Monday, April 7, 2008


Coming into our final weekend in Florida, we had amassed over 500 miles during the week. My legs were far from fresh. My race preparation for Webster-Roubaix consisted of a century spent rotating in a double pace line. Not the ideal way to get your legs ready for a 108 mile suffer fest. However, we were in Florida to train, not win races.

Like every other Roubaix-esque race in the U.S., Webster-Roubaix is a long race interrupted by sections of dirt, gravel and rough pavement. To be exact, this race had 36 miles of dirt and gravel. And, at 108 miles, it's the longest race in Florida. Also, it's a Florida Cup race, so all the best riders in Florida, including our new pals Danny and Joel Chavez, would be waiting at the start. My goals for the race were modest. There were no dreams of stepping on the podium. I would be happy to simply pass the 80 mile mark.

Ryan Flemming, Ryan Kelly and I sat at the start line waiting for the pain. I went through my mental check list of things I needed in the race. At this point, I was SOL if I forgot anything. But, at least I would know I left my food at the car instead of reaching into my pocket at mile 60 and coming up empty handed. Every box got a check. Nothing forgotten. Suddenly, the announcer makes a small speech and we're off.

The Start/Finish was on the 2.5 mile dirt section we would see 12 times. The various pot holes, sharp rocks, tree roots and washboard were all new now. But, by the day's end, I would have the ability to ride this section with an armadillo wrapped around my face. The first lap was nice. We rolled along at a leisurely pace and talked with other racers. With every turn, I expected a change in speed, and with that my legs would scream a few explicatives before walking the 1300 miles back to NH.

Coming into the third lap, the peloton became single file. We hit the dirt and the blue sky became masked by a brownish cloud of dust. I make my way to the front. There is nothing more thrilling than to leave the grasp of a dust wall and find clean, open air. At the front, I ride my line, avoid wheel-eating holes and miss tumbling water bottles. Behind me, the field was strung out. I was inflicting pain (I think) and loving it. We rounded the last corner and once again get our wheels rolling on the pavement. As I pulled off, a group attacks. How dare they attack after I put in such an effort!!

The attacking group begins to gain time, and they're slowly out of sight. I contemplated ending my race and simply enjoying a nice group ride for the remaining 70 miles. Instead, I ignore my brain and decide to chase. With all the teams represented, there were no riders interested in helping. I put my head down and pedaled. Finally, I hear RKelly arrive next to me.

"What are we doing?" he asks.

"We're chasing." I respond

Without anything else side, Ryan pulls through and takes up chase. Still, it's only me and Ryan. The roads are flat. It's warm. We were riding our legs into the dirt, two-man TTing with a whole lot of dead weight in tow. After chasing for about a whole lap, nine miles, we see the tail end of the break. 300 yards. Chase. Don't puke. 150 yards. Still to far. Pray the break slows. 20 yards. Oh thank God, some help. A guy we met on the San Antonia ride bolts past the peloton on the left. Ryan and I jump on his wheel as he pulls us to the break. Once again, we're all together. I found Ryan Flemming, a member of the break, and he was astounded we had pulled back the break. He couldn't believe it. If he could only feel the pain in my legs.

For the remaining 50 miles, we roll around the laps at a brisk pace. But, few are interested in really trying to break. However, with only four miles to go, a small group of seven riders gets a gap. Neither RKelly nor I are there.

After a brief conference, RKelly decides to crank up the speed. The already strung-out field starts to form gaps as the seven riders slowly get reeled in. As we round a sharp left corner, I decided it's time to ride over the gap. With Ryan's help, I was now in the perfect spot to make the front group. With six GUs building up in the base of my throat and my eyes about to bleed, I slowly bridge to the group. Two miles to go. I'm there. Top ten no problem...

In the corner of my eye, some Jelly Belly rider comes along side. But, it wasn't just ONE rider. Tagging along behind him, he has a parade of cyclists. All the work Ryan and I did for nothing. We hit the dirt for the last time. There's carnage. A crash to the right. Waterbottles bouncing down the road. My legs want to cramp as I jump from wheel to wheel. The finish line's in sight. Hammer hammer. Relief.

I fly across the line in 19th and let my wheels coast to a stop. With shaky legs, I stood in the road enjoying the sting of salt in my eyes. The only thing to make the moment better would have been a Baconator.

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