The Cowskin Road Race marked my 5th race as a category 4, and my 6th race ever. I'm still very new to this sport, and each race presents a barrage of new lessons to be learned. I'm lucky to have good friends and a team full of experienced guys who have taught me a lot in my short time of racing.
My first two races in Austin a couple weeks back had not gone according to plan. In all honesty, I had planned to dominate the 4's down in Texas. However, I had recently run a 50 mile ultra marathon, leaving it all out and PR-ing which had left me very tired and my recovery was moving along slower than I had expected. The Walburg and Pace Bend races in Austin had kicked my butt, and scoring a 15th in both of them was far from acceptable for me. So I rested quite a bit in the days coming up to the Cowskin.
I headed out early on Saturday morning for Keystone Lake, as the 4 race blasted off around 9 am. Coming down the road to the parking area I observed that the finishing 3/4 mile of the race was downhill. Score for us big boys, and immediately I felt good about winning a field sprint in the end.
The race itself was fairly low key most of the way, not too fast. 4 races are much less organized by nature, however there were some big teams that showed up and they were trying to get some things going early on. There were quite a few attacks, most of which were solo and reeled back in quickly. No one was willing to let anyone get off the front for a long amount of time. I chomped at the bit most of the race, sitting in the middle of the pack hanging out. I had been talking to Dustin Sallee from Team Undiscovered, trying to talk him into a break together but his recovery week hadn't gone well and he wasn't feeling it.
My initial plan was to win a field sprint with it being conducive to my body type and abilities, however I thought that if I could get a couple guys off the front with me I could attack them at the end for a win. So I conserved. There were attacks, and they would get brought back in. I sat in.
This was a circuit style race in which we did 7 laps on a 5.2 mile loop. 2 hills. One a long easy slog for approximately 3/4 of a mile. One a shorter steep incline on the backside of the course (in a cross wind) that gets the heart rate pumping. At about the 28 mile mark, we hit that hill on the backside of the course. About that time Dustin leans into me and says "go dude". I figure what the heck, if I get caught I'll still have time to set in, recover, and maybe win a field sprint finish.
So I positioned myself at the back of the back, get to the crest of the hill, shift two gears, and drop the hammer. By the time I reach the front of the pack I'm over 40 mph and no one has a chance to immediately bridge. So I'm off the front solo. My first time ever. The next 8 or so miles are a blur of sorts, but I remember looking back frequently to check the scene.
...I see a solo rider trying to bridge. Then I look back again and he's been swallowed by the pack. Then 5-6 guys trying to bridge. Then another solo rider off trying to bridge. Then he's swallowed. I crest the long hill on the last lap, look back, and they are 20 seconds back. A mile later I look back, they are 45-50 seconds back. I hit that last short steep hill in the cross wind. Look back. 20 seconds back. I make the last turn for the finish line 3/4 mile away. The chase group sits at least 40 seconds off me, and I let out a primal scream of joy!! They have no chance of catching me......
I've always been a sucker for adrenaline. Exhilarating experiences are addicting to me. I thrive on excitement in my life. Always have. If you do too, jump off the front of a bicycle race and let a pack of 60 hungry dogs try to chase you down. Be the hunted. Even if they catch you, the experience is highly worth it.