This was probably the best-prepared I’ve ever really been for a bike race. I’ve been feeling like my fitness has really improved this year. I just had a couple of pretty strong rides at PIR earlier in the week despite being fatigued (TSB was -36 on Tuesday), so I felt like I had a chance to do pretty well at Cherry Pie. The hills on the CP course are enough to present a challenge for me, but not so big that I feel defeated before I even start. I made notes on a piece of paper with the mileage for each climb over the two laps and taped it to my stem. I also drove the full course in the morning to make sure I knew what each of the climbs actually looked like.

My plan was pretty simple: make sure I was toward the front before each climb, so that I’d have some room to back off and not go into the red without losing the field. Then, where the last little kicker is at mile 56.6, if the legs were feeling good and things felt right, attack over the top of the climb and rely on a little help from my ability to get flat and low as well as the inertia from my heavier build (I frequently coast past people who are pedaling when descending) to get a gap on the field, knowing that the stronger guys would definitely be with me, but hoping to save just a bit more energy on the descent before working with them on the several remaining miles into the finish.

We had several Team O guys in this field: Garret, Pearce, Austin, and myself. We weren’t super organized as a team for this, but I felt like we did a decent job of communicating and letting each other into the pacelines, etc. In particular, kudos to Garret for having a good feel for what was happening in the race, knowing the abilities and tactics of other riders, and taking a leadership role in calling out where we should be and who we should chase, etc.

For the first lap-and-a-half, my plan worked out great. I was able to stay toward the front, trying not to be on the front as much as possible. I did drift back a bit on the longer climbs, but stayed in the field and could easily move back up on the descents. Then, I unfortunately made a tactical error and burned a match at exactly the wrong time in a final kick to help bring back a rider who had been off of the front for most of the 2nd lap thus far. While I knew there was a climb coming up quickly, I mistook which climb it was and forgot that it started out gradual then turned into a short-but-steep kicker. When we hit the kicker, I was almost on the front, but my legs just said “nope”.

I gave it every bit of agonizing push I could (so I can’t be disappointed with my effort, at least!), but I popped out the back and watched the field crest the hill a few seconds ahead of me, right around mile 42, and just as we turned back into a headwind. I was by myself, with the grupetto too far behind to be worth waiting for them and hoping to form an effective chase, and I wasn’t able to catch the main field again before the end of the descent. I watched the field push on out of reach, with a tortuous view of the follow-car up ahead of me. I ended up in 28th (of 45 starters), about 8 1/2 minutes behind the main field.

I’m a little disappointed with the result, but considering the last time I did this race I was dropped at less than half a lap in, I’m pretty happy with my overall improvement; not just in fitness, but also with my ability to look at a course ahead of time and plan out how to ride it to my strengths.