If you asked me in the AM after the qualifying race how the afternoon would go, I’d have said “don’t talk to me I think I’m going to pass out.” After racing in scorching heat, once I crossed the line of the Iron Hill Amateur Qualifier I was nauseous, vision blurry, and worried about wether or not I was going to faint any minute. I text my coach “10th…Felt terrible,” and contemplated not racing. I’d already had a week of racing and hundreds of travel miles in my legs. I was sure that I was fried from my stint in Wisconsin. He responded “Well, tonight’s another race.”
Iron Hill for me, as a Philadelphian is very important. It is a large event within my local community, not to mention huge crowds and a lot of fun. The course suits me well as it is simple and fast, though the turns can be technical enough to give me an advantage. It was just Wittwer and I racing that evening—the dream team 101. Before the race, I had no clue that this would be my day. As Greg has been in excellent form the past couple months, I have found myself working towards our success in putting Greg in a top spot in the results more often than not. I have absolutely no problem doing so as Greg is a excellent teammate, great friend, and has proven himself to be a key player on our squad both on and off the bike.
We went into the race with a common goal, to get one guy up the road because a breakaway can absolutely roll at Iron Hill. Given both of our riding styles and skillsets, we had 2 out of 2 riders who were candidates for being off the front. The first 10 laps or so had proven to be interesting as I believe Greg went down behind a crash in the first lap of the race. Greg reappeared into the peloton on a fresh bike from the SRAM neutral support. I was concerned about his comfort on the foreign bike but he got right into the mix.
I ended up following wheels at the front for the first 10-15 laps. Noah Granigan, a junior from New Jersey took a flyer after a big preme and went clear of the field. Shortly after, Mike Egan a successful triathlete from Philadelphia went with him. I saw the move and knew it was something to consider. I rode near the front the next few laps letting them gain some distance and waiting to see if it looked promising enough. After a couple laps of the 2 man break gaining time and the field unactive, I attacked on the finishing straight. I looked back and like a dream come true, no one on my wheel, the field spread across the road. I was on my way to the break.
It took about 1.5 laps to catch Noah and Mike. By the time I got there, I was hurting and didn’t know what the outcome would be for me. I have been in many breakaways over the years. I have experienced success, heartbreak, and moments of uncertainty. I knew that if I was going to succeed I needed to ride as steady and smart as I could-knowing my legs weren’t feeling strong. I chose wisely where to position myself, when to be on the front, and rode steady. Mike Egan has much more of a diesel engine than me and put his all into this breakaway. Noah contributed as best he could on junior gearing and helped keep the spirit alive performing excellent before he went off to Canada to race with the big kids.
I kept noticing that I could take the turns a bit faster and smoother than my break-mates often opening up a gap between turn 3 and 4. I knew if it came down to the end, I could take advantage of this. I also understand that out of a breakaway I can sprint too. Coming into the final laps I realized that the field was shut down, no way were they catching us with 2-3 laps to go. I sat back, rotated smoothly, and watched patiently. I was waiting for an attack out of Mike Egan. I believed because of Noah’s gearing he would not be wise to attack. I waited for Mike and he never went. Mike took an overly dominant role in the final lap. I went into the final turns 3rd wheel. Coming into the finishing stretch. Out of the last corner Mike stayed left, stood up, but wasn’t accelerating fast enough to call it a sprint. Noah jumped around Mike and took the lead. I stuck to Noah’s wheel like glue until about 150 meters to go. Coming around him we hit a point where we were neck and neck. Then I started gaining on him and crossed the line 1st. My peripheral vision told me he was about half to a full bike length behind me and I had the win. I opted for a one handed salute, as I was moving extremely fast and the road was pretty choppy.
This was probably the most exciting moment of my career as a bike racer. The podium supplied me with a smile, a huge silver plate trophy, and a large bottle of amazing Iron Hill beer. Once I stepped off the podium, my beer was gloriously being handled by none other than Greg Wittwer who rode the front, shut everything down and controlled the pace like a true professional. One thing we have to remember as a breakaway is that without Greg, we likely would have been caught. It was a moment I’d never forget walking through the parking lot splitting a well earned beer with the teammate that made this possible for me.