Leesville Gap: This one jars to the bones
By Luciano Sponza -- Along with Russ and Gregg, the race starts out as usual in Williams and I see Gregg and Russ in the starting bunch. I knew this race is a little bit about luck when it comes to the flat tires. The first section all goes smoothly, a few guys take flyers off the front - I have no idea why. I was sitting in the waaaay back with my buddy David Mesa from Chica Sexy. I look at him and say, "the plan is, do nothing until we go uphill." He replies, "yeah, just dodge craters." So we're cruising and then bam we hit those craters and things are popping like crazy as usual. Guys are dropping left and right with flat tires but nobody is launching any big time attacks although the pace is high. I didn't have my Powertap but Gregg later told me he was averaging 310 watts so a good pace. When we got to one of those slightly mellow sections before the climb I'm mid pack and a poor squirrel jumps right into the bike in front of me and gets all gnarled up in the rear wheel with blood and guts getting splattered all over. It was really horrible.
After that we hit the climb, I think I'm like 10th wheel and now the pace really gets ramped up by Kirk Carlson who Russ informed me was on Garmin last year, so yeah, we were moving. I'm like dying at this point because there was no gap in the high pace between the rough section and the climb plus it was like 100 degrees out. I had a bottle of plain water so I dump that on my head and back, go into full unzip Pantani mode and stomp the pedals like crazy because I know if I can survive the initial surge there's a chance I can gain some sort of rhythm on the climb. Straight up I'm making terrible wheezing noises and noises I don't normally make and look like one of those characters from Triplets of Bellville. Eventually my legs give out and I start slipping away and I see four riders off the front, then another four behind them, then a group with me and Gregg forms up with a rider from Strava and Bicycles Plus. Gregg said he was climbing at 350 watts in the initial part of the climb then we toned it back to around 300 to recover before picking it back up again. The Strava rider really started to drive the pace towards the top but we all stayed together and had a nice little group formed.
On to the descent, we're bombing it and everyone gets down nice and safe. I can see up the road a few stragglers so I try and rally the troops to chase them down. Just then a few more riders join us from the rear and now we have a group of six or seven. We catch a rider from Metromint and then he flats. We pass a rider from Fremont Bank who had flatted, he gets a wheel and then joins our group. At this point we don't pick up any more riders so I assume things have solidified in the front with a group formed making us the second group on the road.
Once the pavement smoothed out we get a great rotation going with everyone pulling through. At this point I look down and don't see my Powertap computer. Shoot! Those things cost 100 bucks! Well %$#! it I think, I've got a decent position in the race so there's no turning back now. We get to the second climb and Fremont Bank takes off with a rider from Morgan Stanley. Me and the other riders in the group look at each other and are like "what the hell is the point in that?" We still have 20-30 miles to go, they're going to ride the rest alone? Plus we were all working great together and going 25 mph. It's not like there were any wheel suckers dragging down the pace. Whatever.
On the descent one of the riders in our group breaks his dropout? I dunno what broke but his chain is hanging damn near off his bike and rubbing the ground. Keep in mind we're doing 40 or more mph. I'm like "I need to get around this guy pronto because if his chain gets tangled in the rear wheel and he goes down he might take me down with him!" Of course it wasn't too difficult considering I could still pedal my bike and he couldn't pedal his. Nonetheless, a dicey situation! We get to the feed zone and what an awesome job done by all the volunteers there!!!! If any of you are reading this THANK YOU. I was able to pick up two bottles, one to dump all overall myself and another to drink. Everyone in our group got plenty of water. After the feed we could see two riders up the road, our buddies who took off on the climb! So we swept them up and our group I think was at six at this point.
Now for the (in my opinion) truly hellish part of this race. The final stretch that drags on and on and on and on. Luckily it wasn't as windy as last year so pulling through on the paceline wasn't quite so terrible. I did everything in my power to conserve as much energy as possible at this point, I kept my front wheel like two inches from the rider in front of me and just focused on being super efficient. I had no idea what placing we would be sprinting for but I knew I wanted to contest the sprint in order to practice finishing off a race. It's always good to practice digging deep at the end of a hard ride. After an interminable amount of time we FINALLY get to the left hand turn that will lead to the finish line.
With around 2k to go Strava takes off launching a decent attack. Fremont jumps on his wheel and I jump on Fremont's wheel. Once Strava realizes we're there he backs off. I look behind us and everyone else has been gapped off but they're slowly catching up. Morgan Stanley then takes off but it's not a strong effort, he's slowly leading us out but then drops off. With 1k now I'm on the front but I soft pedal and wait for Strava or Fremont to go. They don't so I pedal up to like 200m and still nobody goes. Huh, maybe they're really tired back there and I can catch them snoozing? I'll find out! So Bam I launch, slamming through the gears until maybe 14t and then my legs tell me, "Hey buddy we are NOT sprinting in the 11t right now." And I'm like "shut up legs! Ok fine no 11t but we're still doing 110rpm I DON"T CARE WHAT YOU LEGS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT." The finish line is in sight and it's right there and now things are starting to hurt but no one is coming around me but the finish line is still not coming and now things are really hurting and the finish isn't there yet now it's hurting even more. Finally I see the line and I see Strava next to me and I LUNGE for the line and damn, Strava pips me for tenth place. But hey 11th place in my second P/1/2 race, I'm not complaining. Plus my favorite race promoter Velo Promo was scoring cat 2s separate, so I got ten bucks and a shirt for third! It was a fun race and having Russ and Gregg there was great too. It's always nice to have teammates to help along the way and they offered a few tips and tricks for how to survive the day and it would have been a much lonelier day had their friendly faces not been there in the bunch. Sounds cheesy, but its the truth!
Other top DBC Race Team results from Leesville included Gregg White (15th) and Russ White (19th) in the P/1/2 race, Mike Pugh (7th) in the 45+ 1/2/3 race, David Palmeri (4th) in the Cat 5 race, and Roland Freund (4th) in the 55+ race.