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I was sickly Friday and Saturday and was quite disturbed I missed the Home stake XC Race yesterday. I woke up this morning, feeling a letter better and argued with myself for the better of a half hour about attending and completing the Cow Country Classic. I reminded myself that every year (in the past two) I have had this conversation with myself and every year I have not done the Cow Country and regretted it. I told myself to stop being a little Nancy and to suck it up. I packed my goods, kissed my wife and children, and headed for the pass.

When I got there, I was surprised to see about 100 cars parked in the parking lot. This was a big race. I registered, pinned on my race number, attached my seat bag. I was ready to go. As I was warming up, I was told that my race number was on wrong, to get rid of the mirror and that a wheel car is available so no need for a seat bag. I asked what a wheel car was, being the hillbilly that I am. After asking Rebecca and through here graciousness and commodore, she helped straighten my number out.  This was my first road race and I and probably a dozen others could tell. I thought to myself this would “simply” be a good long ride to get me feeling good again and a little easier than a fast pace mtn bike race.  Boy was I wrong. This race was a full blown heart attack waiting to happen!

We started at 10:40 am. I started to ride. The first 6-7 miles was a neutral zone.  I was excited and it felt awesome to ride it such a large group. Then came that big hill. Greg Wirth and I took control of the climb. I was feeling pretty good at that moment.

Then came the second hill. I felt in control and was in the lead group. Before I knew it, I would hear the buzzing of about 10 bikes. What was once emptiness, was a group of hearty roads men, ready to put the pavement to my ass.

They blocked me in, called out some road lingo and before I knew it they were past me. I tried to regain control, but the pace was vicious and the gap widened.  I let the feeling of helplessness subside and told myself that I still had a lead on half the field. I started to suck my thumb anxiously.

After the first 20 miles, came more hills. I kept the pace and as I looked back I could see a little speck of riders. I was confident I could maintain the lead on them. I caught up with a guy who looks as if he rode for Missoula Bicycle works. He looked at me and told me we could do this. Lets catch up with the lead group.  His positive energy inspired me and I was game.  We started to pace each other. By the time we got to the intersection (heading towards Bowman’s Corners) the lead group was way off in the distance. Once we hit the hills the gap continued to widen. 

About 15 miles in (after the first intersection), we again were in the hills. I happened to maintain the lead and lost the guy from Missoula Bicycle works. However, in another 10 miles, again I heard the whizzing of a dozen bikes. I looked back, and asked myself where in the hell did they come from. They passed me at Bowman’s corners and I could not keep their pace. There went the guy from Missoula Bicycle works. I was tired by this time. As we passed Bowman’s corners we hit head first into a 15-20 mph wind. I was solo and told myself that I was really going to be in for a nasty ride. Luckily another line of riders came up behind me. They were attempting to assemble a pace line. I jumped in and that saved me. I asked one of the guys if this was the last group. He responded by saying that he thought there was one more behind us. We worked together to the finish line to beat the wind. Without these guys it would have been a total suffer fest.

I am not sure where I placed and really do not want to know. But I can say with humility, that road racing (especially this course) was a feat and not child’s play nor for the faint of heart. I learned a lot. I maintained an average HR of a 148 bpm, and often rode 15-25 minutes at a 170 bps (really huffing). I learned that it was a very team oriented sport and working in the team really helped you to get to the finish line and fight the wind. My average speed was 19 mph for the full 48 miles. My clock came in at an elevation gain of about 3800 feet.  I finished the race in about 2:33 according to my clock. I am still not sure if I have taken a liking to this sport but can say I felt like my own little champ at the end of this race.  When I got to the finish line the BSC tent was up. Underneath was fruit and Gatorade. I was happy to see that. I even heard one dudes say that they have been seeing more of this big sky cyclery stuff at the races.

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