The Twin Bing Classic was set to be my kick off to this years road season, but having made a last minute decision to race Tour de Husker I was able to head up to Climbing Hill, IA with at least a few road race miles in my legs. Twin Bing was still on my list as a race I really wanted to win. I was hoping I could build upon my CX season and have a upper hand on the competition. However, as the event drew closer I felt like my form really wasn't there and with team Kaos fielding a gigantic squad and half of our squad migrating south for a MTB race I was expecting the worst.
The immediate lead-up to any race is always the same for me. I keep a close eye on NOAA as I pride myself in knowing exactly what weather conditions to expect. As predicted, we were met with strong SSE winds at the start with gusts close to 30 mph. Although we didn't have the numbers that we had in Lincoln a few weeks earlier, we still had a strong 6 man team for the Cat A, 1/2/3's race. My goal was to do as little as possible for as long as possible but keep my head up as to not miss any big moves.
We rolled out nice and leisurely but it wasn't long until somebody started putting in some digs. I floated around at the back of the group, until I got 'that feeling' like it was time to move forward. At about that time a group of 10 or so went up the road including teammate Lucas Marshall. I saw the move go and started counting jerseys, couple Kaos, couple Zealous, couple Thrive, Lee Baumgarner from Mack, Jon Nelson and Lucas. Not great for us with only one guy up the road. Shim put a move in to try and jump across, I let the gap open up, soft pedaling, but after a minute I caught him looking back as he wasn't catching the group ahead. I picked up the pace to bring him back so he wasn't dangling in no man's land for too long. Today would be all about preserving what we had.
It was around this time that I lost track of Bryan and Eric, our too Cat 3 guys, but Paul, Shim and I were still active at the front. Knowing we had bad numbers up the road, we made the decision to keep the break close incase something happened to Lucas, and hope the heavy crosswind on the backside of the course would split up the leaders.
Sure enough, the wind took it's toll as guy after guy started coming back. I was most surprised to see Kevin Limpach coming back as he was, I thought, one of the stronger guys up the road. But with that, the lead group was down to single riders from each team, all level. Kaos pitched in as we kept the break within site for the next half lap, but then I guess we all started thinking about the race for 6th, or best of the rest, as it's better known.
Over the next lap Jerome Rewerts (Zealous) continued to pummel us on the backside crosswind. We were all stuffed in the gutter, but when I could I tried to leave room on my wheel for Shim or Paul so that at least all three of us weren't exposed. But it took it's toll on the group as we lost riders over the finish climb including Chris Spence and John Rokke. That move swung the table in our favor for the last lap as Shim, Paul and myself were finally in the driver seat.
Just as NOAA predicted, the wind shifted to the SSW for the last lap. What had been a strong crosswind on the backside of the course was now a cross-tailwind. It neutralized any hard attacks so the group was sure to stay intact. We had a solid plan coming into the final finishing climb of the race but we underestimated a still strong Jared Osterloh. He got the jump on both Shim and I and we couldn't pull him back before the line as we crossed in 7th and 8th. Up ahead, it was a two up battle between Lucas and Lee, with Lee getting the upper hand in the end.
All in all, I was super pleased with how we rode. Greg, Paul, Lucas and myself ride together enough that we make a pretty solid group. We know each others strength and we do a good job of looking out for each other. I'm excited to build on this throughout the season.
Next up is the Platte River Battle Royale. I love this race, and I think I'll love it even more with gears.