GCGP Day 3 – Oxford Hills Road Race
Podium! I ended up second after a long 70 mile breakaway from the gun. I was tired of missing the early move so I decided to initiate the first attack by attacking as soon as the race started. David Guttenplan (United Healthcare / 707) followed me across the top of the feedzone hill, and Dave Gearhart (Team Mission Source) bridged up to us before the start of the first downhill section. Dave really drilled the pace, and we got into one of the best rotations for a three-man breakaway group I’ve ever been in. The course was constantly rolling except for a couple long gradual false flat type climbs (1-3% gradient). Lots of turns, too, so we were quickly out of sight and had a 3 minute gap by the end of the first of seven 10 mile laps.
By the end of the second lap, we had a 3.5 minute gap. Our gap started to come down on the third lap, and by the middle of the fourth lap, Oscar Clark (UHC/707) and Alexey Schmidt (Team Type 1) had bridged across to us. They gave our break new life, and we started flying again. Oscar was clearly the strongest, and with one lap to go he hit it hard through the start/finish getting a gap. Nobody was able to chase (including myself), and that was how the race was won – with 10 miles to go! Alexey was saving up for the finish and didn’t chase either – so for a while it was just me, Dave, and Alexey pulling with David sitting on since he had a teammate up the road. I thought Alexey might be struggling a bit so I attacked hard on the second hill after the KOM hill. Unfortunately, Alexey had no problem covering the move. So that put me in the unenviable position of having to pull for the next mile or so because we didn’t know what the time gap was to the field behind us.
Eventually, we were told that the gap to the chase group behind was more than 4 minutes with about 5 miles left in the race. So I stopped pulling hard, and basically Dave, Alexey, and I did a soft rotation. I had already worked it out that I was going to attack at the bottom of the 1K to go hill when I looked back from one of my pulls and I had a 50 meter gap! So I drilled it hard with less than 2 miles to the finish. There was one more short uphill followed by a righthand turn and a long downhill, so I hit it really really hard on the uphill to make sure I had enough of a gap not to get caught on the long downhill. Still, by the bottom of the hill at the 1K to go sign, the rest of the break was no more than 5 seconds behind. I hit it hard again on the hill thinking that my only shot at staying away was to extend my gap on the hill. I had nothing left by the top, but the chase had given up as they were starting to cat/mouse for the sprint so I was able to cruise in the final 300 meters from the top of the hill to the finish.
Dave Gearhart, who raced super strong all day, led out the sprint only getting passed right at the line by both David and Alexey. Oscar had a time gap of more than two minutes by the end of the race. Major kudos and thanks to Robb Pressley who gave me a ice cold bottle in the feedzone every lap after the first one for a total of 8 bottles including the two I started with. It was hot!