|Top of Cavanal Hill|
Some of our rides included riding 35 miles to and from Cavanal Hill, a five mile climb up the "World's tallest hill" (it's two feet short of being classified a mountain)d. It was a pretty steep/brutal climb but nothing terrible. We rode a 120 mile trek over the Talimena Scenic Byway. With about 9,000 feet of climbing the day was a tough, but amazing and fun experience. For the third day we rode with the Mercy Cycling Club for a 60 mile scoot to Sugar Loaf Lake. We didn't want to push it to hard in order to race well the next day.
The final day involved Mercy slaying the Hell's Kitchen road race in Hogeye, AR. It was a 73 mile course consisting of 3.5 loops. Each loop had a pretty devastating climb. The finish was at the top of the fourth time up it. The team went in to the race looking to make the most of splits in the field and not ride extremely aggressively. What wasn't planned was for a break to go at mile one...again. Zach Reed (Dogfish Racing) attacked hard right out of neutral rollout. Steve Tilford (Tradewind) followed and Dylan Jones (Mercy) jumped soon after. I followed Dylan and we made it across. I could definitely feel the nearly 25 hours of training earlier in the week and a nice warmup would have been great...but that didn't happen. After rolling through we noticed that Austin Vinton (Mercy) had jumped clear of the field and was bridging up with Jim VanDeven (Dogfish). After they made it across, our group was rather organized for the next few miles. The moto-ref informed us that we had a gap of nearly 2 minutes after only 5 miles of racing. Upon hearing this, Steve decided he was going to sit on, which was smart being as outnumber as he was. Unfortunately, Dogfish did not want Steve sitting on and refused to fully commit at this point. The group slowed and the field began gaining back time when Dylan jumped clear of our group. Jim followed him and they instantly had a decent gap. Austin put in a small dig to try and get clear of Steve and Zach but they followed. When they caught Austin, he sat up and put them in the gutter. When I saw the situation they were in I jumped from the back of the group and quickly bridged to Dylan, making it two Mercy guys and One Dogfish rider. Steve, Zach, and Austin sat up. This all happened before 10 miles into the race.
After a bit of finagling, our group started working really well together. Dylan took the Clif KOM prime at the top of the first time up the finishing hill. We rolled clear, establishing a gap of nearly 7.5 minutes over the field. Fast forward to 70 miles in to the race. Dylan and I decided that the best way to beat Jim would be to go at the bottom of the finishing hill the last time up it. He was a good sport in that e was working with us and we didn't want to absolutely screw him in the end. I put in a little dig and got some separation from Jim, while Dylan sat on his wheel. I grabbed the win while Dylan and Jim were duking it out. It seemed as though Dylan was going to take second when somehow became stuck between gears, unable to pedal on a 13% grade hill. He got it figured out without unclipping but was no longer able to take the second spot on the podium.
This was OK though, Austin Vinton (Mercy) rolled in ahead of Brian Jensen (Tradewind) for 4th place and Adam Mills (Mercy) grabbed 8th. Mercy ended up 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 8th! It was absolutely amazing having a team that works so well together and is not greedy for results. It is going to be an amazing year that I cannot wait to see unfold. I really have to give a shout out to Dylan. That kid rode amazingly and I couldn't have asked for a better teammate in the break, thank you Dylan.
|Pitch Fork "Trophy"|
On another note, the quote of the day goes out to Adam Mills. After the race we were discussing how it had unfolded. Adam informed me that another racer had asked him who Mercy had in the break.
Basically, the conversation went like this:
Rider: "Who do you guys have in the break?"
Adam: "Dylan and Colton"
Rider: "It's going to be pretty sweet when Jim beats both of them. Do you think they can stick a 73 mile breakaway?"
Adam: "Let me put it to you this way. When this sticks, it will be Colton's third 50+ mile break in less than a month."
Rider: "Oh sh*t"
race photos credit goes to Biff Stephens!