Purgatory Road Race / Pro-1-2 field
We had about 70 starters with all the big regional teams there. Our field did 7 laps of the 11-mile circuit for 77 miles total. The key section on the circuit is a 200 ft rise steep climb just before the finish. The rest of the course was rolling with a high speed descent in the middle. I lined up with Fit Werx teammate Keith Kelly (“Kel”) and we expected the fireworks to go off right away with such a strong field. This was going to be a tough day and we were looking forward to it.
I sat in on the first lap as a few breakaway attempts were swallowed up. I felt good considering on the final climb, but the pace was too high for me to sustain for 6 more laps. I moved to the front after recovering from the climb and saw a small 5-man break that had launched on the hill now almost out of sight. As we turned onto the road approaching the descent, I decided now was a good time to bridge up and attacked. Tim Mitchell followed and tucked in behind me on the fast descent, then pulled through and rotated a couple times and a few miles later we were united with the breakaway group. The 7 of us moved into a quick rotation and started to put time into the field. Phil Wong and Tim Ahearn – both super climbers – were both in the breakaway, and I didn’t know the other guys but a couple of them were clearly strong on the hills. As we finished the 2nd lap I was still a bit gassed from bridging and could really feel it on the hill. The 3rd and 4th laps were more routine, but while we took the pace down on the final hill I was really struggling stay on. I drifted off the back, but caught back on after and had to skip a pull to recover. 2 of the other guys in the break were skipping pulls and clearly at their limit as well. The motorcycle told us we had a 2:25 lead as we approached the hill with 2 laps to go. As we hit the hill at the end of the 5th lap my implosion was complete – along with 2 of the other guys in the break – and the remaining 4 road away. The other two guys dropped back and I was now alone. The only thing left to do at this point was ride steady and hope for the best.
All this time, Kel was in the chasing field covering breaks but refusing to help chase because I was in the break. Fortunately he got word on the hill with 2 laps to go that I had popped from the break, and he immediately launched an attack with 2 other strong young guys – Erik Livensohn and Curtis White. I saw them approaching fast on the rolling section before the descent. We had a quick chat about the 4 guys about a minute up the road at this point, and I committed to helping them chase with what I had left. I took the front on the descent, but unfortunately gapped them a bit, and then took a few longer pulls on the long flat stretch of road into the headwind. We could now see the break perhaps 30 seconds ahead, so while I had almost nothing left in the tank, I burned myself up trying to reel my former breakaway companions in. At least Kel and the other guys could sit in and take a short breather before hopefully completing the bridge on the climb. I didn’t even make it to the hill as I popped on a gentle rise in the road midway across this stretch, but was able to give Kel my last half a bottle since he was completely out – fluids weren’t going to help me at this point!
I ended up getting passed by a few small groups, and finished 27th after an agonizing final 2 trips up that hill. I was so shelled that even driving home was exhausting. There were only 29 finishers out of 70 starters, so there was serious attrition for such a strong field.
Kel ended up nearly bridging to the lead group with a lap to go, but cramped up severely when trying to bridge the last 15 seconds on the climb – the kind of cramp where you have to stop and try to straighten your leg out – wincing in agony. This caused him to lose the lead group, but he soldiered on and fought off the cramps to finish 8th overall holding off what was left of the main chasing field. Tim Mitchell won the race while Erik Livensohn (Kel’s bridging companion) and Tim Ahearn rounded out the top 3.
Overall I was happy with my form and tactics in the race. Those guys are just super strong particularly on a hilly race like that. I was able to bridge up with the eventual race winner, ride in the winning break in a big P12 race, and even help out a teammate chase that same break all in the same day. I’ll take it.
I’m taking a break from racing as the Harpoon B2B 148-mile ride is next week, followed by my most important ride of the season – riding for my sister Marleigh on Team Fit Werx/MPB in the MS150 on June 29-30.
Thanks for reading!