By Dennis Pedersen
Last year I managed to get 5th in this State Championship, and this year I was hoping to improve on that with a podium finish. For that reason I accepted the offer of Jeff Solt to coach me for the month prior to the race. The workouts were a painfully 'fun' change from my standard weekly program and consisted of very short intervals with limited recovery; no long intervals at all.
I drove up with John Schaupp and we warmed up a bit and chacked out the course. It was a neat undulating course with some slight hills too, though it was a bit windy. All of that made me think a breakaway group could form and win. Since I was alone in my race (John started with me but was in the 55-59 group) I felt that I needed to go with as many attacks as I could or risk missing out. So I was determined not to sit in but to stay near the front and try to go with any attacks. Maybe I could even stay with a successful one and try out my sprint at the finish.
The main instigators turned out to be Team Echelon including Hunter Ziesing and Dirk Himley, plus the super-strong Specialized Masters with Larry Nolan, Bubba Melcher and Don Langley. So when I saw Don take off after a few fast laps, with an Echelon rider in hot pursuit, I went 100% to grab their draft and go with them. I was pretty blown out, but I was hoping we would start a paceline that would keep us ahead of the main pack. Instead Don looked over his shoulder a few times before he decided he didn't like what he saw and sat up. Was I bummed as we drifted back to the pack..
Then Bubba attacked while I was recovering so I couldn't go with him... classic team tactics. Dirk Himley and a couple others went with Bubba while their teammates blocked and thus was born the winning break. I was now in the situation I didn't want to be in: Trying to get the others in the pack motivated and organized so we could chase down the 4-man break. Only 5 or so guys ended up contributing much to the chase, so we weren't really at an advantage at all given the break was 4 highly-motivated and strong riders.
Even so we almost caught the break on the last lap. But so many guys didn't help that they were still ahead as we started the sprint. By then I was so tired from all of that pulling that I couldn't follow when a dozen guys flew by me on the right, heading up to the last 90-degree right turn.
As we went through the last zig-zag two exhausted guys from the break got caught, but Bubba and Dirk took 1st and 2nd. Don Langley managed to pass the two dropped guys from the break and take 3rd. He'd been sitting in and blocking a bit so he was fresh. I flew up that last little hill and passed a few guys but that was still too far back. I ended up in 16th.
So I was disappointed that I wasn't able to translate my improved fitness into any sort of result. And there were some harsh words thrown out by others even more disappointed. Oh well, there's always next year, right?