This past Saturday was my 3rd attempt at the Tour de Lake as my previous bests were my 2nd attempt with a finish of 10th of 19 and in a finish time of 2:12. That race went off pretty fast so I thought that my finish time would hopefully be around the same time and maybe a little quicker. Well here's how it went.
First of all I was still trying to drain all of this wonderful mucus from my head as I'm in the process of kicking a head cold and it was still evident that it didn't want to let go of me quite yet. I knew this would make the race interesting, especially as the intensity heated up. It proved to be pretty tough.
The peleton pulled out in the controlled start and we did the usual twists and turns around Lake Hopatcong fairly controlled and slowly. Partially cause I was in front driving the pace. Every time the others gave way and let me lead I put the pedals down but only as a nice facade. I wanted to save my juice so I would only put down a little as I watched my HR drop leading the peleton. That was kinda interesting since I heard later that it seemed like I was doing a lot of work up front - which I wasn't :-).
We made the left onto 181 and as usual the hills made things heat up and a few attempts were made to kick some off the back - and it worked. I was committed to hang onto the leaders wheels and that's where I stayed. It ramped up and slowed down, and I was right with the big dogs. Down to the end of E. Mountain road and down the big hill driving towards Ogdensburg we caught some cars that wouldn't let us go so a lot of riders jumped back on.
At the bottom of the big hill we all regrouped and then set a decent pace towards the dreaded Edison hill. 3 miles of fun, unrelenting, painful riding. So we were working well and a guy jumped off the front. No one wanted to chase so we let him go. This was just as an ambulance rolled through which neutralized our pace and let the flyer go free for a little longer than comfortable for some. Up Edison we were all together until a nice steep pitch where my teammate took off. He cranked hard and attacked and I tried to go with the group but there was no way to match. I was now in a group of 12 or so and we were all seeing red as we cranked up the steady inclines. I passed a few and kept on it as I saw my teammate and the other leaders ride out of sight. Over each incline I kept on it seeing those I passed closely behind. Of course I needed some others to work with to keep the pace high.
After the end of Edison and heading onto the flats towards Weldon I got in a group of 4 riders. Ahead lay a group of 5 and the lone man that got the jump before Edison. As my group pacelined we reeled in Dave Lyons who had been shot off the front group. So now we were a group of 5 and kept it into Weldon Rd. This is a nice steep but short climb with a few rollers ahead. After a little while two got shot off the back and now it was a group of 3 I was in. I looked at the strength of these guys and was happy to be hanging in. My goal was to hang as long as I could as my legs were starting to cramp as a result of the amazingly high HR we were pushing. I was seeing red as I was just hanging in the draft. I would push hard for my effort and then quickly sit in to save whatever juice I had left.
Through the neighborhoods we cranked as our group was looking like the 6th through 8th place finishers. I was hoping I could hold onto these guys or MAYBE even jump and get ahead of them to take that 6th place. But before that we hit some turns and the 4th and 5th place guys could be seen just ahead. There were two slight climbs that remained ahead though. The next climb one of my group shot ahead and I couldn't react so he got away. Then on the next climb the same thing happened with Dave. He accelerated and I couldn't match. So now I was in 8th all alone and cranking towards the finish with the others in sight but not reachable.
Across the line I rolled in 8th place of 65 starters and a very happy man. My finish time was 2:02 and the best finish so far in this race. Especially given that the start was so slow I was amazed at the finish time. Also especially since the winner - my teammate Brian - was only 2 minutes ahead. It showed a great mark of improvement especially with my cold that was depriving me of much needed oxygen. All in all a great day, great race, and great people to race with. I'll be looking forward to this again next spring!