The following was written by my teammate and fellow wordsmith, Mark Hughes.
I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “epic” to describe races, but I will for this one. Here’s the race from my viewpoint.
Lap 1 (of 7): 40-50 starters roll neutral up the climb to the start/finish line and then officially start the race. We and LAPT patrol the front, but no one attacks. Skies continue to get darker.
Lap 2: A few attacks but nothing really notable. Fairly steady rain starts about half way into the lap, but it’s not too bad. The field begins to break up a little with the rain.
Lap 3: All hell breaks loose. Denny attacks early in the lap and gets a few guys to go with him. The skies have opened up in a biblical flood sort of way and it is difficult to even see up the road. It’s raining so hard, the drops feel like hail when they hit you. The three CZ amigos (Steve, Tige, and Mark) try to get the field under control, but there is attack after attack in the deluge, and we decide that there are too many people going and try to hook back up with Denny.
There are probably 15 guys splintered between the front group and us when we hit the two mile run-in to the base of the hill. At this point it looks like it is nighttime, the rain is coming down so hard that you really can’t see much beyond a few riders in front of you. There is standing water on the road, and I have a speed of 42.2 on the descent as we try to get back up to the leaders. All three of us hook on, and now we have about 20 guys in the front group when we arrive at the base of the climb. Denny whacks it again near the top followed by John Voigt. They get clear of the field only to cross the line to hear that the race has been neutralized. We all have to go back to registration and wait to see what happens.
Waiting: The amount of rain falling now is impressive. So much so that Heidi is taking pictures. Don’t know how long we wait to see if the race will continue but we eventually line up again. The officials agree to give Denny his ten seconds and Voigt his five. They also tell us that they cut the race to two laps to go. When we line up, only about 20 guys have remained. Everyone else went home. No hardman points for those guys. In fact, they will be awarded “Tige Prickett Awesome” points. I’m thankful I can now see more than 20 ft in front of me.
Lap 4: Neutral up the hill again to the start line and then it’s on! What’s left of the field knows that we are going to block for Denny and John VanSusteren will block for Voigt, so they get on it as soon as we cross the start line. With Denny in the 30-34 age category and John in the 35-39, they’ve each got a state champion jersey to win. There are some strong guys left, including John Huenink from Nova, three or four guys from Wheaton, and last year’s Superweek winner, Mike Heagney. Early on, Wheaton get a guy off so now they were blocking with us. However he ended up falling back a few miles later, so Wheaton then went to the front and dropped the hammer. Denny and John had maybe 20+ secs when we got to the climb again, but since the climb is so steep, it looked like they were right in front of us. One guy even said “They’re right F’in there!!!” so they drilled it up the hill to try to finish off Denny and John.
Lap 5: Still raining off and on. The field doesn’t let up and guys are getting shelled. We continue to block and get in the way but with about three miles to go, Steve and I get popped leaving only Tige, Johnny Van, and six others in the chase group.
Finish: Denny wins and Voigt takes second. State champ jerseys for each of them. Tige rolls in at 10th, and Steve and I cross the line 11th and 12th.
Congrats to Denny and John for sticking it for two laps and winning the jerseyes. Mad props to us and Johnny Van for playing the roles of domestique to perfection.
Nice writeup, Mark. I’m really proud of the way we, as a team, laid out our plan and executed it under extremely difficult conditions. This race used to be my nemesis, so it’s especially rewarding to have won it twice now, and doing it as a team makes it all the more so.