A Note from Fatty: This is part six of my 2013 Rockwell Relay
shaggy dog story race report. In case you haven’t already read them, you might want to read parts one, two, three, four, and five before reading this one.
“Let’s hurry up,” Heather said, as I loaded my bike into the van. “I reminded Kenny to look out for that left turn that comes just a couple miles into his ride, but I want to be absolutely sure he made it.”
I was glad Heather had reminded Kenny of that turn, since — in our first racing of the Rockwell Relay, back in 2011 — I had blown right by it, and had kept going ’til another team’s vehicle caught up with me and told me to turn around.
We made the turn, drove another couple miles, and — to our relief — there was Kenny, the blinky light clipped to his reflective vest rapidly bobbing up and down.
Kenny was turning an incredibly fast cadence, and flying up the steep incline of Boulder mountain.
Did he need anything? Nope. Want anything? Nope. He just had a focused look and the big smile of a guy who loves racing and is very, very good at it (plus, an open-mouthed smile is good for breathing).
I suspect that if we had kept tally, probably each of of us needed something out of the van maybe five percent of the time. That didn’t mean, though, that we didn’t appreciate having the van pull up and check those other nineteen-out-of-twenty times.
We rode on up ahead — and in just a few minutes, we passed a racer. We pulled over and started the timer.
“Just three minutes!” we yelled as Kenny went by.
“Just three?” he yelled back, and he stepped it up and went even faster. Which I would not have previously thought possible.
A carrot is a powerful force, and within the next fifteen minutes, Kenny caught the racer. There was never any question of whether the other guy would be able to hang; Kenny simply went by him.
And then Kenny hit the summit, after which it was all downhill in this shortish leg of the race:
He bombed down in the dead of night, his lights on full bright. Meanwhile, Heather drove ahead of him — at a speed I wouldn’t call “reckless,” but it was perhaps on the threshold of reckless. She was just trying to stay ahead, so if anything hit a deer, it would be the van, not Kenny.
And a good thing, too. At one point we did in fact startle a deer out of the road. Kenny maybe would have missed it, but it’s hard to say.
One Final Message
Once we got past the twisty-curvy stuff, our plan had been to shoot ahead of Kenny, leaving him to finish. But after driving for just a couple minutes, we saw a rider from another team, not far ahead.
His race plate said Team 91. The coed team we thought was definitely going to beat us, that we thought was out of range, suddenly…wasn’t.
So we pulled over.
As Kenny went by, we shouted, “Team 91 is three minutes up!”
Kenny found another gear. We shot forward, parked, and got the Hammer ready in record time. We stood and watched as Team 91 pulled in; their rider took off.
Then, just two minutes later, Kenny rolled up. It was exactly midnight, and The Hammer rode off like a bat out of hell.
“You’re two minutes behind the lead coed team!” shouted the exchange point official, as she pulled away.
The Hammer looked over her shoulder and said, “Not for long.”
As Kenny stood at the transition line, catching his breath, I said, “You just put twenty-five minutes into Team 91. That, my friend, is some serious gap reduction.”
At which point the racer from Team 91 said, “I missed a turn.”
Ah. The notorious left turn (you didn’t really think I referred to it at the beginning of this post without a good reason, right?). How much of the 25 minutes did that account for? In the absence of someone from Team 91 making a Strava segment of the off-course section he rode, we’ll never know (but I’m going to guess 10-15 minutes).
It’s amazing how anything can — and most likely will happen in a 500+ mile race. And you just don’t know who’s going to win — ’til someone crosses the finish line.
In any case, we were now halfway through the race (in terms of number of stages in the Rockwell Relay, not necessarily in mileage) and were separated by our closest competition by no more than two minutes.
This was going to be a race.