July 31st, 2016 by Kaitlyn Patterson
–By Andy Guelzo, Team OAM NOW Elite Cyclist
Some athletes take racing as just competing and having a great time doing it. There is nothing wrong with this, this is actually how sports attract people and grow in general. But, once you get the taste of winning, it is what you strive for from then on. Winning a road race is not an easy thing to do. It takes time, physical ability, and most importantly, the mental ability to keep going when your body is suffering more than it wants to tolerate.
This season at the State Championships Road Race at Maple Hills Race for Wishes, everything I had was put to the test. The race for the Category 1/2/3 men started out fairly slowly with Peter Ehmann taking off from the first corner on a solo flyer which just allowed us to ride the coat tails of the attacks that went up the road to chase. Sitting near the front with Cory Stange and Dan Yankus, the three of us were able to cover any and all attacks that were launched. Eventually Peter was caught and the real games and attacks were about to begin. About this time I was not feeling very good at all. I was not able to drink because of a huge stomachache that was building. Taking myself out of the way at the front I went to the back to try to relax my stomach. Taking a few deep breaths, I was able to regain control of my stomach and make my way back toward the front of the race. I knew at this point the race was starting to heat up and I needed to be ready to take care of anything that was headed our way.
Being on one of the several strong teams in the race, we knew that we needed to be in any break that was to try and get away, and that is exactly what I was able to do. Right after crossing the start line to begin the third of five laps, Bryce Nuiver (EPS Cycling) put in a hard solo attack and put in about 30 seconds on the group, to chase that four guys were able to put in a hard attack on the group and bridge up to Bryce. John Leach (Bissell), Jesse Kooistra (Clark Logic), Dan Doddy (Tower International), and I were able to get something going. As a larger gap opened up Aaron Beebe (Bissell) and Tom Burke (Giant) were also able to bridge up to the break making it seven men strong. We worked together very nicely for the next 2 laps opening up a gap of about 3 minutes. On the last lap the games began and cards started to be laid down and sorted out. Unfortunately for Bryce, about 3 miles into the last lap he had a mechanical on the feed zone hill and was not able to catch back on. The break was down to six. Moving deeper into the last lap my thoughts were on how to make this race into a sprint finish since Beebe is an amazing time trialist and Tom Burke is capable of long hard pulls which could put me in the hurt box. This is when the pain face came on. Playing as the underestimated small rider, I sat near the back of the break looking as if I was dying and just trying to hold on. This made it possible for me to recover and get ready for the flurry of attacks that were about to start.
The course had two major hills, the feed zone hill and a hill about 4 miles from the finish. Since we were past the feed zone hill I knew that the next logical place to put in a hard break-shattering attack would be on the second hill. And that’s exactly what happened. With Leach, Burke, Kooistra, and Doddy in front of me and Beebe behind, I had a perfect view of the action. Burke attacked, Leach went with and Kooistra followed. Knowing that I could not let this go if I ever wanted a chance at winning, I followed right along but also showing everyone that I had more in the tank than I was leading on to have. With no major split from Burke’s attack, Leach soon attacked after that causing Doddy to fall off. After Leach’s attack Beebe countered causing Leach to drop as well.
It was now down to Burke, Beebe, Kooistra, and I all going into the last 2 miles. With the last 2 miles being downhill and games being played, Doddy was able to chase back on but not without a price to be paid by his legs. Going into the last corner Beebe was not about to let me get behind him. Burke put in a final long attack going into the final corner, Kooistra and Beebe right then made their losing mistake, giving me a great leadout. With Kooistra and Beebe in front of me and Burke about 30 feet in front of them I started my sprint with about 300m to go. Coming around my leadout and using Burke as a jumping stone I produced about a 4-5 bike length gap. Cramping with every pedal stroke and looking under my arm to look for a wheel I knew I had clinched a victory! Just in time to post up like I was on top of the world. Passing our team tent I heard someone say, “did he get it?!” and I looked right at the tent and yelled “Yes, I got it!” and cheers rolled out! My world was ecstatic. All the pain and all the heat and thirst went away in that moment. The time training and sacrifices were all worth it in exchange for this one moment on the top step.
The race was full of mental and physical challenges. Pushing my body past its comfort zone and into the winning position took more than I ever thought I had and just as well with the physical aspects, I put in the training and effort to make sure my body could do what I need it to. There is almost no better feeling than feeling the gratification of being able to win a big race and be encouraged to keep pushing into the future.
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