The day was great, warm, sunny and awesome scenery. The A’s and B’s went together and it was normal surges right from the neutral zone, but nobody managed to get up the road. It got strung out single file many times before the first climb and we got strung out a little on the first climb but regrouped on the decent. There was an out and back section before we hit the gravel section. I saw two guys dropped after we turned around. It was pretty hard and fast back towards the gravel, really strung out during attacks, but always came back together. The gravel section was both horrible and ok, all in the same minute. It was pot holed and wash boarded. I can’t believe nobody ate it on that section. My garmin wouldn’t start, so I was racing blind. Rich said we were going 26 on the gravel. I know it was fast, that’s for sure. Rocks and bottles were flying. It sounded like a hail storm. There were miles of very loose gravel with about one car tire worth of decent line. I chose to stay in the loose stuff and not get knocked down. Can’t tell you what was going on behind me. I stayed toward the very front and scanned for holes.
Once we got off that section, calm descended over the group for a few minutes as everyone shook blood back into their hands and checked to see if everything was still where it should be. Alex did jettison one bottle on the first washboard section. He was about 5 wheels in front of me and I recognized his bottle as spun off the road in front of me.
It was normal racing after that and it seemed as we were all back together after the gravel. The big climb loomed up ahead and I knew I would be toast on that thing. The pace racheted up at the base of the big climb and it was easy to tell that my time was limited. I made it about halfway up with the leaders before I blew a piston and had to throttle back. I could see Alex in the lead group sitting at the back and watched 1’s and 2’s pop out. We were pretty splintered up behind the lead 7. Rich came up to me right towards the top with another guy and we chased hard all the way back in. There was a group of three ahead of us about 10 seconds, we got to about 5 a few times, but couldn’t close it down. Alex said he was at the back of the lead group when they hit the 90 degree turn at 200 meters. He finished 2nd and took home silver.
I have to say that was the strongest field I’ve raced in. Never seen a race stay together that long. We would be going hard, thinking it was splitting up and everyone was right behind me when I looked back. I enjoyed the race overall, but I have to say that gravel section was ridiculous. I’m very glad everyone was ok through there. It was crazy. Guys dodging left and right, getting pelted by rocks. Rich’s saddle slipped and was angled up about 20 degrees and slid rearward about 30mm….but he rode strong at the end, so maybe he’ll keep the new position.