Pensacola Cycling Classic Day 1 – Road Race
Quick summary – really tough race with attacks from the gun. I ended up initiating the race winning break about halfway through the first of three 25 mile laps coming across the top of the largest hill on the course. Initially, there were seven of us, but on that same hill 25 miles later on the next lap we were down to 6 riders. Then on the same hill 25 miles later, Serghei Tvetkov (Team Exergy) and Ruben Companioni (Team Coco’s) dropped the remaining four of us. We chased hard eventually losing one rider so it was Stephan Hirsch (706 Project), Jan Kolar (HomeSmart/L5Flyers), and me (Tria Cycling p/b DonohooAuto.com) to fight it out for the last step on the podium. Stephan came out on top for 3rd, and I was next for 4th just edging out Jan who took 5th.
The details – there were lots of attacks right from the gun which strung out the field and enabled me to move from my position towards the middle of the pack up to the front. I watched carefully and ended up in a couple moves. One really good looking move had both Team Coco’s riders and at least one UHC/706 rider. We had a gap and were absolutely drilling it but we just couldn’t extend our gap more than 20 seconds from a hard chasing field.
Still, we were away for quite a while so when we were caught, it was only a mile or two before we made it to the course’s big hill (0.4 miles at 5%). I had been in a lot of moves by this point in the race so I was hoping that there wouldn’t be any hard attacks on the hill. There weren’t. In fact, the pace was slow enough that as we made it towards the top of the steeper section I decided to attack – not expecting much, but knowing that last year this is where our break got away.
The attack worked, though, because we got a good gap with good team representation: Ruben Companioni (Team Coco’s), Stephan Hirsch (UHC/706 Project), Jan Kolar (HomeSmart/L5Flyers), Tim Reagan (Herring Gas), Serghei Tvetkov (Team Exergy), a rider in black kit I didn’t recognize, and me (Tria Cycling p/b DonohooAuto.com). We were flat out from that moment on. The field was chasing hard, but I think people were tired from the previous chase. So we very slowly pushed out our lead. By the end of the first lap, I believe we were up to about a minute. On the second lap, we were out to two minutes, and then by the start of the last lap we were about 4 minutes ahead.
We never let up and with the windy conditions it seemed like you were always getting hit by a crosswind or pushing it really hard with a tailwind. I never felt good so halfway through the last lap as we reached the hill I knew there was likely to be an attack but had already given up on it even before the attack happened! I was just focusing on trying not to get dropped. Serghei initiated the move and Ruben covered it with no problem. I was expecting Stephan to go with it too leaving Jan, me, and the other rider to chase – but he stayed back with us opting to wait until the top to really start chasing. I was cooked by this point and we tried to get a good rotation going but Stephan was clearly stronger than the rest of us – and I was wanting it to come down to a sprint for 3rd as I might be able to pull something together for the uphill finish.
As we came into the finish, Stephan was on the front with 500 meters to go when he pulled off. I went through next and decided to hit it as hard as I could on the uphill with about 400 meters to go. I didn’t get a gap, and Jan came around with 300 meters to go. Stephan came around Jan and then with about 100 meters to go I was able to repass Jan to take 4th.
I was COMPLETELY exhausted after the sprint. Not breathing well, not able to get enough air, not able to think straight, I found a tent where somebody had some ice cold water (THANKS!). Then I very, very slowly pedaled back up the hill to the car, cranked the AC up to maximum and sat there for a while trying to cool off before heading back to check the results and get my spare wheels from the follow vehicle.
Now it’s time to head out for the time trial – will probably have 110-115 miles total for the day after it’s all said and done. At this point I’m hoping to hit the TT hard enough to hold my 4th overall position. We’ll see how it goes!