Submitted by Hank Pfeifle
Yep, Mr. LeDuc bagged another 1st at Nationals – something like his 18th one. However, I am happy to report that I made his win most difficult and thought I had him a couple of times. 50 or so guys toed the line and we had to negotiate 2 laps around an 18 mile course that featured two good climbs in the final 9 miles.
I took all your council and rode a smart race. Sat in on the flats and worked my way to near the front for the hills. I was sitting 10th wheel on the first climb and was ready to sit and see if someone else would turn the screws. Nope. Everyone was hoping for a free trip up the hill. Being such a short course I had to say “no dice” to that. My legs were feeling great. BOOM and off I went. Sorry but I couldn’t help myself. Of course there was a reaction and they came up to me. I clicked down another gear and went again. And again they came up. Click, click BOOM a third time. That did the trick as things whittled down to 14. That’s a manageable number. Three miles later we hit the 2nd climb, which is 300 meters at about 15%. Now the 14 were in fear of what was coming. My cold heart had ice running into my veins, and I couldn’t wait to apply more punishment. Boom – hard up the hill and a sustained effort over it. We had another half mile of gradual climb and this really offered an opportunity to dish it out. Kenny Fuller came with me (60 time national champ – really) and he came thru sensing the opportunity. Off we went working well together, but LeDuc was able to bridge the gap. I was hoping he’d bridge by himself, but everyone always clings to him and force him to make the move. The field was now down to nine.
On the rolling backside, Fuller did a great jump on a long roller and I bridged to him. We had a good gap, but again LeDuc brought the group with. However, Fuller’s move dropped two guys. Now we had seven.
Onto the last two hills we went. My legs were feeling even better. I had to make it happen now. I attacked from about mid group. Attacked again… And again. Fuller was on me and he attacked on the crest and kept the screws turning. No problemo and it helped to get rid of two more guys (those pesky teammates who caused problems in the crit). Now we were coming tithe final climb. Unfortunately, the two teammates were able to work together and get back on. No way was I going to allow them to contest for the win.
Up the hill I went with everything I had – and I had a lot because I was feeling great. Fuller hung on, but we were able to gap LeDuc and probably had 100 meters on him at the top corner. Gotta go now. LeDuc is a powerful guy and would definitely win any group sprint. Fuller knew that, too, and we rode possessed. 5k to go. I couldn’t believe it when LeDuc came up to us. He can bridge like no one else. He also brought Wayne Watson with him. During the race someone told me he is the best 50+ climber in Colorado. He also came in 3rd in the TT this week. Rats.
With a mile to go there is a big ring 400 meter climb followed by a 400 meter slight downhill, then straight thru a round-about, half K up to the final corner and then 300 meters to the finish. From last position I jumped and gave a final dug up the big ring hill. Instant 50 meter gap. Watson came up to me and thru me at the top of the hill. I jump hard to get on him but missed and was about 50 meters back pretty fast. Still, I had a gap in Fuller and LeDuc and had to dig deep and finish this thing. I focused on reeling in Watson. I was making good progress when LeDuc caught me with 1k to go. He exploded past with Fuller in tow. I couldn’t catch that one either. They got Watson at the corner and Watson hung tough for 3rd.
I think I played my cards as good as I could. I felt strong and my efforts were actually hard. Not some delusional concept on my part. LeDuc, Fuller and Watson each gave honest efforts. Fuller gave repeated attacks. LeDuc, too, worked like crazy. Watson tried to TT away from us before the hills. I did work, but no more than my share. My money card (hills) played well today, but the guys used their strengths to counter my efforts. I rode to win as did the others, so the results are easy to live with.
That’s how it went. Top five medal, so my carry-on bag will be a little heavier on the way home.
I look forward to having a beer tonight.
From the road,