It took a considerable amount of last minute planning but we finally got the majority of the team together to head on down to the Village of Winona for what would be everyone’s first road race (well, everyone’s first road race except for Adam, Andrew and Al).
Logistics were a pain because we had 11 people going, 10 bikes and 9 jerseys. If time permitted, we could pull it off with everyone wearing jerseys and riding a bike. If you haven’t figured out by now we’re not the wealthiest types so we have a bit of sharing to do.
The women’s race went first and we all obnoxiously shouted Molly and Brynn on their way for what would be quite an interesting experience. The course was set up as 4 laps on an 8.8 mile route with 30-40 mph headwinds and nasty crosswinds. It took what would seem a modest 30 or so minutes for lap one to complete but everyone was together as they rolled by. You could see a break develop with two Get-A-Grip ladies and one other woman I can’t remember but they were all blazing by with our ladies right in tow. Bradley and I were working on a plan to nab the jersey off of Molly and Brynn’s backs right when they finished when we noticed them coming around for lap two. I saw Molly pull off to the side. I ran up to see what was wrong and she gave a “you don’t want to know” expression and left all 9 of us guys a little bit wiser as to the ways of a woman.
I’ll never forget how urgent all of us were about “Molly?! What’s wrong?!” “What can we do to help?!”
“I just got my period.”
You could see every guy’s expression, “Ohhh…um…Brynn? Brynn’s gone? Oh, right, there’s a race going on. Ummm. Do your tires have enough pressure? Gears working all right? Yeah? Okay. Well. Um. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help out there kiddo.”
Eventually the Get-A-Grip woman came back for the win (Yeah Chi-town!) and then the other came back from a flat for third. Bradley grabbed Molly’s jersey and Brynn was still wearing mine while we both waited anxiously for her bike. I felt bad knowing Brynn would have to finish and pull right over so I could take my jersey back and Bradley could grab Brynn’s (actually it was Brean’s) bike, but our race was already lining up and we had to get going! Brynn finished after riding a solo tour through hellacious winds for about 25 miles, she claimed 5th place for the Crew and you could tell she was glad to get done.
“Really? That sucks!!” was her response to Molly’s, um, situation.
Adam, Andrew, Al, Bradley, Daryl, Ben, Mike, Max, and I were standing in front of the pack as we got the rundown and let out on the course. A bunch of guys were up front and Max shrugged his shoulders, “just go,” he said to Bradley and me so we turned up the pace and, my god, it never let up. Bradley was having a tough time with his chain rubbing and I remember being bummed out at having to hear that the whole race. We turned out of the tailwind to a real nasty gust of head/crosswinds. After about a mile our guys let the group catch up and Al went on a counter-attack. I was hung out in the crosswind so I got no break but the pack had to respond. Al was a horse for about 3/4s of the first lap and once the pack caught Bradley and I went after it again.
This was the recipe for us through most of the race: go out and don’t let the group get a break. It was gassing me big time and everyone around seemed to be so strong. In reality, Andrew jumping out followed by Adam jumping out and then Daryl jumping out and then Al jumping out was just beating the pack to a pulp. I was getting tired just staying in the group let alone switching leadouts. Eventually Andrew told me to just relax and take it easy for a sprint. I thought he was crazy for thinking that so early in the race but, as it turned out, Andrew was my guardian angel.
Such scattered attacks paid their toll on us too, however, because we were not anywhere near each other throughout the majority of the race. In hindsight, the “Car Up!” shouts stopped coming after lap 3 and that should have been a sign everyone was hurting. Regardless, I was panicking because I felt so ragged and the Crew wasn’t really sticking together. Turns out road races are a LOT longer than any other races and we had plenty of time to assemble when it mattered.
On the last lap, Adam stayed up top three making sure the pace was hard and Andrew rolled up next to me “I’ll lead you out, make sure we’re by each other.” I made sure I could stick close and Max came in to my side as we situated ourselves next to Al. It’s amazing how much of a wind I gained back to see more CCC jerseys around me. I started to feel a little pressured and turned to Andrew, “Dude, I feel like shit”
“Everyone else feels worse, don’t worry about that and just keep thinking about the win!” he replied without even looking at me. Damn, this is getting serious. I looked over my shoulder to see Bradley, Ben and Daryl were in the mix.
So here we were, eight strong and in good position, all eyes are turning on me. Daryl comes up right before a turn into a wide open gust of headwind, “Expect an attack here!”
The field turns and no attack. I’m thinking everyone’s saving for the sprint, but it was probably because everyone was running ragged after 30+ rough miles. We get a tailwind and the finish is little over a mile away, the crew is filling up spots 7-15, we’re looking damn fine. I’m getting some wind and loosening up for a sprint. We reach the .5 mile mark and Daryl flies to the outside of the pack and the leaders take the mob left to get on his wheel. Andrew sneaks to the right with me on his wheel and we start really pushing it.
“UP! UP! UP!” I’m shouting as if I know what the hell I’m talking about.
Andrew ramped it up and we create separation as we approach the final turn (a nasty 90 degree turn with some gravel on the inside). He goes a bit wider and looks for me when I grab his wheel to shout again.
“UP!” I shout and then I feel it start to pour on. This is it! Time to pass my escort put my head down and hammer to the finish. I figured someone had to be on my wheel, the line was getting so close I check back and see a bogey about 4 bike lengths back.
Should I pose? That would be kind of bogus, especially if I get caught. I look back and I’m still safe. Fuck it. The hands fly up and I’m smilin’ ear to ear with the scissors out. I guess everyone in a Cuttin’ Crew jersey threw their hands up in celebration as well and hearing that made me feel so damn good. Of course I was giddy to win but hot-damn this team is so incredible and I love being a part of it. Daryl snipped in there for third to be another on our list of podium finishers. Bradley caught up after being dropped and rode 25+ miles with a loose saddle. Ben caught back on too, but Mike wasn’t so lucky. He lost the pace at the wrong turns and was left out to dry by the wind but of course stuck with it for the finish.
This first place finish definitely doesn’t belong to me, it was completely the Cuttin’ Crew’s. There’s no way this would have happened so well had it not been for the team. True to form, we all collected our prize money and went to the bar to blow it all on beer and food. We all had a laugh at Molly’s expense (she’s such a sport) and I sat back amidst smiles and cheer to feel the love. Cuttin’ Crew came through for yet another big day.