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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

2012 State Road Race Championship at the Georgia Games

This race has been on my calendar all year. It takes place 1.5 hours away in Fairmount, Georgia. There was no doubt I'd be racing it, I mean it's the State Championship! You have to race it even if your not at your best because you just never know. The only decision I had to make was whether or not to race as a CAT4 or race with the Master's. The CAT4 race started at 8:30AM the Masters at 11:30AM. Both races are 54 miles. And after the past week being in the 100 degree range I opted for the early race. Plus I'd get to support the heavy efforts of my friends Sean Philyaw and Robert Loomis. They've been putting in the hard hours of training that I haven't been able to.

The week before this I did battle with some sort of stomach bug. My apologies to Sammy Arial's bathroom. It took me a couple of days to get over that. Then I ended up with a head cold. Thank you. And then, two days before the race, I got bacterial pink eye!
I have since determined that my problem was my diet and not eating enough. For about 5 weeks I had to work a lot and my training suffered because of it. So I cut back on how much I was eating. And to be perfectly honest I didn't really eat all that healthy either. Anyway, I say that's why I kept getting sick and we'll leave it at that.

I pre-registered for the road race on Saturday and then a 45 minute Master's Crit on Sunday afternoon so there was no turning back. My plan was to use this race weekend to get back in shape. I knew it was going to hurt and I was prepared to dish out the pain...on myself. I was also prepared to help my friends in any way I could. That would be fun.

I met Star Bridges and Stephen Sisk and we loaded the van for yet another grand cycling adventure. We arrived and found a nice shady place around the corner from the start finish line to prepare our bikes and drinks. Stephen was racing the CAT5 race which started 10 mins after ours and would finish after 36 miles. I consulted my veteran team mate Star and we decided that two bottles would be enough. Each of my bottles, in case you care, had one scoop of Hammer Heed and one scoop of Perpetuem. I also carried a gel flask and managed to take in the equivalent of three gels during the race.
We registered and stood in line for the "steam house", that's what Sean Philyaw calls it. Sean was parked under a big oak tree and looked ready to ride. He's been training really hard, even doing something I myself have never done...motor pacing. So I was feeling like the weak link in our team.
Stephen Sisk and Star Bridges are ready.

I say team because whenever I go do a race with Sean and Robert Loomis we race like we're together. I guess it's like some North Georgia bike shop credo or something. We go do each others shop rides and hang out together. It's great!
We made final preparations and headed to the start. It was a lovely 78 degrees at the start. We hit the road with almost 70 riders. I felt pretty good. I'd seen the course last year so I knew where to be at the turns in order to advance. The worst thing about big road races is the Yellow Line Rule. When you watch the Tour de France on television and the riders have the entire road to race on? Yeah...that's not how we get to race. In a USA Cycling sanctioned race the roads aren't closed. You have to stay on the right side of the yellow line. With only six turns in a 54 mile race there's not a good way to advance. So you have to work to stay near the front.

It was my first race with my new Barfly. It mounts on my handle bar and puts my Garmin out in front so I can see it better. I loved it! It was amazing how much easier it was to read while riding. But sometimes I don't really want to know how badly I'm doing so it's kind of like a double edged sword. It was fun to have though.
I felt better than expected but didn't want to do anything crazy like try for a breakaway and blow myself up. I hate the way that sounds. It's not like me. But I wasn't sure. And the heat...
Man, I sound like a big old wimp.
We averaged nearly 24 MPH for the race. Star made at least two attempts to breakaway and/or lead Robert out into a breakaway. Each one was slowly brought back. I thought Robert had a good thing going but nobody would work with him. Once things settled back down Star found him and let him know that it was a good try but he'll never get into a breakaway if he doesn't shave his legs. It's a cycling law.
Stephen Sisk, Sean Philyaw, Robert Loomis, Star Bridges
We raced for two hours and then it was time to get serious about moving up. You see in road racing it's all about your position in the last few miles. With that many cyclists crammed inside the yellow line there's nowhere to go if the guys at the front decide they want to soft pedal until the road is open for the sprint with 200 meters to go. It really stinks. So to have a chance you must be in the top 10 before then. I decided to make my advance after the final turn on an uphill when I knew there would be some gaps. I launched and was almost where I wanted to be when two guys crossed wheels and went down right in front of me. I hit one of them and placed my foot in his back to stop myself from going down. By the time I started back up the peloton was long gone. I had no idea how the sprint went.

I'm going to leave you hanging here because Robert was kind enough to write down his version of the race. And his version ends with him being the 2012 Georgia Road Race Champion. Check it out!

