Thursday, June 17, 2010

Snake Alley

Far and above my favorite race on pavement.

Snake Alley was pretty much a same race different year type of deal. For the 3rd year in a row, I won the 40+ race and finished 2nd in the 30+ race. The start list for both races get tougher and tougher each year. The 40+ race had over 30 competitors and contained several with a proven track record, Paul Deninger, Jeff Barnes, Dan Casper, Babe the Blue Ox (formerly known as Shrek), Jim Cochran and Dale Sedgwick to name a few.
The race started and I was able to quickly find my way to the front group, which had whittled itself down to about 15 racers with 6 laps to go. This seemed like a little more than usual, and for whatever reason, I felt the need to amp it up a little. So I punched it going up the Snake with 6 laps to go and found myself with a pretty good gap at the top. A lapse in judgment encouraged me to keep the pressure on with the idea of going solo to the end.
As I was making my way up the Snake on the last lap, I looked down the switchbacks when I hit the top and noticed Cochran was quickly closing down the gap. One of the keys to making a gap stick on the Snake is to continue the hard effort beyond the top of the Snake when most others are cooked. So as I rolled over the top, I dropped it into the big ring and hammered it down to the first corner. I coasted through the three 90’s and drilled it on the flats. As I approached the finish line, I took a quick look back and just barely held off a quick charging Cochran for my 3rd 40+ win in three years. I made it really hard on myself by attacking so soon, and it almost cost me the race.

The look on my face says it hurts really bad when you try to solo the last six laps of the race.

The 30+ field was probably the most stacked that I had ever seen, with Dewey Dickey as the clear favorite, former Tilfordette Shadd Smith, Ian Stanford, Barnes, Cochran, Casper and professional triathlete TJ Tollakson. I got off to a pretty crappy start and was in last place rolling up the Snake on lap 1. I kept my cool and gradually picked my way through the field and had noticed that a lead group had formed after a couple of laps, and I wasn’t a part of it.
Over the next few laps, I hit it pretty hard up the Snake, coasted on the downhill and maintained a decent tempo on the flats. By lap 6 I had the lead group within my reach and finally completed the bridge going up the Snake. I settled in near the back of the group, with the intent on sitting in for a couple of laps to recover, observe and determine who the contenders were going to be. With four laps to go, Dan Casper took a flyer off the front as we passed the start/finish line. Nobody seemed interested in responding, myself included. It was pretty hot out, and I thought that it was a little too early…a little lesson that I thought that I had learned earlier in the day. There were a lot of cats in the field with a lot of top level experience, enough that I figured the group would eventually bring Casper back.
With two laps to go, Casper had a pretty big lead and nobody seemed at all interested in working to bring him back. So as we hit the Snake, I knocked the rear end down a few cogs and accelerated to the top. I had a pretty good gap at the top and continued the effort down the backside with the intent of trying to reel in Casper and also nail down 2nd place at the very least. I was closing down the gap to Casper over the duration of the last two laps and increasing the gap between myself and the chasers. I came up a little short and had a front row seat to Caspers victory celebration, but managed to hold off the chase group for my 3rd 30+ runner up finish in as many years. As I was congratulating Casper on his much deserved victory, he told me that he took a page out of my book from the 40+ race and thanked me for the lesson. I thought that was a pretty cool compliment.
Julie is steadily improving on the road side of things and finished a very respectable 13th out of a field of over 30 in the Cat 4 race. She’s acquired my unfortunate habit of lousy starts and was pretty much DFL going up the Snake on lap one. She made steady progress throughout and would most likely have finished further up the order if the race would have been longer. She’ll get there…

Thanks for reading,


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