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.
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.
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|
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!
|CAT4 Finish, Robert Loomis = State Champion|
|Sean Philyaw and Robert Loomis|
|Stephen celebrates with Robert after the finish.|
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.
|Me. Ready to start the Masters 35+ Crit|
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.|
|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|