I registered for men's cat 5 Hillsboro-Roubaix on February 1st, 20 minutes after registration opened. I was 75th for a 50-rider field, dead last on the waiting list. Bummer.
Fast forward to last Monday. I was up to 14th on the wait list... still didn't look good. A day later, 8th... a glimmer of hope. Then I got the idea of upgrading to Cat 4 because I noticed an opening in that field--DENIED. Three days before the race I was up to 3rd on the wait list, then 2nd, then next in line! I must've refreshed bikereg.com a thousand times that day but I went to bed without the knowledge that I would be racing on Saturday. Crap. I woke up the next morning to find an e-mail from the race organizer that registration was closed and that they were clearing out the wait lists and refunding our money. #@$#!!!%&$*# I was gutted.
Then around lunchtime on Thursday I decided to check bikereg.com one more time just for the hell of it. A Cat 5 opening?!?? It can't be, it is! I contacted the race organizer first by e-mail (no dice) then by phone. I begged for that last spot and got the final confirmation a couple hours later... "Jamie, you are in the race" *fistpumps*
I arranged for some last minute accommodations, a ride for me, a separate ride for my bike... Half Acre teammates rule! Thanks guys! Now on to the business of actually racing this thing.
We did a team pre-ride of the last few miles of the circuit which consisted of two climbs with a short gap in between, one descent, two cobbled streets (Main St. and Fairgrounds Ave.) and the smoother start/finish stretch. I knew immediately that this was where the race would be decided.
At 10:50am our race rolled out in a neutral start behind the pace truck. Todd and I planned on sticking together near the front and ready to jump on any serious looking move. It quickly became apparent that the wind would make that extremely difficult, so we just sat in. I don't know if it was nerves, inexperience or what but the first couple miles could best be described as imperfect. I had one rider drift across me and hit my bars with his thigh, nearly taking me down. There were riders grabbing handfuls of brake on a straight descent because of a little bit of gravel. It was pretty sketchy to start but Todd and I survived until a loud puncture just behind me!!! Please don't be Todd, please don't be Todd. I went immediately to the front with the rider from Proctor Cycling to stay out of harm's way. As the field twisted and turned it's way through the countryside I talked to various riders to try and find out who was involved in the crash. Although no one confirmed that Todd was in it, I could only assume that I was on my own the rest of the way. My plan was to wait for the climbs and bricks. The pace was pushed pretty hard as the race unfolded but I managed to stay near the front and mostly out of the wind. 5-6 miles to go and a little pain starts to set in. This is where your mind starts playing tricks on you. Am I the only one hurting? Are these guys hurting too? Whatever, keep pedaling.
As we approached the hills, I tried to position myself so that I wouldn't get stuck behind someone who can't climb. I started to feel outnumbered, 2 Proctor riders, 4 riders in identical Black and White kit, a couple other guys here and there. We hit the first climb hard and I got out of the saddle. My legs responded. I crested the first hill in the top 5, riders were dropping left and right. We then had a short flat stretch where we regrouped and recovered for the shorter but steeper 8-9% climb. Thank you 11-28! I crested the next climb in 3rd but my heart rate was off the charts (I peaked at 203!!!), left turn, then a fast descent into the bricks. I felt like I was about to pop but I just kept going. We hit the bricks at ~35mph and I caught air @#$@#!! I don't really know how to describe how it is riding on those bricks when you have almost absolutely nothing left. My bike handling skills are not great on a good day, but when you're spent those skills just go out the window. I just kept thinking "keep pushing, don't crash, keep pushing, don't crash." We turned left again on to Fairgrounds Ave., more cobbles. At this point, I'm 5th or 6th on the road. DIG! I thought "you're hurting, they're hurting, lets find out who's hurting more." One final turn and we're off the bricks. The smooth pavement felt like a velodrome. I gave it everything I had and made up a couple more spots. With the line in sight I'm 3rd! I fought the temptation to look back and just kept hammering away. YES! PODIUM!!!
I got a brick!