2012 Georgia State Road Race Championship as told by Robert "Young Punk" Loomis

I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to race considering my boss let me have Friday night off. So instead of working until 11:30 then coming home packing and do the last tweaks on my bike, I was able to just relax and be lazy! Well 5 o’clock rolled around and I had to kick Amber out of bed, which was probably the hardest thing I had to do all day! We were on the road by 6:15 and made it there right at 7:30. As we pulled in we saw that the rest of the guys (Sean, Chad, Star, and Stephen) arrived at exactly the same time! We slowly moved over to the registration, then over to the incredibly long line for the timing chips. Finally we made it back to our cars, got dressed and we were ready to race.
We all lined up together and talked to our competition/friends (friends at least until the whistle blows). It was 8:30 and off we went; the paced started off high with a nice descent right out of the gun. Sean must have been feeling really strong, as he was constantly on the front or attacking off the front for the first lap. Star was right there with him fighting to give the rest of us an opportunity to make a break. Then lap two started, we rocketed down the descent and when the next ascent started Sean and Star attacked, and attacked hard! That created a huge gap! I was a little late to react but I drove right in behind them. Only one guy was able to catch my wheel and when we reached Star and Sean he made a move for a counter-attack. I stuck right on his wheel but by that time we still had 40 miles to go and we started to slowly get sucked back into the group. After the group swarmed around us, a familiar voice came up next to me, star said, “Great job reading the counter. You followed it perfectly but you know why it didn’t stick right?” I just nodded because I knew what was coming, “It’s because you haven’t shaved your legs yet!” One of the best quotes/advice I have ever received! Along with me there were about 7 other guys that overheard and couldn’t help but to laugh! Star stayed next to me and I heard Chad talking. He must have been feeling a little off, he told me he just got rid of a cold and a case of pink eye, not a good combo! But of course he was right there with us putting the pain down when needed.  He is a great guy to follow! He is a very strong lead out and I always look for him when a sprint starts or when he wants to attack! He is a great rider and I learn a lot from him!
 Star kept talking to me, giving me advice from his vast knowledge of previous races! And his advice helps, so I listen to every word! The one thing that he told me that probably won the race for me was to stay on the left side and keep moving up. This was the same plan my coach Nate O’Neill gave me coming into the race. He told me that from the start, position would be the number one factor since it was a narrow road. I kept that in the back of my mind the entire race. Well back to lap two. After the group caught us, Sean and Star still had great legs! Sean led everyone out in single file and even passed one of the pace bikes. Star attacked on the back stretch which is a nice back road. The road was narrow and twisty (my favorite section of the race). He caused everyone to jump out of the saddle and try to catch on, and I emphasize try. He took off! After the attack, I made a move for a counter-attack. I flew up the single filed riders. I pulled as hard as I could and we held 35mph+ the entire attack. A couple of guys grabbed my wheel and we flew down the narrow road.  We didn’t get much of a gap since everyone was pushing so hard. The group caught back up to us but because the effort was so hard no one had the legs to make the counter attack.
We came to about 4 miles left in the second lap and there is a sharp uphill left hand turn. I knew it was going to be the corner to move up and stay up front. There were even a couple of guys around me talking about the corner so I knew it was going to be "the decision maker!” Well we rounded the corner and everyone jumped hard.  After everyone settled in we cruised over the next 3 miles to the finish, which was a long steady climb. We rolled over the finish line and started the last lap. Sean and Star were still on the front creating all kinds of gaps in the group! They attacked the whole race.
 I felt very confident at this point and knew if it lead to a sprint and I was in the right position the number one spot was all mine! I kept rehearsing the sprint in my head and telling myself I could out sprint everyone here. Plus there was an extra thing pushing me the whole way, it was mine and Amber's anniversary. She was awesome and seemed happy to go with me and cheer me on. What else could I do? I kept thinking I had to win this one for her!
I decided to help out the guys and picked up the pace half way through the last lap. When I pulled off to allow someone else to do work, they all stayed behind me. I just soft peddled and put them in the gutter until someone decided to pull. But an attack went off the front. Everyone jumped and boxed me in. Sean and Star were still up there throwing down attacks one after another. I was running 20th all the way to the final corner, or “the decision maker”. The time to move up arrived, this was my last chance, I cut as hard as I could on the inside and jumped up to about 10th. All of a sudden I heard a crash further back in the field. I couldn’t see who it was, but later found out that someone crashed in front of Chad and put him out of contention. While racing I kept looking for the guys, they are an awesome lead out team! I only found Sean to my right. It wasn't until after the race that I found out about Chad's crash and that Star was relegated to the back by the overzealous moto-ref for crossing the line when another rider changed his line, instead of causing a huge crash. What was Star thinking? It's not like he's a newbie, I mean his racing license says Since 1994. You think Star knew what was the best thing to do? Yeah me too!
CAT4 Finish, Robert Loomis = State Champion

