This years State Championship road race for the Masters category was the Antelope Island road race, which has been around for several years but I had yet had a chance to race it. This would be my opportunity, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the race course. In the previous years, I hadn’t raced it because of the weather and early start times, but this year my group started at 11:35 which was a much more manageable time, plus the weather was looking to be very enjoyable. I signed up with 4 other of my teammates and it was a great time.
The course started at the Antelope Island marina and headed out east along the causeway to the toll booth, then turned around and headed back to the island for a small loop past the marina, then south along the island to the ‘ranch house’, then it turned back to the marina. After the first large loop, the race repeated that same course again but with the finish at the top of a 1km hill. The race started out brisk with an attack right at the first mile, and my teammate Mike Austin going along with it. We sped along the causeway and as usual it took me a bit to get into my comfort zone. At the turnaround, Dave put in a huge pull to bring back the break which was confusing because we already had a teammate up the road, I am sure it was because he wasn’t aware that he was up there. Eventually Dave shut off the gas but we were so close that the break got swallowed up.
Right after we finished the causeway for the first time another attack went off the front and this time Nate followed up, along with an FFKR and Contender guy. The break went around the smaller loop and at that time Nate dropped back into the pack but the other two sped on. We rode pretty casually for a while, I figured it would be great to let those guys be off the front expending energy, and on the return from the first island lap our team started putting in bigger pulls to bring the break in. By the time we reached the causeway, we started really pushing hard and on the 2nd return of the causeway we had caught one of the break group, the FFKR guy, I guess I didn’t realize there was still another rider off the front.
The pace started picking up and I tucked into the pack for a while, I probably should have been further up but I wasn’t feeling that great. On the last outbound island leg, Dave put in a strong attack on the hill which really split the pack up, I had a hard time even following it. I was able to get onto the back of the split but just barely, and since there was a split I went to the front and drilled it as hard as I could to keep the pressure on. I pushed and pushed as we came down the descent but the pack came together at some point. Right after that I saw Aaron Olsen attack and so I followed along with Ben Rabner. The three of us were off the front for a while, alternating pulls, but again a good portion of the pack came back together with us.
Right before the final turnaround, there was probably about 10 miles to go, and Aaron and Ben went off the front again. I sat in the pack for a moment waiting for people to react, but no one really did, so finally I went off the front and one of Aaron’s teammates followed behind me. I didn’t really plan to go off by myself, figuring the rest of the pack would get in my slip stream, but with only one guy behind me I could see the pack falling behind and I just kept going with it. The FFKR guy (Erik Flynn), took some turns and in a few minutes we caught the two up front and began an alternating pace line, pushing as hard as we could go. I could feel Ben was weakening because he would skip some pulls, which I thought was funny because earlier in the race he was barking at people for this and that (including me). I cannot stand when people bark at each other, there is no reason for it and every person has the right to race it however they feel like it.
As the race came into the final kilometers, I had to fight the feeling that I was weakening, but also know in my heart that I was strong. As we came up onto the final hill, I kind of knew that I would do well if I had at least pushed the pace, so I got up front and just put in some strong pulls. I would look behind me to see if anyone was weakening but they appeared to be fine. I put in another dig and saw two of them falling behind, so I pushed even harder to create some more distance and at last it was just down to me and Aaron. As we came up on the 200m to go banner, I started to fall back a little, but found a last bit of energy to sprint to the line, almost overtaking Aaron but he was able to get me by a half of a bike length. I was happy though, being able to battle it out with a great rider made me feel good and confident.
Up until this point, I thought we were the front of the pack and that Aaron had won the state championship, but the guy from Contender (Jason Castor) had done an epic job of staying away the whole time, which meant I got 3rd place instead of 2nd, still I was happy with that and getting a podium place at the state championships. It was a great day of racing and one that I will remember.