what could have been the first move of the day, I quickly eased past everyone on the shoulder, but sat up and moved to the left after about 15 feet. I just wanted to get people moving around, and it was fun! I kept close to the front as we crested the hill, but over the top a small group opened a bit of a gap that I had to close. Unlike my last race, this gap closed quickly and relatively painlessly. I brought a few others behind me, forming a lead group of nine riders.

We stayed together and kept the pace fairly high, with a slight attack every so often. No one was able to get away, but I don’t think anyone was really trying at that point.

I was anxious to descend into Glen Richey, expecting things to heat up on the smooth and twisty back roads. As we headed at the first sharp turn, I launched an attack from the front of the pack. It was a perfect spot – right turn, slight uphill, and a twisty road with lots of trees. I put a bit more effort into this one so that people would actually have to chase.

After that attack, we had plenty of others on the twists and turns, but it seemed that no one could get away… and that no one was going to get dropped. I sat at the back and counted the riders a few times, ensuring that there were only nine, which meant a guaranteed top-ten finish if I just stayed with them till the finish.

I kept calm for the next few miles so I could rest up for the other big climb which was coming up. I was expecting some decisive moves on that slope, and I wanted to be ready.

There was a bit of a move as we started the climb, but everyone slowed down and took it easy. I was content sitting toward the back and conserving my energy for a while. But as the end came near, I knew this was my last chance to launch any sort of worthwhile attack.

Knowing my mom was at the top of the hill with the video camera, I decided to move up to the front. People thought I was attacking, but I just moved up so that I?d be on the video 🙂

Once I was up there though, I started to realize that maybe some people were low on energy… so I picked up the pace. When I did that, a couple big guns broke away and I went to latch on with them as we crested the hill. With a twisty downhill farm road up ahead, this was the chance for the locals to do something.

So I shifted to my big ring, thinking about my game plan, and realized that my chain was now hanging off my right foot!! Yes, my chain fell off at the worst possible time! As I stared down in disbelief, the rest of the group passed me by one by one. All I could do was coast behind them…

After slowing a bit, I decided to attempt to get my chain back on without stopping. Much to my surprise, and after a few tries, I somehow shifted my chain back on! With a 100 yard gap to close, I stood up and stomped the pedals as hard as I could.

I could see the two leaders had a small gap on the other six, and I wished I was there. That got me moving pretty fast, but the other group was moving pretty fast too…

I went all out on the farm road, somehow hitting 45 mph on the descent. But once it flattened out, the group was probably 200 yards or more up the road, forcing the support van to pass me.

But I got another inspiration because there was a sharp S-bend up ahead, and I knew the group would have to slow down at least a little bit. I charged through faster than normal, figuring that there wouldn?t be any oncoming traffic. I was right about that, but was not back with the group.

I kept moving so I could keep the group in sight. It was a good thing because it seemed like I was slowly reeling them in… but then I hit the incline they just climbed. Once I got up that, they were a ways away.

Then something inside me just snapped. I knew I couldn’t let these guys get away in my hometown race. It just was not going to happen!

From that point on, I just went crazy! I was out of the saddle going as hard as I could muster. After a minute or so, it looked like the group was slowing down and spreading out across the road. I picked up the pace even more and next thing I knew, I was latched on again!

Apparently there was some confusion and lack of desire to work at the front, allowing me to get back in there. After a minute of rest to catch my breath, I got a second wind and decided to move up to the front and speed things up, now that I was having a huge adrenalin rush from catching this group of guys!

There were a few more attacks, but these didn’t do anything. The road was flat and everyone was able to go pretty fast. There was always someone with fresh enough legs to bridge the gap.

I’m not sure what I was thinking about for those miles, but once we got closer to the finish, I had to think about the sprint. That’s when I realized that even if I had a good sprint, there was no way I’d pull off anything spectacular with a big group of guys around me. I realized that I had to make an attack.

I launched a test attack as we neared the big intersection entering Clearfield, but it was clear that everyone still had plenty of racing left in them. After that, I just sat back and thought some more. Actually I thought mostly about where all the pot holes were, and planned my line accordingly.

As we got to be maybe a quarter-mile from the finish, I knew I had to go. Even if it was a bad move, I’d end up in ninth, which is where I?d be anyway. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I attacked!

Weaving my way through the pot holes, I was hoping there would be some confusion in the pack as they tried to catch me. But if there was, they got it sorted out soon enough. They caught me with maybe 50 yards to go.

So then I went for an actual sprint, while trying to line up for the finishing chute, which was maybe two riders wide! It was enough to put me in eighth place by a few inches, but no more.

After crossing the line, I didn’t really think about my spot. All I could think about was how sweet the race was and the fact that I bridged the big ass gap!

The Tour de Susquehanna’s inaugural year was perhaps my favorite race ever!

And that’s the end. Since I’ve already written a solid three pages, I’ll leave out any post-race happenings. Well, there were some good cookies there. Real good cookies!

Ok, the end!

Photo credit: Randy Hurley

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