This is cut & pasted from an email sent to my team. Names have been changed, and expletives have been blunted for the censor program.
Early. Cold. 2x arm warmers and 3x water bottles. Lots of shivering before the start. We line up w/ 9 guys from our team.
As we're sitting on the line, some guy asks the kid if HART is going to send 3 guys off the front like they did last year. I try not to make eye contact and the kid says "I wasn't on the team last year, I don't know what you're talking about."
As soon as the race starts, off goes attack team one. Not a surprise by any means, but it gets people moving. In an attempt to keep the pace controllable while AT1 takes off, the rest of the HART riders get passed by half of the field. At one point, the Engineer makes the decision that the group in front of us isn't the break anymore, it's the peloton, and we get moving.
The first "OUT" is uneventful. We're crusing around at 25-ish in the group w/ a slight tailwind. The kid & the trainer are done pulling shenanigans and settle in near the front. My remaining teammates, and I are all mid-pack in various stages of contact, but we're keeping good tabs on each other. The first turnaround comes earlier than expected, and we're not in the top 10, maybe we're in the top 30, and we have to work a bit to get back with the group.
The first "Back" has more of a cross/headwind and a lane opens up on the windward side of the road. I'm getting claustrophobic and I want to be on/near the front for that next turnaround, so I use the windward lane to get into the top 3-5 guys. This pisses off my teammates, but they all manage to get up front and they work hard to keep me from suffering any negative consequences of my decision. The headwind picks up quite a bit and this time, BMC teammate is ready for the turnaround. He leads me into the wind to get us across the turnaround 1-2.
The Second Out: Now the fun starts.
Our strong headwind is now a strong tailwind, and the standard issue"sprint out of the turnound" move gets us some sort of separation. I don't really know what's going on, but people are saying to ride fast, and I like riding fast. Some ****** yells "this is the winning break" and I think he's full of poo. The peloton is either part of us, or a very short distance behind us. We do have enough of a gap to run a paceline though, and that starts up. After a few rotations, we have a real gap on the field. Not big, but there. I take roll: I'm the only HART (my team) member, but the Laywer is there, who's a cool/strong guy on ColoBikeLaw (a different team). There are 2 RMSS guys, a BIG echelon guy, and a guy who's not afraid to admit that this is his first race. With some other, 8-10 of us total.
Pacelines are fun because you try to make conversations happen in 3-second intervals. I use these to check in w/ the Lawyer and try to teach the newbie that we're going to have to echelon on the way back. 3 seconds at a time. We have a STRONG F***ing tailwind, so the turnaround is going to be interesting.
The second BACK: Now the pain starts.
The turnaround is a lot easer when there's only 10 of us. We still have our gap, but our happy break faces the hard sad truth that now we need to go back into that headwind for 12 miles and things start to get ugly. The Lawyer and I try to organize an echelon, which starts rotating in the wrong direction. We get it rotating in the correct direction and haven't wasted our gap yet so things are looking good. At first we're rolling strong and working well together. The cross/headwind is strong, but that makes the shelter of the group that much sweeter. Then, maybe halfway in, people start to get lazy. Lawyer and I start telling people, in 3 second intervals, that we need to speed it up. That doesn't work so much, so half a rotation later, the big echelon guy just attacks. Lawyer, myself, and the newbie bridge up to him. This guy is like a train, and he's cruising FAST. The 3 of us behind him are struggling to get around him in the rotation but he just keeps charging. The Lawyer decides that he doesn't think this is a good idea and heads back to the remainder of the break. So now we're down to three.
Then the newbie starts skipping pulls.
I start to feel that I'm in over my head. Me and this big red guy are getting pummeled by this headwind and thanks to lame new guy, the pulls are lasting longer than the drafts. I start doing the math on what'll happen if this guy drops me. Can I save enough strength to catch him once the chase catches me? Bad thoughts. We see the water tower in Deer Trail and I thank god or whoever that this is almost over. What seems like an eternity later, my legs are screaming for relief, and the water tower is still out there. I start to wonder if the newbie is just playing us and I try (in vain) to drop him by gapping the red guy and sprinting up to him.
We FINALLY make it to town and start the 3rd and final leg of the race: A 14mile (roundtrip) out and back over some 1-ish minute rollers. On the first of the rollers, we manage to drop the guy who wasn't pulling his weight. I would be afraid to be in just a 2 man break when everyone else is chasing, but we've practically been just 2 for the last half hour and it was working alright. As we look back to check on the dropped guy, we don't see the field anywhere. Rad. I'm thrilled to be out of that headwind, but now the wind is getting stronger and coming out of the left. We're both riding at an angle into the wind, and drafting has turned into riding side by side, with the leeward guy getting the draft.
Big Red Echelon guy and I realize that we're probably going to win the race. We sit up for a second to breathe and drink. I learn his name, and that he's an ultra-distance MTB'er and his team won the TTT 2 weeks ago. (he REALLY shouldn't have told me that). We continue working together, and keep the pace high. At the turnaround, we find that we have a little over a minute on the closest chasers. In retrospect, that was good enough, but it seemed a lot closer than it was, so we continued riding strong. I really don't mind working hard if we're working together, I just want this to be over.
Then it starts to hail
The "we're going to win this race" thought turns into "if we don't crash into each other or get blown off the road". The wind is easily in the 30's or 40's, and exactly out of the right. We're getting pelted from the right with what I thought was gravel, but apparently was hail. It's hard to tell because that side of my face is numb. As we make our way back I formulate my plan, I can't TT away from this guy so I'm going to need to win the sprint. We continue working together until the 1km sign. At this point I pull all the way over to the yellow line and he comes with, still upwind of me. We don't go much faster, because as soon as he accelerates, i'm in his draft. So he slows down and so do I, still in his draft. I wait until the last 100M and go for it. He's having to work a lot harder than I am because of the wind. I throw my bike at the line and can't tell if I won or not. A few minutes later the official says that I got it by a few cm.. RAD. Two teammates are at the finish line, very excited and very cold. By this point the hail has turned to snow, and I can't feel my fingers. The Lawyer gets 3rd, BMC teammate gets 6th (7th?), and it's way too cold to see anything else.
The team played a crucial role in this one. I was safe & protected for the first 20 miles of the race. BMC used his energy to pull me upwind into the turnaround that ended up being the main selection in the race. The others protected me (whether they noticed or not) quite a bit. Baby jesus was in full force at the beginning, but got a mechanical early on. The engineer's attention kept us in the right part of the pack so we didn't get dropped in the first 5 miles. Thanks guys, your help is recognized and appreciated.
That's it. First win of the season, and first win in Colorado. I'm happy.