The Cowskin Road Race takes place in Mannford, OK, a small town east of Tulsa. This race was a special one for our team, because this marked the first time that all 5 of our Category 2 racers were in a race together.
The quality of riders was strong. Tradewind Energy had 3 guys in the race, including former world champ Steve Tilfod and former Jelly Belly pro Brian Jensen. Park Place Lexus had at least 4 riders. Tulsa Tough had probably had the most riders in the field, but I’m not sure how many.
The first few laps were pretty tame. I hung out near that back while my 4 teammates patrolled the front to make sure we would have a guy in any early breakaway. The big teams were letting 2 guys hang just off the front. Brian tried to bridge up to their group, but the field didn’t let him go.
The details are a little blurry from here because things happened quickly, but I think Chad Cagle of Park Place Lexus was the first to attack. Brian Jenson jumped and I went with him, with Jason Waddell on my wheel. The four of us caught the break and kept pressing on. Our lead on the field was small for a while, but we were only going at about 80%. It was an ideal breakaway for me to be in because the two toughest teams were up there so if anybody was going to pull us back it would have to be Tulsa or BMC.
I didn’t understand it at the time, but Jason kept telling Chad to take it easy to see what the field would do. We could have opened up the gap, but Jason was set on holding our pace. Come to find out, I think he was waiting for another teammate to bridge, because a short time later his teammate and Steve Tilford made it into our field. Great thinking by the Park Place guys. Now they had the break stacked. These are the kinds of things I need to keep picking up on. It’s what makes for a strong team. I think knowledge is even more important than fitness in most cases. At this point, the hammer was dropped.
The breakaway situation went from ideal to frightening. When it was 4 guys I knew I could hang. Now Park Place had 3 guys in the break and Tradewind had 2. I was definitely the least experienced guy in the break, the only guy who didn’t have a teammate there, and possibly the weakest as well.
It didn’t take long for 2 of the Park Place guys to start barking at me. I never skipped a pull, but I was only pulling through at about 80% and was getting off the front as quickly as I could. I wasn’t getting in the way. I wasn’t slowing down the break. I was just “racing my race” as I was told to do by a member of the break earlier.
First they told me my pulls needed to be longer. I laughed to myself, because I knew there was nothing they could do to make me pull longer. Then the next time I got to the front and pulled off one of the guys reached up and started pushing me forward. I guess that’s one way to keep me up there longer.
About 2 minutes later the guy who was griping at me got caught up in the rear derailleur of the guy who was pushing me. We were probably doing between 35-40 mph but miraculously nobody went down. I’ve had a mishap in a breakaway before, and it really sucks. I don’t wish stuff like that upon anyone obviously, but at the same time it really helped my chances in the breakaway. Thank goodness nobody got hurt though. It seriously could have been bad. Now it was just Jensen and TIlford from Tradewind and then Waddell and I.
My favorite conversation in the race took place here:
Waddell: “Hey Steve. Give me a second” (Jason was skipping a pull to recover from a hard effort)
Tilford: “ For a minute I thought you meant second place. That would be quite the gift.”
I knew that the steady pace wouldn’t last long, and with 3 laps (15 miles) to go, Jenson jumped. I got on his wheel quick, but my legs were pretty heavy. He slowed down and then Tilford attacked. I just let him go. I knew that they would keep taking turns until I blew up, so I figured I would settle for 2nd at best. It was that or end up back in the chase pack. Well, Jenson attacked and got up to Tilford. I was back with Waddell. Now I was in place to get 3rd at best. Jason and I kept it smooth and just made sure we wouldn’t get caught. With about 1k to go I told Jason we should drag race it out for kicks. He gave me the inside line. We joked about how much it would suck to wreck each other in the last couple hundred meters. He jumped at 150m to go. I couldn’t match his acceleration and he pulled a couple bike lengths on me quick.
I ended up 4th. That’s two top 5s in my first two pro/1/2 races of the season. More importantly, I got some great power data to show me where I’m strong and weak so that I keep improving through the season. Jeremy and Joey came in with the main field. We were all stoked about how the team rode.
28 minutes were spent not pedaling
Normalized power for the entire race (2:42): 291
Avg watts – 264
2hr power – 276
25.5 minutes spend in the supra-max zone
Max speed – 43mph