I was holding out in hopes some peeps would throw up some images on the interwebs so this article would be a little more interesting. You know, because it's all about the pictures. But alas, nothing.
I was excited to go back to Altoona, Iowa for the Iowa State Championships. Kevin McConnell and I had an awesome battle the previous year and after the two of us were racing relatively close at Jingle Cross I was looking forward to another tight race.
We awoke to fog and misty skies as the Trek Store short bus rolled out of Omaha. Along for the ride this year was road and mtb teammates Leah Kleager, Greg Shimonek, Brady Murphy and Lucas Marshall. Basically the A-Team. We rolled in and got kitted up for some pre-riding. The course was pretty dry and fast, my Challenge Fango's would be about perfect. Call-ups were based on USAC points rankings which meant I was number 1. Greg, Lucas and Noah Marcus also joined me on the Nebraska strong front row.
At the whistle I got away clean and slotted in behind Kevin with Lucas on my wheel. It was a comfortable tempo and by mid-lap the three of us were beginning to build a gap on the 4th place rider. Kevin seemed to be struggling a bit in the corners so after two and half laps I decided to attack. The lead started to stretch out as I really pushed hard. By the end of the lap I had 10 seconds. By the end of the next lap it was over 20. Then disaster struck.
While turning into the one paved corner, my front wheel slid out on the slippery damp road paint and I went down, sliding on my back for a decent distance. My first thought was, crap, this skinsuit is ruined. My second thought, get back on the damn bike. To my dismay though, somewhere in the process of falling my front tubular rolled off the rim. As I tried to remount it, Kevin and Lucas arrived on the scene. Kevin went to my inside in the corner, Lucas to the outside. Lucas must have tried to turn in to sharp because he too lost the front end and went down.
I finally got going again, in front of Lucas but just behind Kevin. Then it got worse. Not only did I roll the tire, but now it was going flat too! Normally you could ride a flat relatively fast, you just needed to be somewhat cautious in the corners. But having just rolled half the tire off the rim, riding a flat, unglued tire was a bit tricky. Lucas passed me, wondering what was up, as I hobbled to the pits watching Kevin, then Lucas ride off into the sunset.
To my surprise, Leah had seen my mishap and had run to the pits and was holding my bike for me. For a pit rookie she made a perfect bike hand off saving me probably close to 10 seconds in the pits. As I exited the pits I looked across the course to get my bearings on where exactly Kevin and Lucas were. Just then I caught a glimpse of Kevin picking himself off the ground. I thought that would help my cause in bringing him back.
Through the start/finish with 4 laps to go I had my work cut out for me. Lucas was about 15 seconds ahead, Kevin about 30. I punched it as hard as I could. With just over two laps remaining I'd closed down on Lucas just before the pavement section. Lucas turned and asked if I was ready, I said yes, but thought no, knowing that he was about to drill me into the ground on the pavement and launch me up the road. I hung onto Lucas's draft as best I could and as we entered the gravel road he flicked me through to pursue Kevin. Five corners later on was on his wheel. It was obvious Kevin was hurting at this point. He made a few moves to the side to try and get me to come through but after chasing hard for two and half laps and hanging onto Lucas's wheel for dear lift, I was content to sit on his wheel for a little while and recover. It must have been pretty demoralizing for him when I came back because the spark that had beat me the previous year was gone. I came around him a half lap later and took the tempo back up to where I had it while chasing. At the finish I was 20+ seconds clear of Kevin, with Lucas another 10 seconds back. I made the race a little harder than it needed to be but it was great training leading into the final round of the USGP in Bend, OR.
I won't lie, Kevin had a huge target on his back this season. We'd raced against each other twice the previous year and both times he beat me. It felt good to even the score. Hopefully we can go head to head in some MTB races soon.
Big thanks to all the Zealous Racing crew for putting on another awesome Iowa Championship race. Had a blast. Already can't wait for next year.