Almost everyone that rides a bike in the Denver metro area has ridden up lookout mountain at one point or another. Its a great climb. At around 5 miles in length it isn’t that long and except for one kicker its not that steep. I went into this race with a large contingent of teammates. Since we had the numbers we decided to do the classic climbing lead out on this one and keep things hard. Nate was training through this race and was going to help with the leadout to set myself and also keep Andy Johnson fresh to get his best possible finish. Andy had been super strong lately and we wanted him to be able to do well and hopefully end up in the top 5ish.
The major competition for this climb was going to be Matt Gates and Leroy Popowski. Leroy, last year’s winner, dominates hill climbs in the P12s and the masters. It was going to be a very good test because we were going to meet both rivals at the National Championship road race in September. Gates gapped me last year on the steep part of the climb and caught and passed my teammate Raik to place 2nd. However, my fitness was better this year and was interested to see how things would play out. With the climbing lead out I was counting on a hard pace until the steep part 3/4 of the way up the climb. Then I was expecting that Leroy would attack and I would follow. I was hoping it would come down to a sprint between Leroy and myself at the top. I wasn’t sure that I could drop Gates, but I was counting that Leroy’s pace would be too hard for anyone but me to follow. Gates is tough in the sprint, so I was hoping I wouldn’t have Gates with me in the finale.
We lined up at the start and were off. Nate and Jared immediately went to the front rotating at a very hard pace. There were gaps and our rivals were having to close those gaps. I focused on keeping a smooth cadence and using as little energy as possible. Greg, Boups and Daniel began contributing to the pace. At half way up I believed our plan was going perfectly. However, I did not count on one thing: Leroy going early. With myself and Gates tucked into the bunch Leroy attacked off the front. Sensing danger I went to the front and began chasing. Only a handful of the guys were able to come with me. After a hard pull Nate took over and was burying himself for me. He rode hard and then had to pull off. At this point I was alone with Gates and Mark Schwab. I put in a hard pull and then motioned for the others to pull through. Gates behind indicated that he couldn’t. So I pegged it again. Leroy seemed to be coming back, but I didn’t want to do all the work myself only to have my passengers jump me in the finale.
So, this time I pulled off and slowed attempting to force them to come through. They slowed and looked at me. So, I attacked. Darn, they were able to respond. This is not good. I slowed and attacked again. Again, Mark and Gates were still with me. These games were slowing down our pace and was playing into Leroy’s hand. Finally we arrived at the steep part and Schwab launched an excellent attack and distanced Gates and myself. I wanted to see if Gates would bridge, but he seemed to not be able to respond. So, I jumped across.
Mark and I worked together to distance Gates. He seemed to be gone. However, with 300 meters to go he appeared out of no where sprinting past us. I knew he must have put in an incredibly hard effort to bridge to us that quickly after he looked so far away a moment ago. I figured that must have cost a lot of energy, so I needed to launch my sprint immediately and take advantage of that. I responded and found Gates’ wheel. Then through the last couple bends in the road we sprinted side by side. Gates faded in the end. Normally he would have taken me in that sprint, but the energy he spent bridging up to us came at a high enough cost that I was able to take the 2nd place. Gates, Schwab and I were separated by less than a second. Teammates Nate, Boups and Andy came in shortly thereafter. Wow, what a strong team we have! Leroy did a good job anticipating a tactical battle behind him if he went early. In the end his gutsy move payed off. Our times were interestingly enough the fastest of the day.