I live about twenty miles south of Lake Erie in northeast Ohio, which for the better part of December through March is a giant snow machine. So when the weather here clears up, the snow melts, the sun comes out and the first opportunity to race comes along I am ready to go.
That opportunity was Saturday at Malabar Farm State Park, in the hills between Cleveland and Columbus. We had five riders from Panther p/b Competitive Cyclist at the race – myself, Andy Moskal, Andy Clarke and two of our regional team riders, Erik Lesco and Brent Martin. We got Erik and Brent set up with their new Capo team kits and rolled out to warm up.
OK so there are no mountains in Ohio, but there are plenty of hills, about 2400 vertical feet worth in this 40 mile race according to Andy’s SRM. Combine that with this being the first race of the year, no one exactly sure of our form, and us being without last year’s Malabar winner and teammate Dan Campbell, our plan was to cover the breaks and try to get the numbers in our favor at the end.
The 45 rider field rolled out slowly but the first time up the 1 mile hill split the field and triggered several counterattacks. We put two riders in the initial split, with two more riders coming up when the field regrouped on the second lap. Andy Clarke went clear with two riders, one being Brian Batke, a local strongman and good climber. Andy’s group started to build a good time gap as our team and Brian’s team covered chasing moves. With 15 miles to go, Erik got in a chasing group of 4 riders. Coming into the final lap I jumped on the hill and bridged across to Erik’s group. We were rolling at a good clip and I saw the opportunity to get across the gap to the lead group alone and give our team the numbers. I made it up to Andy’s group of three with about two miles to go, giving us the chance to counterattack. We dropped one rider, but not Brian. Andy drilled it up the final hill to the finish with a strong lead out where I was able to hold off Brian, giving us first and third. Moskal and Erik finished strongly the field sprint for fifth, a good way to start the racing season for the Ohio group.