This was my first year racing Purgatory, so although I was lacking a bit of course knowledge I did come in with some pretty good fitness. The course has two main distinguishing features—the 1 km climb up Lackey road followed by the open (to the wind) and straight false flat finish; and a 2.5 mile twisty descent on the back side, followed by some more rollers. On race day it was really gusty, but this was only an issue at two spots—the finishing straight and in a section that passed by Manchaug pond before the turn onto Lackey rd. We did 4 laps of the 11 mile loop. There was a neutral start,which meant we actually did the climb 5 times.
The Cat 4/40+ field was on the small side, with roughly 30 or so racers. It didn’t seem like any strong teams were that well represented—hopefully making things a bit more open. I spent the first lap just sitting in and getting an eye for the course. The pace was not very high as no one really seemed to want to take control. There were a couple of short attacks but they were quickly reeled back. Lap two was was similar and riding down the long decent was fairly conservative. When we were caught by the cat 5 break, I realized it was time to ramp things up…a lot!
Coming into Lackey at the end of lap two (our third time up) I decided to attack and see if I could start a serious move and take advantage of the disorganization in the group. I went hard on the climb and then settled into a high tempo. No one came with me, but created a nice gap really quickly, so I pushed on hoping some strong riders would bridge up. I really took advantage riding solo on the decent and pushing hard. When I looked back every now and again, I could see one rider trying to bridge but the rest of the group was nowhere in sight. I pushed on thinking I might have company soon to help ease the load a bit.
The next time up Lackey I was suffering a bit but was able to keep a strong pace. I couldn’t see any chasers and soon after I could hear the neutral service car right behind me—a nice sign that I had built a strong lead. The last time down the descent I gave it everything again, hoping I would have enough left to finish solo. The final time up Lackey I really went into the red giving it everything I had left, but going pretty slow at that point. The finish could not come quick enough, and I soon came across the line for a really satisfying solo win! The next chaser came in almost 1’30 later followed by a small chase group another 1’40 down.
This win was a result of a solid tactical read of the race. While I was riding strong and able to use my descending skills, I was also able to take advantage of the group being disorganized and a chasing effort that couldn’t quite reel me back in.