The Cascadilla Hill Climb is a regular Ithaca event that brought in about 50 riders this year. As a solid B racer from the Tuesday Night Races earlier in the season, I registered for this group today. This race has matches with 2 (or sometimes 3) racers at a time. The winner moves on, the loser gets a second chance, until all but one rider has lost twice. I showed up just a minute late, but was able to sneak onto the list in time.
The first match was with Max Kraft and one other rider I hadn’t met before. I was worried with this as the first race, because Max had recently beat me on the Brown Birk race (the last TNR of the season) with a good lead up a climb. Even though I had some tactical ideas in mind, I blasted off the front immediately to get a big gap. This used far too much energy, so I soft pedaled once I was out of sight until they caught up a bit. I kept looking back anticipating that they would catch up and pass me, but there was still a good gap to Max and a bigger one to the other rider. The final stretch came and I pushed one last bit to ensure the gap would stay and won the match. My goal to not waste all my energy on the first ride didn’t work unfortunately!
The second match was with Juan Salazar. We’ve been on many rides together and I knew he had far more miles and experience on hills than I did. Juan is always looking to add more climbing to his long weekend rides. I started slow, hoping to cruise along until the final stretch to pull out a sprint. We rode next to each other most of the way, when I realized my chance. He was shifting occasionally, since the incline does change several times, and I decided that the next shift I hear I’m going to sprint, hoping to get away when he would have a harder chance to latch on. Whether or not this plan was the kicker, I sprinted fast and looked back to see a big enough gap to ensure victory.
My third match was with Sam Kolins, another solid B racer who probably matches my miles this year but has more experience (I’m pretty sure). This race was similar to the last; I tried to match him the whole way until the final stretch. The main difference was that Sam kept pushing the pace. I think he was hoping to tire me out with this pace, in hopes that I would slow, but I was ready for this one. He lead most of the ride with me closely behind getting ready to jump if he sprinted. The last stretch came and off I went to pass him and secure another win and a spot in the top 2!
Finally I got to rest while Sam, Max, and Juan raced together to see who would race me on the final bracket. They are each great racers, so I was eager to see how this one would fare. They looked very close coming across the last bend. Sam had a slight lead over Max, and Juan was close behind. Now I knew my final match would be me and Sam for the second time. We realized that in order for Sam to win, he would have to beat me twice now, since I had yet to lose a match so far. This was reassuring, and I decided to aim for a slight lead (if possible) instead of going all out, hoping that I could either win the next one or tire Sam out enough to win the final match.
After waiting for traffic to pass, Sam and I approached our (possibly) final climb. This was similar to our last race, with Sam pushing the pace early. The difference was that this time about halfway up I decided to push it harder, and had the slightest lead. Once in the cemetery, we realized we started too soon because there was still a family race (parents with kids in tow), and a car in front of them. I passed the traffic, trying to leave as much room as possible for Sam to get by if he was going to pass me also. I rocketed off the front one last time and Sam could not catch me. I had won the B’s! I was thrilled because after the final TNR coming in 2nd and feeling ready for more, I was able to use that energy on this race. I was concerned that it may not have been a fair match with the traffic interfering (I hadn’t looked back at this point), but Sam said that it was indeed a fair win.
This was an amazingly fun race, even though it was extremely taxing to do hill repeats at that kind of speed against very strong competitors! I’d say this concludes the 2009 racing for me, but with cyclocross just starting up, I may have a new style of racing to enjoy during the fall.
Things to remember for next time: I was in the lowest gear the entire time (40×23). At this gear I was able to spin fast enough to not need to stand up at any point. On the flatter sections I considered shifting one over, but decided the extra 2 shifts was not worth the risk, especially with my currently sticky rear shifter.