June 3rd, 2015 by Team OAM NOW / Athletic Mentors
By Peter Ehmann, Team OAM Now Cyclist
“Fight, Survive, Finish.” Those three words summed up the goals, at least my goals, of the 2015 Cone-Azalia Dirt Road Race. Sometimes the course profile makes the race; sometimes that distinction goes to the field or team tactics; this race, the main player was the conditions. “Brutal, Horrendous, Miserable, Epic, Silly…” All words, many not worth repeating here, floated around describing what all the brave souls who toed the line experienced on this epic slug fest. This day, just finishing had to be earned.
The conditions at the start were horrendous to say the least. Rainfalls overnight topped 2 inches on a 6.7 mile circuit that comprised 90% dirt roads. Dirt road is an overly kind description of the surface we were riding. The week or two before, the road commission laid down fresh gravel aggregate in the form of wheel and tire destroying golf ball+ sized gravel. In other places, standing water covered all but a tire width of the road. To top that, winds were blowing from the N/NE at 15+mph driving a steady rain that was constant. Head or cross-winds everywhere! Brutal! Oh yeah, it was also 48F on the last day of May!
The P12 field was greatly undersized as expected due to the weather and surface conditions. Team OAM Now was well represented with Dan Yankus, Cory Stange, Collin Snyder, and me toeing the line. Almost the entire field was riding CX bikes, with Cory on a MTB, and one rider in the field on a road bike. The field unanimously agreed to shorten the race from 12 laps to 10. Thank you all!!!
The whistle blew and after a brief 300m or so of neutral roll-out, game on! We hit the dirt and mud was flying and spraying everywhere! At this point, the act of breathing was inviting the fine “agriculturally fortified” Monroe County grit onto your mouth. Pleasant!! On top of that, simply seeing was a challenge – glasses very shortly became useless. The first split in the race came very early, within the first half of lap 1. The pointy end of the race was down to only 7 of us. Next, Dan took a huge flyer and was off the front for the next two laps. The group eventually reeled him in, probably to his relief with all the wind out on the course.
The seven of us (including Dan, Collin, and myself) remained gentlemanly for the next half lap. Then, the niceties abruptly halted as we transitioned from cross to tail-ish wind and the decisive splits of the race came along with the destruction of the rest of the field. The front three riders, including Dan, got the gap and went up the “road.” I was in the first chase with one other until that became a solo chase for me. A lap later, Collin bridged solo up to me and we rolled around the remainder of the race together. We worked together for the remainder of the race holding our 4th and 5th place spots. As the miles ticked off, Collin started taking up the lion’s share of the workload as I was falling into suffer mode (“Survive!”). I was on empty and not in a happy place. I can’t thank Collin enough for towing me to the finish at the end. That’s the great thing about great friends and teammates!
In the end, after nearly 70 miles and close to 4 hours in the saddle, Team OAM Now earned 4 out of the top 6 spots! Dan took 2nd place, Collin 4th, me 5th, and Cory soldiered on strong on his MTB for a solid 6th. Congrats to all those who participated and all those who finished! Now, for some much needed rest and hope for much better conditions next year!
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