For my first category three cycling race, I had a little extra motivation from the experience the day before. Having refrained from venting with a temper tantrum, I instead kept all my anger for this race.
Stage 2 would be a sixty mile, three lap road race with a 1.5k climb to the finish. On the neutral roll-out from the parking lot, it was obvious the organization of the cycling teams in this area. Maybe it was the upgrade to category three, maybe it was Georgia. There were no more scrubs in this race. Everyone had to do the work to get here, 20 points worth of work in a 12-month period. Everyone had experience and knew how to win races.
So when the breaks started flying off the front at the first big climb, the teams at the front let them go. I was seated comfortably in the top ten safely out of the draft wondering if I had missed my chance. The official rode away and came back with gaps saying “30 seconds!”, “One minute!”, and finally “Ninety seconds, two riders!”.
Three cycling teams from the area that had missed out on the break then swarmed the couple of guys on the front blocking for their teammates up the road. I guess ninety seconds was past their comfort zone. About ten guys settled into an echelon, taking turns reeling in the lone riders. Soon enough the guys came back into sight and with one lap to go, the teams pulling let the breakaway dangle off the front.
The two riders kept pulling, hammering their hearts out, not yet willing to give up on their chance at glory. But the lead they had was a false one. A team from Atlanta on the front was letting them stay in that fifteen second gap range, letting them waste their energy. I kept sitting on, watching as we rolled closer and closer to the finish and these two riders suffered off the front, being teased by the sixty man field ready to engulf them before it was too late. And with one swift pull from a fresh rider, the two riders were pulled in and instantly shot out the back of our field.
We had ridden the finishing climb twice already before we would climb it one last time. I had studied it and decided that it was too long for an attack right at the bottom. Any rider crazy enough to try to hold a sprint for that long would blow up and barely cross the finish line. But when we hit the bottom of the climb, the top ten riders all went. Sitting in tenth place I watched as the first few riders rode away and crossed the finish line with an over ten second gap. Back in my position it was a total suffer fest. I passed Nicholas Jay of Canada, a competitor for the overall for the entire Stage Race, just a few meters before the finish to secure ninth place and begin my fight to make up after my disadvantage resulting from Stage 1. David Lansden from Alabama crossed in fifteenth place to keep himself in the fight for the GC. And all of us cried as James Gotsick, winner of the TT yesterday, crossed in first place today, earning 40 points before I had even earned half that many.
At least I was making progress however. That is all I needed, continue scoring and continue being consistent, especially consistently better than the guys racing for the overall.