Looking Back at 2017 #2: Grant's Tomb

Our season opener last year was at  Grant's Tomb, just a week after wrapping up our winter training camp in Santa Barbara. Smith clearly was recovered well from all those miles and came out firing in the 2/3 field:

"Last week it was 74 and sunny in southern California where Heiss and I were putting on sunscreen preparing for 124 mile ride with 8 of our friends. We were laying out our strategy for this race “we are going to set Smith up for the win” he says. I laugh because that’s crazy talk and we spend the next 7 days smashing pedals with 10 of our teammates. 3000 miles later I am sitting on a friend's couch in NYC trying to figure out if I had brought enough clothes to stay alive in the Tundra that had become New York City. Grants Tomb has been a staple on the early season calendar for as long as I have been racing and as expected, old man winter provided us with a challenging weather forecast. Highs in the upper 20’s, gusty winds and spotty cloud cover…sounds like perfect weather to go around in circles with 85 other dudes in underwear. 

I woke up Saturday looked out the window, “yep looks freezing..who cares, it will be warm when we are racing” I tell myself. I jump in the car and go down to the race early to see Whit and Sarah absolutely decimate the Women’s 3 field. Shit yes I am amped. I went back and started to put on ALL OF THE CLOTHES because #grantstomb. Slammed a delicious bagel with ham egg and cream cheese #notvegan, and headed down to warm up with the boys. 

The 2/3 race goes off at 2:30 for 60 min. We had a good showing, in addition to Mike freight train Heiss we had Jay, Dan and Max all of which were a on good form, especially this early in the season. Dan and Max didn’t race the 3/4 race so everyone was fresh. “We can win” I said like a crazy person while we were warming up. 

The plan is to race smart - Stay vigilant, go with any move that looked promising and if it was all together at the end figure out who was feeling good and put together a good old school lead out. We have all raced together enough to know how to communicate, everyman is an everyman. Minuteman had about 12 dudes, 6 CRCA teams had a bunch of dudes but historically haven’t done a good job racing as a team, so this is literally anyone’s race. 

We lined up , he calls 30 seconds, jackets off, heart starts racing and I look down… I have a dropped chain; I am literally THAT GUY. Boos came from the entire field…I’ll be honest I hated me and I am me. I was a hot mess. left my heart-rate monitor at home but knew it was beating out of my chest because I could feel it in my hands, I used my best guess at putting the seat at the right height after building the bike the night before, had the wrong Garmin mount, had full foot warmers on top of my insoles (that alone made Jay roll his eyes in disgust) and dipped my thumb in water which was now a frozen popsicle on my right hand. Off to a great start….. here comes the whistle WE ARE RACING, I missed this…

86 dudes on the line, we are full gas from the start. The first half of the race was a barrage of attacks, each time it was dangerous we had someone in it. Dan (you sand bagging cat 3 race your bike and get that upgrade) chased everything that moved the wrong way. It started to be clear nothing was going to stick, too many strong dudes and too few organized teams to hold off the chase. One attempt puts Jay out in no-mans land chasing for a few laps. His effort inspired the pack to chase and give Heiss and me a solid rest. With about 6 laps to go I went to the front to see if there was an opportunity to make a go, E2 Value and Weather Channel would have been the obvious break mates were covered by every CRCA rider in the field, we had accepted a sprint…Time to rest, stay near the front and wait for some support. 

I fell back to about 10th wheel, my plan was now to sit tight and conserve as much as I could, stay right here. A few guys attempted some solo flyers, Dan and Jay came flying up the left side on the downhill and laid down chase then the building that is Heiss appeared and I grabbed his wheel “Heiss I am here”. This is teamwork, this is why it works. 3 laps to go, Heiss and I are connected 5 wheels back. This is perfect, this is perfect. There is one junior off the front who will not hold it and we are 5th/6th wheel, this is going to work. 

Bell lap and we are still in the same spot, junior is in sight and there are two guys with no teammates driving on the front, I don’t feel the cold I don’t feel much of anything…through the first hard left…we are still charging… left again up the hill through the wind tunnel we catch the junior, we are right where we want to be, we take the right hand turn everyone sits up…..shit this is not where we want to be.…they are all looking at each other and we can hear the bunch behind us starting to come up the sides, we are going to get swarmed. Heiss has no idea if I am there but nothing will take me off of his wheel. He lays down power and before I can say anything we are flying up the right side, we have committed… 1st wheel around the outside of the 180….we are so far away from the finish line…neither of us look back, full gas out of the corner don’t have time to care what is going on behind us, Heiss is slaying himself I can’t let him down now. We are both out of the saddle full sprint up the left side, if someone is going to come around us it will be into to the wind. Still out of the saddle, shit he is still going, we are still going, how is this happening. I don’t feel anything. The pitch eases slightly, enough for me to sit down take two deep breaths drop two more gears, I am too far away, I can tell Heiss is starting to fade, I have to go now. Out of the saddle I come around into the wind, I can hear deep wheels coming up both sides of me, one more gear (in my mind I half expected my bike to explode) it shifted, heck yes, harder I can see the finish line.. I can hear the announcer yell Zipcar Zipcar, Holy crap we held it. WE WON! The data proves Heiss is a monster, from the bottom of the hill 35 seconds, ave 670 watts, 31 MPH IN HIS DRAFT….he is a Monster. 

I think it’s funny, before every race we say “hopefully it goes to plan, good luck”. I say it even though I don’t believe it. How could I believe it, have you heard someone say “I would like to thank my lucky stars for my win today, for all the days I spent hoping for this.” and actually believe them? No, how could you because hope is not a strategy and luck isn’t a factor. The reason we won is because we were prepared, willing to lose in hopes to give us a chance to win as a team. 

I couldn’t be more pumped for the season, for the early success we had this weekend and thankful for the teammates that are all willing to slay themselves for one another, in this case I just happen to be the guy. Jay, Dan, Heiss and Max thanks for giving me the chance to win. 

P.S. Last year after 2nd place, I ate shit when my wheel got stuck in a crack in front of the podium, and the guy who came in third says “aren’t you the guy who came in second” this year one of the guys said “you were the guy with the dropped chain at the start” yep that’s me, what a loser."