On a very foggy July morning (last Sunday the 15th at 6:55 AM to be exact,) I set out with plans to win the second annual Tour de Susquehanna in Clearfield, PA. As you may know, this race takes place on my local training routes – a great place to win. But things don’t always go as planned…

Last year it was a dropped chain on the second climb, this year it was…

A lack of training!

This lack of training, although disappointing, provided a new dynamic to the race, which in turn makes for an interesting story to tell.

After a typical warmup, we lined up at the start at 7:55. I saw familiar faces, like Brett Baronak, the reigning champion, Jeff Miller, who has won every single King of the Mountain race we’ve had here in Clearfield, some Spokes N Skis guys, and my arch nemesis, Brian Lytle.

Things started out just like last year, and things were pretty controlled up Park Avenue as we headed out of town. I think people were even calmer than last year. I was thinking of attacking on the hill, but my mind started to wander as we climbed steadily, and before I knew it, we were nearing the top.

tour de susquehanna race leaders

For two years straight, Brett Baronak has attacked right at the top of the hill before it flattens out. This attack breaks up everything. Last year I made it, this year I couldn’t hang on as the pace picked up. All the race favorites were flying down the road while Brian and I tried solo efforts to catch them. Neither worked, and we joined a small group of Spokes N Skis riders.

This made for an interesting race, because our group of five was trying to catch the lead group while simultaneously watching for attacks from behind. We didn’t work together very well, but as I found out later, the lead group didn’t work out that well either. (We never caught them though…)

As we approached the second real climb, I thought this would be the time to attack, but it wouldn’t have helped, so I just climbed steadily in false hopes that the other guys could draft me. That didn’t pan out, and as I sat up on the descent to regroup, the other guys flew by and dropped me… Maybe I should have attacked!!

So I ended up chasing yet again. I kept the four in sight on the downhill in hopes I’d reconnect for the last six flat miles.

Around one bend, one of them got a flat. Now I was chasing three.

But by the bottom of the hill, they were mostly out of sight. I got one glimpse of the two remaining Spokes N Skis riders before they were out of sight, but that was all.

Alas, I made it onto Route 879 for the final stretch, and Brian Lytle was still in sight! I was ready to hammer, so I figured I could catch him and we could paceline into the finish.

Well, my energy didn’t last very long as I cranked my big gear, and I didn’t get any closer to my competitor. But I kept hammering with everything I could muster, and after five or so miles of chasing, I finally got close to Brian!

At this point we were about one minute from the finish, and I knew he wouldn’t want to finish one spot behind me yet again, so I had to strategize. Luckily, I don’t think he knew I was getting that close, so I kept things quiet until I got real close. Then I stood up and sprinted by him, hoping to get him by surprise.

I think I did surprise him, and he was probably out of energy, so we didn’t have a sprint finish. Unfortunately, even though I beat one of my rivals, my other rivals had already finished three minutes before I crossed the line…

But I took my sweet yellow t-shirt home, ate all the food I could fit in my stomach, and went to bed! (Note: I didn’t go to bed at two in the afternoon – it just took me about eight hours to eat!)

Time to train for 2008…

Want race results?

Photo credit: Randy Hurley

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