Ephrata. What a good fun weekend. The last time I did it, also in the 3/4 field, I raced theroad race as hungover as I've ever been. That went poorly. This time, I felt somewhat better prepared. I'll spare you the blow by blow but I was happy with how I rode, if disappointed in the placing. One big positive is that I now have the snap needed to get off the front and settle into the nasty pace. Why the dude who came with me, and who I dragged 1/2 the way across the 20" gap to the solo early break, would not take a pull I might never learn, but I wasn't giving him a free ride all the way across. F that. His deal seemed endlessly stupid to me but what can you do? There was a group of about 40 (of 70?) left at the end. The left side of the home stretch was the upwind side, and I knew it was hideously low percentage but I went for it early anyway, starting from somewhere around 25th (following the obligatory gigantic yellow line cross and move up by a big group just prior to the last turn). I got to about 5th by 200 meters to go but hit the wall hard and coasted in out of the points. The benefit of maybe getting 8th versus 28th in a situation like that is irrelevant to me. A nice fun race where I'm happy with how I rode is all the same to me at this point. This is why I will always choose to race Masters when it is a viable substitute (the masters field at Ephrata was competitive but small, and my needs for the race were only going to be met with a bigger field).
Anyone who says anything about this race without saying what a freaking pair of gigantic brass ones Sexy Tony is bringing to the races these days is misguided in extremis.
Highlights of the day were seeing a set of wheels I'd built get piloted across the finish for a big win in the Women's race and another thing that I can't talk about.
For the TT, I had a goal of going under 25:30, both because it would beat a friend's time from the last edition and because it was good for top ten last time. I rolled a 25:26 and was pretty close to a top ten time, but well outside on placing. I chose not to use the TT bike I brought. Given the chance to do it over, I would have used it for sure.
The thing I can't talk about went pretty well in the morning.
I was nervous as hizzell before the crit. I'd DNF'd this thing on nerves last time, but really needed to conquer that. I also knew that I'd be taxed by the race - it's a hard one where you need to absolutely pound it out of two of four corners. Great medicine for what I need if it didn't kill me first. The first laps were crazy fast, and then Sexy Tony was back at it. Kid eats BBQ'd babies for breakfast or something, holy shit. For a time I got to a relevant position and then picked a total loser of a line in turn 2 that put me deep for a bunch of laps. Callum, who was doing great on GC, was back with me and that wasn't ideal. This was at about 7 to go. Callum got a good line through 2 and killed it up the left and got ino the holy land. I planned for the same move next lap, but was foiled by a body surfing through the turn. Dead stop to full sprint just to get back on. Uggh. By this point it was starting to get really fast and it looked like all the cheap tickets to relevance were sold out. I made up some ground here and there, but never the kind that buys you any stability, so was fighting tooth and nail. I just wanted to be able to floor it for Callum once. I fucking hated watching him have to do it all himself. 3 crashes in the final 1.5 laps, all of which were just far ahead enough for me to respond to but close enough to cause me to stop or darn close to it, meant that I would be no help at all to Callum. Fortunately he is a stud and placed just fine thanks without squat from me. There was like no one left at the end so the detritusi I rolled in with wasn't even that deep.
The good bit was that I left the race with 1000x more comfort than I went into it with. There are some crit courses - Reston and ToWC stand out - where the course makes it clearly that if you are stupid it will cancel your hall pass. People tend to behave differently on these courses and I tend to be able to ride them effectively. The Ephrata course has some teeth on display but there's so much reward on offer if you can scam turn 2. That was where the 2 worst crashes happened and untold numbers of near crashes happened too. But I'm happy first that it seemed no one was badly hurt and that I came away much more hardened to what happens out there.
The thing I can't talk about went really, really well yesterday afternoon, even with a whole team marking it. That was pretty mack.
So it seems like the level of play keeps going up, and I keep bumping up against it. Excited for upcoming races. It wil always be a fun and rewarding challenge, and a great game to play.