The French Broad Cycling Classic is one of our favorite races every season. Even though this year it was being hijacked under the SRS Asheville moniker and the road race course was significantly changed, we were excited to get to the mountains. We were also excited to see and stay with some of our favorite hosts, with the best pets and most delicious coffee we’ll likely ever encounter.
After getting in late Friday night, we unfortunately awoke to the sound of rain. We had breakfast and a few french presses of the aforementioned coffee and kept an eye on the radar, hoping the skies would clear in the afternoon for the crit. We’ve done French Broad…excuse me, SRS Asheville, 4 years now, and the crit course has been different each year, but none less exciting and more mundane than what awaited us at the Mellowdrome. To put it simply, the Mellowdrome is a paved, 1/3rd of a mile circle. There is one left turn that starts when the official blows his whistle and ends when the race is over.
Having never seen the course before, we were relieved when we arrived to see it wasn’t as bad as we envisioned. We were excited to see the skies beginning to clear, and even more excited when we saw Mitch finish 7th in the Cat 4 race, in the rain, without any crashes! The day was looking up. Myles and Ken were very active on the front of their race, but with the course how it was there was little chance of any moves slipping away, and had no matches left (along with highly impaired wheelspray vision) to contest the sprint for the win. WIth 4 guys in the Pro1/2 race, we had high hopes of a good result. The track was drying up, the whistle blew, and the field began turning left at 30 mph for 75 minutes. Each of the guys tried their hand dancing off the front of the field, but to no avail. There was one last breakaway attempt to reel in before the sprint, so the guys amassed on the front of the field. Alex all but single-handedly brought back the break and Zack sprinted to 13th place.
With the crit safely behind us and a long, hilly road race the next morning, there was only one thing a big group of bike racers wanted to do: EAT. A table for 9 at our favorite Weaverville pizza joint was the scene of the next few hours, where we had a couple beers and definitely impressed our waitress that scoffed at us when we ordered 5 large pizzas.
The road race Sunday morning was different than usual, but not any less difficult. A 14-mile circuit with a steep 1 mile climb at over 7% gradient each lap, before a fast descent and winding river valley road back to the foot of the climb, to be repeated many times. At 8 am, Zack, Justin, Alex, and Kellen were off. After a few laps and trips up the climb at undesirable paces, the race was blown to bits and in groups all over the road. Out of contention, Kellen gladly abandoned in the feed zone on the 4th lap to hand out bottles to the guys still with a chance on the last 2 laps. Justin finished the day in 26th, and Alex finished with a very admirable 20th place and in the money. The plan of the day for the 3′s race was to ride hard and get Ken in the moves while Myles played the role of uber-teammate. Myles drove the pace on the climb each lap to make attacking nearly impossible while others huffed and puffed behind him, with the exception of Ken who was probably chatting about nothing in particular and making many enemies. On the last lap it was down to a group of about 10 riders. Ken launched a great sprint, but just a touch too early, getting passed by a handful of riders and bike-thrown by another in the final meters to finish 7th. Mitch also had a good ride, and made great use of some mountain riding trips with Barrett in the Spring to eek out a top 15.
RIP Alley Cat