2010 Sunflower Revolution 100K
I rode down to the start of the race with Holly’s boss, Cern. He is quite the athlete and a fast cyclist. He and I had exchanged good natured trash talk for a couple of weeks before the race. There was no way I could keep up with him, but he had challenged me to go for a sub 3 hour time. Last year I had done the race in 3:08. I was in better condition this year and a little more experienced, so I thought it was doable, but I had to get into a group that was riding that pace. Cern encouraged me to ride hard at the start to find a group riding at sub 3 hour pace and then work hard to stay with them, particularly on the climbs.
The race started at 8am. It was 60F and clear skies. I started in the middle of the pack of about 250 riders. The first few miles of the course are fairly flat and the road rather wide. I hop scotched between groups trying the find one that I thought would average about 20 mph. The groups in these initial miles are very fluid as they try to establish a pace. This is particularly true for people like me that are riding without a pre-established group. Unlike less formal rides, people in the Sunflower seem to be riding for a time, especially those riding in some of the faster groups.
At mile 7, the course starts a climb that is not too steep, but fairly long at just about 3 miles. This starts to break up any groups that had formed up until that point. I went hard up the climb figuring that any group I hooked up with at the end of it would probably be one that could get me home in less than 3 hours. By the time we reached the top and turned off to a side road, I was in a group of about 15 riders that began to string out as we started a long steep descent.
At the bottom of the descent we turned left and after about a mile hit a very steep climb. This again broke up the group, but the climb was short enough that it soon formed back up. It was fun to see that people had written on the road “Allez” and “Almost There” and drawn pictures like you see at the Tour de France.
After this climb we started a long section of rolling hills. I found that I tended to be stronger on the climbs than many in the group. I think my training on hills had better prepared and conditioned me for climbing than some other riders. This was great, but it caused problems if I did not anticipate the climbs and position myself where I would not get boxed in. Twice I almost crashed when I was boxed in on the right side of the rode and the group slowed quickly on a short climb. Once it slowed so fast that it caught me in my large chain ring and I almost came to a complete stop. The group pulled away from me while I tried to get into a lower gear and recover going up the hill. Since there was no one behind me within sight, I had to work hard to get back to group or risk being left on my own.
By the midpoint of the race I was averaging 20 mph and, even though the race is billed as a 100K, I knew I was in good shape to complete the 59 miles in less than 3 hours. It was about this point when the group started to break up a little. There was one rider, in a Huntington Bank kit, that seemed to be in charge. I got the impression that he was riding with a few other people in the group. He would set the pace, drift back and then when the pace started to slow a little he would charge back to the front and increase the speed of the group once again. Eventually, a group of about 8 of us start to split the group and the Huntington Bank guy did not follow.
We were keeping a 20-22 mph pace and everyone was taking a turn to pull up front. At about 40 miles we overtook a tandem that was being ridden by two women who were obviously serious riders. We absorbed them into our group and that turned out to be a big plus. While the tandem was a little slower on any uphill, they flew down the descents and could really pull on the flats.
By this time the big hills are behind us and the course is relatively fast. It does include one long steep descent at 45 miles where I got up to over 40 mph. That was a little scary, but thankfully it is a straight descent and the road is wide and smooth.
By the time we got to about 50 miles I was certainly starting to feel it in my legs. The group was working together, but you could tell it was tiring. The girls on the tandem were a big help. It was at this time that I took a long pull at front. It was on a side rode that went through a corn field. It was full of potholes and corn cobs from the recent harvesting. I thought that all I needed now was to go down on a corn cob.
With about three miles to go the group had started to break up and I wound up in front with everyone else falling off. I decided to try and make a break for it. I went hard, but was not able to keep it up until the finish. A little more than a mile from the finish, the tandem came up next to me and I was very happy to see them. I fell in behind them and rode with them until the finish.
I came into downtown Milford and crossed the line at 2:46. I had taken over 20 minutes off my time from last year. My conditioning and weight lost had made a big difference from the year before as had my better bike handling skills. This ride gave me confidence from my upcoming century.