Turkey Hill Country Classic Cat4/5 Road Race
Saturday, May 1st
1st / 75 pre-reg'ed
The Cat4/5 Turkey Hill Country Classic was my 7th race this year. It was my 1st ever win in a road race and the first time I had even finished in the top 10 since taking 3rd in a cat5 race at a Great Dane crit in Madison, WI back in 2007. Since it was a 75 person field I earned 10 points toward my cat 3 upgrade.
More significantly, I feel like this was my first real "win" in any sport. I had won races before, going all the way back to Jr. High, but they were always because I outclassed a small field. This was the first race where I got to go head to head against a strong field and come up first.
It was a great feeling.
The course is one of the nicer PA races in my opinion. Each 10k loop has only about 400m of single lane (yellow line) riding. The rest of the course was full-road with 3 rolling climbs leaning into a 1M drag up to the finish. We raced 40k - 25M. I had 3 teammates in the field. 2 dropped out with mechanicals and the 3rd rolled in with the field.
The first lap was uneventful. I sat on the front a little to chat with a friend from another team and one guy went off the front from the gun but came back about 3M later without needing much of a chase.
Coming over a little hill in the first few miles I passed Dr. K and some of my LSV teammates on the side of the road doing a cool down from their brutal 120k race that just ended. I was still on the front at this point and Jamie leaned in a yelled:
"Come on Viana. VENGA VENGA VENGA VENGA VENGA"
There are plenty of other times I would have yelled a joke back but I just kept my eyes on the road and kept rolling.
"I'm here for business not pleasure today"
Yeah, I actually think shit like that.
The 2nd lap was harder with guys from DC Velo and Squadra Coppi pushing the pace on the climbs to shell some of the weaker guys. At this point I regretted doing back-to-back workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday but hung in with the pack. I had a scary moment when a parking cone on the yellow-line section got knocked into the road and skidded right in front of my bike but I just missed it.
The 3rd lap was quite on the front as well. Pace was moderate and more guys got shelled off the back on the climbs. Had another scary moment when a rider in front of me almost went down. Mostly I spent the last 3 laps memorizing the course so I wouldn't make the same bone-head mistake as the week before where I started my sprint late because I didn't know where we were on the course.
On the 4th lap things picked up. I stayed on the front and took some pulls. I wanted us coming into the line fast and strung out. Some other people took pulls as well but DCVelo had a lot of guys in the field still and they were content to get everyone to the line in a bunch sprint and take their chances based on sheer numbers.
The last few climbs were hard but I knew I was going to finish. I ha been watching other riders all race and marking the top guys. There was a rider from BBC that had won Carl Dolan a few weeks ago and a DCVelo rider who had already applied for his cat3 upgrade. I was staying close to those guys and knew I was in good position and I might finally get "a result".
Then I got really scared.
I suddenly felt a ton of pressure. I was nervous. I didn't want to be there. There was too much on the line. I didn't want to fail. While I know this might sound silly since it is "just bike racing" but when you're flying at the line in a tight bumping pack going 25+ mph and slipping ever deeper into oxygen debt - perspective is hard to come by.
I took a deep breath. I'm an American through and through but I get my strength from my roots.I actually thought about clips from that video for a split second. Again, I don't know what to say, I actually think stuff like this.
Now calmed down, I breathed out and faced my fear.
It was a long drag to the line. A BBC rider decided he didn't have it that day for the sprint and decided to lead the field out to the line. Unfortunately, no one wanted to come around him and the pace didn't pick up much after he reached his top speed. I was yelling for the next guy to pull but no one was willing.
The tip of the field was 3 riders long. I was sitting just behind 3rd wheel and off to the right. I knew the rider in the same position off to the left was waiting to hear back about his cat3. As we approached the line I saw him start to move up. I was already getting antsy and decided it was time to go. I remember thinking:
Well at least you'll do OK today since you're IN the sprint for once.
I popped off the front about the same time as 3 other guys. The guy who had gone off the front on the first lap came up the left, I came down the middle and there was a wheel off behind my to my right.
I was a long sprint - maybe 200m. I can't say I could really see/process very much at this point. The rider to my left quick dropped out of my vision (I think he got 3rd) and I just focused on losing the wheel in the right edge of my peripheral vision.
As that wheel slipped out of view as well I remember thinking "I can't believe this is happening"
Finally the line was near enough even I could see it. I furiously let out the last bits of energy I had left and I remember thinking in the last few seconds:
The sight of the line coming at me at 30 mph with no one in front of me and spectators on both sides screaming is one I'll never forget."OH MAN MAN MAN MAN DO NOT BLOW THIS"
I crossed the line in disbelief.
I covered my face. I threw my hands in the air. I crossed myself. I covered my face again.
As the other riders regrouped people started to congratulate me as we rolled past the line and I had to ask them to move over.
Hey, let me out *gasp* let me out *gasp* I'm gonna puke.
I got to the side of the road and collapsed in a ditch. The urge to puke passed and after about 30 sec and I got back up.
Then the best part of my day. I look back up the road and Jamie is running at me with both hands in the air (that's about an 8 ft wingspan) grinning like an idiot. I think he was more excited than I was. He came over and gave me a big hug.
I just shook my head.
I can't believe it. That was the best moment of my life. I just can't believe it.