40.2 miles, 4652 feet, 20.3 average
Sunnybrook racer: Mark Detweiler
What we have for you today is a lollipop style course that starts with 4 flat miles in the river valley and then takes an abrupt left turn uphill for a fairly simple cat 3 climb. The course temporarily levels out and then converts to constant rollers. This portion is a test of your ability to carry momentum from the downhills into the seemingly unending punchy uphills. After 9ish miles of the rollers and step climbs the course serves up another climb to the highest point in Pennsylvania (and the first of two feed zones).
From here you head downhill for a solid five miles before beginning the last significant climb of the course. Near the top of this climb is the second feed. Once you crest this climb you have a screamingly fast descent to close the lollipop portion of the course. From here you’re descending back down all the rollers you hit on the way out, which includes some not insignificant climbs. You finally go down that initial cat-3 climb and hit the finish after 1.5 flat miles back in the river valley.
After winning the 4/5 race last year I was definitely in for the race this year. However, due to the Nittany Stage Race competing for racers the fields were much smaller this time around. The P12, 3, and 35+ all started together but maintained separate finish lists and prize pools. All told we only had about 20 starters for the three fields. By far the biggest group was the 3, with around 10 starters (10 finishers).
As with every time I’ve done this race, the opening climb helped decide the race. I reached the top of the climb in a group of 5-6 with two racers from the P12 about 10 seconds in front of us and everyone else off the back. I decided to use the sharp right turn to attack out of my group and managed to bridge to the two guys off the front.
This was a great situation for me since I wasn’t competing with these two and could work freely. Unfortunately the effort of bridging had burned quite a bit of energy and I needed 5 minutes of sitting on wheels before I could contribute. After some well needed recovery I chipped in whenever I could, but still wan’t contributing evenly – they were both too strong for me.
The pain face while bridging
Unlike previous times on this course, the chase group stayed close to us. We quickly established a 30 second gap, but every uphill saw them draw within sight. This group shrunk over time, but never gave up the chase.
The three of us stayed together until the 200M to KoM sign, at which point the stronger attacked and instantly dropped both of us. I was gapped by both of them, but managed to descend back onto 2nd place’s wheel and we collaborated for a time. Again I was more of a passenger than I wanted to be, but I was able to continue chipping in for a while. Finally we reached the last major climb and he slowly but surely rode me off his wheel.
We had opened a bit more of a gap on the group at this point, maybe as much as 60 seconds, but now I was on my own for some serious climbing in heavy winds. I could still see them creeping up behind me and used that as motivation to hit the descents as hard as I could (PRs on every descent, with a few creeping into the top 10 overall) since I was slowly but surely going backwards.
The chase group was now down to four riders (all from my field as I later discovered) and drew as close as 50 M on the last uphill, but I was able to put some time into them on the final descent and entered the final flat 1.5 miles with enough of a gap to time trial myself across the finish line in first – 30 seconds ahead of the chasers, 2 minutes behind the overall winner and 15 seconds behind my other breakaway companion.
Too deep in the pain cave to post up at the finish
Rolled over to the two who finished in front of me, apologized for my lack of contribution to the group and slowly coasted back to my car for the wait for results and podiums
This is probably the most beat up I’ve been after a race I didn’t crash out of. The time alone was pretty dark and I was really deep in the pain cave. Luckily I was able to keep motivation from the group chasing me down and used that to finish relatively strong.