Back to the lead out, we were 1.5 miles from the finish and the pace was incredibly high. I was riding the yellow line trying to get as close to the front as possible without getting disqualified and without actually being on the front. The group got very physical and everyone started rubbing elbows. I had to fight my way a couple of places further up to feel good when the 200m sign rolled close. 1 mile to go! The ground started to tip skyward and the pace kept increasing! The guys on the front were trying to give a desperate last chance attack but we smelled the finish line and everyone stayed together. All of a sudden I saw the 200m sign, I was about 250m out but started my sprint. Then when I crossed 200m to go I swung out to my left to get some room, I followed a wheel and jumped as hard as I could! Everything felt perfect, the gear I was in, my cadence and best of all, both wheels stayed planted firmly on the ground. I shot up through the crowd and hammered ferociously toward the line! Then I knew I won! I started to smile and when the line came I threw my hands up and did a big Dave Chappelle, “BYAHH!” What a feeling!! I couldn’t believe it! What a race to win, the CAT 4 Road Race Championship! The guys were awesome! Chad, Star and Sean killed everyone for me so when the sprint rolled around I didn’t have to do much!! Thanks again guys for everything!! It was awesome!! And most of all, thanks Amber for putting up with my racing on our anniversary! Glad I could win for you! Thanks for being my number one supporter!! 

Robert Loomis

Sean Philyaw and Robert Loomis
Stephen celebrates with Robert after the finish.
Stephen Sisk raced the State Championship CAT5 Race which ended earlier than ours. He wrote me a quick review of how he saw that race. Here's what happened to him.

2012 Georgia Road Race Championship CAT5 as told by Stephen Sisk 

Before the race Chad and I discussed tactics and the plan was for me to make sure I was in the front pack on the second lap at around mile 32. With that goal in mind I lined up after Star and Chad's race had started. I was racing with no teammate so I tried to size up the field at the line. I lined up on the right side thinking I would be in a good position, once we rolled out I was about mid-field. It was a field of 53 so being mid-field I knew I was going to have to work to get closer to the front. There was a team of three riders and a few individuals where controlling the front.
Since they had control of the pace I was only able edge my way through several places on the turns and the small climbs. The first lap went pretty smooth, we had a small break-away but it quickly got brought back. At the end of the first lap there is a hard left turn with an uphill section that leads to the uphill finish. I was sitting in the middle of the pack so when I heard the turn yelled out I made my way to the left side. I got in a good gear and was able to work my way up to a few places. The front group really tried to split the pack on the one major hill right after the start so I found a good wheel to follow and stayed on it. We all re-grouped after the climb and the pace slowed. The three man team really controlled the front. I kept looking for opportunities to move so I took advantage of every chance I could safely. That's something I've learned racing CAT 5 is that it's better to move up slowly and safely. Midway through the second lap I remembered the tactics Chad and I discussed so I tried to move up every chance I got. I was able to work my way up to top twenty or so before the hard left turn and uphill sprint. The lead group really pushed up the pace but I was able to stay with them. As we started to approach the uphill finish we had to pass several juniors on the right side. We bunched together and passed two juniors on the right and were getting ready to pass two more right before the climb. I was sitting just inside on the left when a rider went down just ahead of me. It looked like he clipped a bar getting ready for the sprint and he hit hard. I was able to get stopped without going down. Another rider ran into my back wheel knocking my chain off. I quickly accessed everything and got the chain back on. Jumping back on the bike I tried to sprint to the finish to salvage a good result. As I crossed the finish line it started to hit me that I could have went down as well, it wasn't the result I was hoping for but I crossed the line safely. I ended up getting 32nd, which I'm proud of.

Stephen Sisk

Me. Ready to start the Masters 35+ Crit
After church on Sunday I headed down to Marietta to punish myself in the Master's 35+ Crit. It would be 45 minutes of racing in 90+ degrees. I was a little nervous. I'd never raced this course before.
I pulled in the parking lot where a smiling Sean Philyaw was waving me into a great spot in the shade. He and Robert had already raced the CAT4 crit earlier. Without even having to ask I new Sean made the podium. He was naked accept for the huge gold medal around his neck. Geez Sean! Rub it in why don't you!
Sean Philyaw works in "his" breakaway.
I'm kidding. I made him show me the medal. Sean is very humble. Anyway, he started a breakaway that stuck. Robert helped put the main group to sleep behind them and Sean barely missed getting 1st by less than a second. What a great race! I can't believe I missed it.
CAT4 Sprint Finish.
Sean Philyaw on the podium...again!

For my race I felt really great. I did only a few pulls. I helped bring back a couple of breakaways and then settled in for the sprint. A few "Ex-Pros" got away with three to go. I had nothing for them and nobody wanted to blow themselves up either so we pushed for the finish. I sprinted my way to 7th Place. I was very happy with that. I felt like I was "back".

Master's 35+ Crit Results
 So now my plan is to keep the training intensity high so I'm ready for the Dingo Days of Summer and then the Georgia Cycling Gran Prix and then for some mountain bike racing in the Chainbuster Series. I hope to see you guys in the coming weeks. I'll be the one drooling on my barfly.

Chad Hayes

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