Sometimes the races you don’t win are pretty gratifying too.
Bazaar is the first KBAR race of the year and defending his KBAR title from last year is one of Will’s major objectives. That meant for this race I was going to be riding in a support role. This was also going to be my first opportunity to race heads up against Jordan Miller and Matt Ledbetter from Move-Up at the same time, former VeloTek teammates and Cat 4 race companions of mine from the 2015 season. Beating them was going to be a big ask.
There were only 7 riders in our Cat 1/2/3 field including those mentioned above, Kendall Wiebe, Kris Tilford, and John Alewine. It’s a shame more riders aren’t interested in one of the few Kansas Road Races on the calendar. It’s well worth the drive.
It started heading south into the ~20+ mph headwind, things were slow, and I was on the front. After a bit, Matt put in an attack and created some separation. There was a $100 bonus for the top Cat 3 rider, so he was a marked man and I had to ramp things up to keep him in check. I set a tempo that let him dangle around 100 yards up the road for the next 4-5 miles hoping to put some fatigue in his legs.
Then Jordan attacked and things got serious. I couldn’t match the acceleration and I was dropped! This was 8 miles into the race. “Oh well, I thought, that was fun-ish, only 40 miles to go solo.”
I kept tapping out tempo in the 270 watt range, @ around 95% of my FTP, “just in case”. The group must have bridged to Matt before Jordan attacked again and got off the front. Somehow I was keeping them at bay, then gaining on them! With Jordan off the front, there was a lull and I was able to make the juncture. Almost immediately, there was another attack and I was off the back again briefly, but made it back on.
After recovering a bit, I went to the front for an attack of my own! My thought process was that I was likely spent from my chase, and I wanted to be of as much assistance to Kendall, who has been on great form as of late, and to Will, our sprinter, before being popped again. I proceeded to take several extended pulls to try fruitlessly to bring Jordan back within range.
Just before the turnaround, Matt attacked and Will went with him forming the 2nd group. After the turn, Kendall and John were in the third group. Kris was alone in 6th position, and I was alone bringing up the rear…again.
For anyone who hasn’t raced Bazaar, the southern turn-around is where the race gets really exciting with the usual spring-time gale force winds out of the south! It was a 30+ mph avg for the next 23 miles from the south turn to the north turn.
So I found myself off the back again. However, now I’ve got the wind, and the confidence that I have some good form today. Plus, I’m riding the aero Trek Madone. Time to catch some peeps! After a couple miles, I caught and temporarily dropped Kris. Then later made the junction with Kendall and John, but so did Kris. There were a series of attacks from Kris and I, and I don’t remember in which order but we dropped John. I was thinking that if we could get any cohesion, we’d stand a good chance of catching Matt and Will. Then with Kendall on the front Kris attacked again and I followed. After sitting in Kris’ draft for a short bit, I dropped Kris on a little kicker. Later he came flying by me when I took it easy through the brief gravel section where there was some road construction. However, I was able to regain his wheel and drop him for good on the climb just north of the school.
At the northern turn-around, I saw Will was executing the sprinter’s strategy to perfection by just sitting on Matt’s wheel and doing no work. I was motivated to catch them to see if we could manage to go 2-3 on the podium, but I didn’t have enough gusto after all the work I’d put in. I’d had my nose in the wind either on the front or off the back, perhaps as much as 90% of the race and now we were heading back south into the stiff headwind. Fortunately, Will was able to easily out-sprint Matt for 2nd and claiming the best Cat 3 bonus in doing so!
Once I got back to my car, my Garmin alerted me that I set a new 40k time record of 50:36! Ahhh, fun with wind. Gratifying way to do it by gutting myself all day, despite the wind assist.
Just before the podium, Kris said some moving words about his brother Steve Tilford who was tragically killed earlier in the week. I cannot do it justice here. However, to paraphrase, Kris told us that Steve was not meant to live to be an old man. He said Steve had happened to have made contact with everyone closest to him that day, and that he was at peace and in good spirits. Steve was on his way back from a few weeks in San Diego and planning to race Bazaar, a race which he loved and was looking forward to! He said, “the best way to honor Steve was to ride your bike and be passionate”, words to live by! Despite never meeting Steve and just having met Kris for the first time, this is what I will remember most about today.
Photo: Craig Henwood