Rob Richman (Cat 5)
Vlees Huis Road Race
Into the Meat House…
Vlees Huis Ronde – a rather Dutch sounding name for an exceptionally non-Euro portion of California, the outskirts of Bakersfield to be not too exact. It means something along the lines of ‘meat house’, hence the meat cleaver winners’ trophy. As a non meat eater, I figured I would pre-fuel the night before with a heaping plate of homemade quiche and broccoli.
The 30 mile course is y-shaped with 2 turn-around points which proved to be a blessing, you can see the gaps to your competition, and a curse, they can see you too. I arrived about an hour before start time and fueled up with a PowerBar harvest bar and a couple of gels, I didn’t plan on eating during the race as it was only 1 lap. After a short descent, the course flattened out for several miles, which given our mellow pace allowed for additional warm-up and some train watching off the port side. Apparently this area is quite the train watching mecca. The first and only ‘substantial’ climb came around the 5 mile mark, I figured this would blow the race up a bit so I made a move up to the first 5 riders. A few riders attacked and I jumped along with them, the initial attacker opened a small gap and decided to keep on rolling…folly I thought. With 24+ miles of racing, I was content to stick with the front group and work together up the climb and catch him down the road. This proved to be a huge tactical error, but even if I was able to bridge to him, I doubt I would have been able to stay with him. He ended up putting over 5 minutes into us and almost caught the second group in the 4-5 field (which started 10 minutes before).
I was at the front once the descent towards the first turn-around began and I hammered it, a little Taylor Phinney ATOC inspiration! Upon turning around, I had put gaps into our small group and continued tapping out a really hard tempo in hopes that 1 or 2 riders would bridge and work with me the rest of the way. Only one other rider was able to latch on, we exchanged pleasantries and off we went. Now I only had him and the animal up the road to worry about as the field behind us had shattered to pieces.
The next 10+ miles were beautiful, small hills, short technical descents and classic California scenery. At times, I had to remind myself I was racing. I would consistently put gaps into my compatriot on the descents but we were evenly matched on the climbs, so I would ride away on the downhill sections, recover a bit on the beginning of the climbs, allowing him time to catch on, rinse and repeat. I could tell this was wearing him down, and sure enough 4 miles out, he started cracking and verbally offered up second place to me. Hmmmmm, I have read and heard of these amateur road race deals, and as nice as he was, I was having none of it. We ended up riding a hard tempo together the rest of the way, taking pulls to the final kicker before the finish line, it was here I went absolute-out-of-the-saddle-full-gas and opened up a sizable gap. I finished 2nd, my first podium, which felt so good I went for a little recovery MTB ride later in the day and basked in the glory of surviving the Meat House.