Walburg Classic Cat 2

As the 60th inch of this winter’s snow fell on Boston, eight GLV teammates were happily encamped in Austin, Texas for a week of training and racing. After a week of riding that included multiple 100+ mile days, we dragged our tired bodies to an early season staple of Texas bike racing, the Walburg Classic Road Race.

While narrow lanes, abundant turns, and hilly landscapes characterize New England racing, Walburg is known for it’s straight, windswept farm roads. As the Cat 2 peloton rolled out, the Texas flags and windmills that punctuated an otherwise desolate landscape stood still. My initial hope for a calm day was dashed as winds quickly picked up.

This race was made especially difficult by the crosswinds that cut through the peloton as it rolled along, reducing the benefit of drafting behind the rider in front. With little warning, a sizable breakaway group formed with no Green Line Velo representation. My only teammate in the race, Dave Warner, played a crucial role in organizing the chase effort and laying down the necessary verbal abuse on one particular team that was disrupting the effort.

As we started the third and final 26-mile lap, I started to feel the accumulated fatigue of a week of hard training and racing. The break was caught with just 20 windy miles to go, and the peloton had been reduced to just 16 riders. As the bunch regrouped and caught its collective breath, a lone escapee fled up the road. No one acknowledged the traitor. We soldiered on, our echelon stretching from curb to centerline, each rider trying desperately to find a hint of a draft in the treacherous wind.

At this point my legs felt either like lead or wood, but I couldn’t have been sure which. I decided to confer with Mr. Warner about how we should approach the finale, but as I drifted back in the pack to look for him, I quickly realized that the pack had been whittled down to just 16 souls and my esteemed teammate was not among them. Crap.

Among the teams represented in this group, I was now a lone wolf, and with seemingly wooden (or leaden) legs, to boot.
The group crawled along, resigned to fight it out for second place. A few halfhearted attacks were made and brought back. With just under 10 miles to go, one of the racers who I had marked as particularly strong made an attempt to go up the road. Another rider went with him. I looked around to see if the group would chase, but everyone was knackered, either foaming at the mouth, drooling on their handlebar, or, in some cases, both.

I bridged across, and then there we were – three of us to battle it out for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places. For 6 miles, we braced against the blowing wind, each of us taking turns to lead and shelter the others. As we came over a rise, with just 4 miles to go the lone leader came into view.

I’m not sure if this was true for my other breakaway companions, but for me, the mentality of the race changed. We weren’t just racing for the podium - we were now going for the win.

I led the small group into the next corner. With the simple practice of pedaling through the corner, I created a gap to my breakaway companions and then rode right past the leader. It was now my race to win or lose.

For the next 3.5 miles, I churned out the best pace I could manage, careful to stay aerodynamic, careful not to cramp. As difficult or painful as this type of effort could be, I barely felt it.

Being alone off the front of a difficult road race is a scenario every road cyclist imagines on solo training rides. To be living the dream was euphoric more than anything else.

I managed only two glances over my shoulder to assure that my pursuers were at bay. I crested the final rise with a healthy 20 second advantage, and coasted across the line with my hands in the air.*

This will hopefully be simply the first chapter in a string of victories for Green Line Velo in 2014.
* New for 2014, the Texas Bicycle Racing Association frowns on no-handed victory salutes. I could have been disqualified for my transgression. Please check with your local racing authority before winning your next race.