Racing crits and flat circuits is sometimes frustrating for flyweights, so with the MABRA season opener at Black Hill looming the following day, two of our intrepid climbers headed for the hills of West by God Virginia for the ABRA association’s Morgantown Road Race. An early morning drive put Billy and Nate in the parking lot with enough time to wait in line for the bathrooms, register, and warm up a bit on the trainers before setting off. Billy would test his legs in the 3/4 race field, which had attracted some strong riders from ABRA and MABRA teams alike, while Nate would take on the Cat 5 field.
The windy weather would keep the 3/4 race together for much of the first few miles, so Billy sat in with the pack and waited for the climbs. His patience was rewarded as the pace immediately ramped up on the first climb, and did not abate for the rest of the race. A series of solo attacks kept the pace high, and the constant counterattacking helped carve the bunch up on the hilly course
The descents also proved eventful, with several patches of gravel, at least one hairpin turn crash, and a very close call with a car pulling on to the course at the foot of a fast section. By the final climb, the group had been whittled down to 15. Unfortunately, Billy suffered a serious cramp during the fast final ascent, and opted to roll safely home, rather than push too hard though an early season issue.
Meanwhile, in the Cat 5 race, a calm rollout from the starting line served as a choice opportunity for Nate to scout the finish of the hilly, lollypop parcours. The race directors had graciously put up a red kite on the course marking the final mile at a steep incline.
Early pacemaking saw the field separate, and a group of 15 riders tackled the early rollers. A couple of short attacks were brought back without much urgency, and after 6 miles, a small break formed, with a pair of riders putting a significant gap on the group.
Though the pair remained in sight, Nate and remaining 9 riders were slow to organize a chase. Windy conditions created a serious incentive to sit in, and pulls were long and slow. A pair of riders from the East End Cycling team finally worked at setting the pace and rotation for the group. Over the course of the next 6 miles, the bunch reeled in the break to within 50 meters by the start of the first real climb of the day.
At this point, the group sat up and stopped chasing, with someone going so far as to congratulate the group for catching the breakaway. The last gap to the lead pair did not decrease during the climb, and the descent afterwards only strung out the group. After a windy straightaway, Nate moved to bridge to the breakaway group by attacking a short kicker, taking another rider with him. The four riders immediately began rotating, with Nate setting the pace. The cooperation paid off, as the bunch had shattered after the quick attack, and the remnants of the chase group could not put together an effort to bring back the leaders.
The racecourse featured five significant climbs, but none in the final ten miles, so the four riders worked together and stayed as a group throughout the double digit grades, and fast, sweeping descents. It wasn’t until the top of the final climb that anyone made a move. There, the rider from All American Bicycle Club put in a strong effort on the descent, creating a gap that he worked hard to extend in the following flat section. The small gap proved difficult to cover, as the big turbo-diesel engine off the front pounded the pedals. Nate found himself working hard, so as to convince the remaining two riders to help bring him back.
A few short, sharp climbs finished what cooperation could not, and as Nate and the others made the catch of the AABC rider, the group was now three. After dropping the AABC rider on the second to last roller, Nate found himself playing poker with Rajesh, a rider from Falls Church who was a familiar face from other 5 races this spring. After a few slow rotations of cat-and-mouse, Nate put himself in prime position, getting the draft as they approached the red kite.
Launching up the sharp last ramp, Nate’s jump got him clear, and he put his head down and emptied the tank on the way to the finish line solo. A little bit of cheering from Billy greeted him as he gunned it down the finishing straight, and Nate took home his very first career race win and VeloWorks-Spokes Etc.’s first road win of the 2014 season!