This is a race that I love to attend. This is also a race that I am not very good at. With the steep, hilly terrain of Luray to contend with, I'm often left blown out the back of the race and pedaling to earn tough-guy points for seeing the race through and finishing (or at least riding until I am forced to stop by the officials!) While most cyclists are not used to getting dropped out of a peleton, the Page Valley events almost require that participants find themselves dropped at some point as a right of passage. There is no shame, the courses are tough, and are raced hard.
This year's edition of the stage race featured a brand new road race course, which we were unable to race on due to a freak thunderstorm unleashing chaos across the region on Friday night. Based on reports from racers who rode the course anyways, it looks like the race will be a big hit if we get a chance to race there next year.
|Is that a perfect cycling road or what?|
Apparently it has a really fun mix of hills, speed, smooth pavement, and mountain views. Sounds like some other classic races of our region, like Jefferson Cup, Giro di Coppi, and All-American (aka Murad). Hard enough to be difficult, but within the ability levels of a broad spectrum of riders. For any Mid-Atlantic area cyclists who feign away from registering for the Page Valley Cycling events, I highly encourage you to try the stage race out next year if we are lucky enough to see a 2013 edition with that road course. Fun for all ages/weights/power profiles!
With the road race scrapped, the stage race came down to a single day: a 9 mile time trial, and the now infamous Luray Crit.
The time trial started at the crest of Cavern Hill, at the Luray Caverns parking lot. You begin by SCREAMING down a smooth, safe decent, ride to the airport, and make a right hand turn. From there, the road starts to roll on you. The hills are enough to make you think long and hard as to what the best pacing strategy is, and the speed is absolutely high enough for TT specialists to see benefits from their equipment and abilities. In my race, the results sheet reflected this: GiroBio winner Joe Dombrowski of Bontrager/Livestrong won by 1 second over Josh Frick of DC Velo. My own teammate Scott Giles from Bike Doctor was 3rd, close behind. I placed 6th. The results sheet looked a lot like what you would see from the same riders at Church Creek, our local pancake-flat 40k jaunt.
After the time trial, I spent a few minutes soaking in our motel's swiming pool before packing up my car and prepping the sound equipment I brought for the crit course. Some sweaty time later, I had wires, speakers, mixers, and beats connected and pumping down at the Hawskbill and Main St. corner. (Sorry if it was too low; the acoustics on Main Street are pretty bad as the sound echoes 3 ways and is not particularly pleasing to the ear unless you are RIGHT in front of the speakers).
Approaching our race, the one word to describe the setting was HOT. With the mountains quite literally ON FIRE behind us, we embarked on our 60 minute crit amid 102 ground temperatures. Early on, DC Velo, one of our region's best teams, put their chess pieces into place. I was a little bit too focused on holding onto the wheel in front of me, so my details here might not be accurate, but here is my recount: DJ Brew of DC Velo solo'd away from us for a very solid number of laps. I think there were one or two chase attempts that Ben King of DC Velo (I think that's his name) had marked, but those chase groups didn't quite make it to DJ. Back in the field, I came to the front for a good number of laps to bring DJ back to the fold for good, but I had some XO riders sitting on my wheel and not giving me any help. I think they were waiting to spring, but the gap to DJ was too far for me to close on my own. A bit of organization would have helped seal the deal, but it didn't matter, as a few accelerations from the Cutaway/Hottubes kids and Joe Dombrowski pulled the last handfuls of seconds to my old teammate DJ, and his job was done for the day. The next significant move was Ryan McKinney being up the road. I think Ryan may have been off before we caught DJ (like I said, foggy recollections). My Bike Doctor teammates and I followed attacks and covered moves, making sure to keep things together to give Scott Giles a smooth ride wherever he was in the field.
|A wide-angle view near the finish line atop Main St. In the distance are the mountains, and somewhere further back might be me|
At some point, everyone in the field was really tired, but Scott was good to go, so he took off. I think he joined one of the Cutaway riders up the road and did his best to make it as far away from the field as possible. Once Scott was away, we rode circles around the course, Dave Fuentes (only a few seconds behind me in the GC) took off and I tried to pull him back (but couldn't!) and then we eventually finished. I was much pleased to have the first good sprint effort of the year on that lap, but I was at the back of the race, so it didn't make a difference.
The GC battle came down to Ryan McKinney and Scott Giles. Scott had a solid chunk of time on Ryan before the start of the crit, but Ryan rode so fast in the afternoon that his solo efforts combined with the time bonuses he won gave him a very solid margin of victory over our own Scott. Sorry Scott! Joe Dombrowski finished 3rd in the GC (racing with no teammates!) and gave two local racers the photo opp of a lifetime by sticking around for a podium shot.
|A beaming Ryan McKinney atop our proud Scott Giles and Virginia's pro-bound Joe Dombrowski.|
After the race, I stuck around and cheered on other people I knew who were out to do battle with the heat and hills. Some people did well, others had a difficult race, but at the end of the day, everyone felt that they had accomplished something just by participating in that event.
A fun side-quest in our already-race-within-a-race was a competition on Strava to produce the fastest time on the Main St. hill during the criterium. Visit here to see the ride segment. As I'm posting this, I'm in the lead/tied with my teammate from last year, superstar DJ Brew! Full admission, if no one posts a faster time, I give the gentleman's victory to DJ, as I think he made that time somewhere in the BEGINNING of the race, and rode like a champion for the rest of the hour in 100+ degree heat. I popped mine at the very end.
Oh, also shout outs to my friends Emir Crnovic and Kat Klausing. Emir participated in his first Cat 5 race (he's 15 years old and plays soccer) and did really well! Thanks to the Cat 5 field for being a cool crew and NOT arbitrarily shouting at the junior rider :) My buddy Kat did her thing and was an absolute stud, despite having a journey to Luray that was nothing else but epic, slept on a chair, spent Saturday clearing road debris off county roads in the heat, slept on a bike shop floor, road guarded the morning races in the heat, and then got THIRD in the crit. I think the women's field is lucky Kat spent all of her energy and sweat on helping to make the race happen rather than actual pedaling.
|Kat, David, Jacob, and some Whole Wheel Velo friends clear the road so that you can race and not flat your tubular wheels. Thanks!|
Finally, thanks to Page Valley Cycling and the Town of Luray. I know first hand that the town is highly involved in helping to make the Page Valley bike races happen, and each year they seem to be enthusiastic about opening/shutting down their town for us to pedal around in silly spandex outfits upon far-too-expensive bicycles.
|Please have us back for another year! We love your town (and your roads!)|