Ah, Wilkesville. Located in central southern Ohio, the name causes goosebumps for some who remember the days when this course was the state road race championships. Three loops make up a 65+ mile race where each loop is more difficult than the last in regards to climbing. Lucky for me, the women only had to do the first two, totaling 50 miles according to the race flyer, but 54.5 miles by my more accurate cyclometer. Hey, every mile counts!
I hitched a ride down from Akron with Team Ford Outfitter’s Tiffany Kenny, which was a major treat. She is a wealth of knowledge concerning all things cycling and I soaked up as much as I could on the 7 hour drive down and back.
Approaching the small town of Wilkesville, the terrain turned rolling and began to depict what we would be up against during the day. The setup was nice. Tym Tyler of Team Columbus, the promoter, provided two portos and registration was held in the community center. Most of us set up camp in a small “park” that had a shelter with picnic tables and was adjacent to the start/finish line.
There were 11 women competing, and as Tiff, fellow Freewheeler Catherine Scott, and I rode around, trying to stay warmed up, Tiffany commented that none of the rest of them must be any good to just stand there for 15 minutes waiting for the beginning of the race. However, as I looked at the bevy of bicycles they were riding, I began to get a little nervous. There was a very impressive looking Litespeed with a Look carbon fork that most noticeably caught my eye. The girl riding it was tallish and lean, built for the hills so it seemed. Except for Catherine and Tiffany, no one else was familiar, and that was a little nerve wracking to say the least.
As we started out, the pace was leisurely. No one wanted to attack this early in the game. We had a long race ahead of us and we used the time to size the rest of the pack up. It quickly became apparent who the wheelsuckers were. Tritech, who was represented by two riders from Columbus, admirably did their turn at the front, as did a couple of other teams with two riders.
Photo taken by Bob Iden
While here and there on the first loop, the pace quickened and there were some attacks, I don’t think there was a real splitting of the pack. The first legitimate break came near the end of the loop on a short, but very steep and challenging hill whose grade I do not know, but I kid you not, it was steep. This separated the women from the girls and as I charged up, I had to throw my weight onto each pedal to try and keep the cranks turning at a decent pace. The next immediate issue became recovery, as we sped downhill into a sharp left hand turn. All I could think about was "go!" Having been the first over the hill, I knew that this was my chance to get away. Five of us, including Tiffany Kenny, formed a small group and we worked to increase the gap.
At some point, I can’t remember where, we dropped to three, Tiffany, I, and a third woman who takes the prize for the biggest wheelsucker in the whole race, and guess what she was riding? The Litespeed w/ the Look fork. We had a large gap over the two girls behind us, but the wheelsucker insisted that she wouldn’t work, because she was hoping her teammate would chase back on. WHATEVER! Perhaps it is just me, but I don’t quite understand the logic there.
Then began the mechanicals. During the second loop, my chain locked up and had it not been for a quick-thinking Tiffany, who advised me to pedal backwards, my backside would have been hitting the pavement. That happened once again during the race. More annoying, though, were the two times, while climbing hills, that my chain fell off. Dismounting, rather frantically putting my chain back on, and then starting from a standstill on an uphill, I time trialed like crazy to catch up. Lucky for me, Tiffany choose not to push the pace, hoping that the other girl would continue in her complacency and allow me to chase back on. Mission accomplished, however, we wondered what this chick had left in her legs. Was she feigning exhaustion? Was she setting us up for the sprint at the finish line? It was very unnerving to say the least. We had tried several times to drop her, but to no avail.
Bound and determined not to let Ms. Litespeed get ahead of us in the end, approaching the town, we picked up the pace significantly and sprinted in with Tiffany garnering first and me about a half bike length back in second. Phew. I was plenty happy with that considering the mechanical problems. Heck, I was just praying not to flat on top of it all.
Catherine rode in not much farther behind. She is certainly to be commended for having her own gutsy race. Anyone who even finished deserves a prize.
So, for my trouble, there was a scrumptious spaghetti dinner afterwards and a mussette bag out of the "grab box."
When all was said and done, it amounted to a beautiful day, a challenging race, and a new friend, and that definitely makes for a good day in my book.