It was a sunny and warm to start but the forecast called for strong steady winds. That coupled with alot of climbing, a 87.5km course with roughly 1.2km of climbing and a finish line at the top of scenic caves road made me realize this was going to be a hard day.
My field had 27 to start including a team of 4 from midweek cycling club. A neutral start had us rolling through the round abouts and first intersections before we started racing. I managed to settle on as 4th wheel in the midweek chain before we got going and I was feeling pretty comfortable to start.
The first hour was fairly organized, the peloton was sharing the wind well and the few attempts at attacks were quickly reeled in.
The second hill climb came around the 1.5 hour mark. At this point things were still organized and the attacks hadnt been too powerful. At some point during this climb we pulled a left through an intersection into a very short and steep section of hill. The climb broke the rider in front of me and I was forced to drop out the back of the peloton as he flagged off in front of me.
I pulled free and sprinted to get back on the tail of the peloton, grabbing a wheel with my legs burning, starting to redline. Right as we crested the short hill, a few riders, led by the Midweek team laid out the most intense attack Ive experienced racing. The peloton stretched, riders started peeling off around me, and I was being elastic banded out the back like an accordian.
I held it as long as I could, trying to find a way back into the pack, but the attack didnt let up, and I eventually fell off.
I had the group in sight over the top of the main climb, then for a short decent and for part of the last climb, but the wind was strong and relentless and I was losing ground. There was nowhere to hide from the wind, no wheel to hang on to, and I could see other riders peeling off the peloton in front. I knew a number were out of sight behind me as well but wasnt sure of the number. At some point during that last climb I ended up catching two other riders, but no one seemed interested in getting organized, and eventually I ended up losing one of the front and one off the back.
I wont lie, I considered tapping out before the scenic caves climb. I had no one in sight, my back and legs were spent and I was out of the points bracket. I had passed at least 3 riders from my group that were literally off their bikes at the side of the road, cramping and out of the race. It was pretty hard on morale. But I felt I had to summit to prove I could survive this.
So on the final decent I gathered my courage and settled into the final few kilometers of torture. Scenic caves is unrelenting, 2.5km long, with grades over 10% and with no breaks, no relief at all. After 2.5 hours of agony leading into it, it was daunting! I hurt, bad, but held on. The groups had become so splitered I rode past a number of M2 riders that were struggling on the climb (they started 5 minutes in front of my group).
I finished, 18th out of 27.
But I finished!
Congrats to all the other Towheels-BCC riders that had the stones to finish this, especially our E1/E2 riders that somehow ran that gauntlet TWICE (162km in 4.5 hours..). You're absolute troopers!
Heres my garmin nerd data and the race results!