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DANGER: Overhead Artillery Fire Across This Road

Written by Robert Wray

I woke well before 5 a.m. to travel from Austin to Fort Hood for the State Road Race, and rolled out into the dark early morning with my teammate, Michael Pincus.

The Men’s Cat 2 podium.

The State Road Race, the culmination of a seemingly never ending road season in Texas. The course, entirely inside the Fort Hood Military Base, features a 33-mile loop on a closed course. It is one of the most balanced courses, and hardest races on the Texas calendar. The race regularly features harsh cross winds through the wide open, fairly flat start-finish stretch, followed by four different little ring climb that last between two to three minutes. Here, Super Squadra’s Jordan Oroshiba, a Category 2 racer and college student at Texas State, describes his experience at the championship event.

I woke well before 5 a.m. to travel from Austin to Fort Hood for the State Road Race, and rolled out into the dark early morning with my teammate, Michael Pincus. We stopped at McDonalds for ‘Hot Cakes’ and discussed the things that cycling obsessed college students tend to discuss: bike racing, more bike racing, and school—primarily, how many of our college-aged peers had probably just finished their Friday night out and gone to bed while we prepared to race 100 hilly miles.

…by the time you leave Ft. Hood you will be blown into bits. It’s a hard race, every time.

Arriving at Fort Hood, we made note of the glorious warning sign as we entered the base: “DANGER: Overhead artillery fire across this road. Proceed at your own risk.” Indeed this warning seems to indicate that by the time you leave Ft. Hood you will be blown into bits. It’s a hard race, every time.

My race plan was simple, do as little as possible for 50 miles, do only what is necessary for the next 20 and give every last ounce of energy over the remaining 30 miles. It started out swell, on each climb of the first lap of the race I started at the front and ended at the back of the field. I know I wasn’t the only one doing this either, a number of the guys hitting it hard the last lap could be seen falling through the group with me. A group of two rolled up the road and I sat back worrying as little as possible, passing the time discussing whether or not “just whipping it out” was a good strategy. (Something I heard one teammate yell to another about halfway through our first lap. Don’t forget to use that port-a-john).

As we finished one of our three laps, the two-man break had a two minute gap. Not a big deal in the scheme of a long race. I moved towards the front of the group and stayed closer to the front for our ‘out’ leg. Instead of going from the front to the back, I simply dampened the accelerations by sliding back a couple spots and ramping up my speed a little slower than others. Guys started to chase, and the gap? It stayed the same. Likely not cause for concern. On the way back south, about 50 miles in… I got a bit antsy. Instead of sitting where I was supposed to and pedaling easy I followed a move and then drilled it over the top of the stair step ‘KOM’ climb on the course. That attack was brought back, but about five miles later I found myself rolling off the front, solo (rarely great with 40 miles left to race). After 10 minutes solo I was joined by three and then six more and eventually we had a group of ~20 riders with two off the front and 20 guys done for the day heading into the final lap. (I did mention this race is hard right?)

fort_hood

There is clear indication that your legs and soul will be destroyed on course.

As we rode into the headwind, our group of 20 made little headway into the break up the road, which was now hovering at about 1:20 in front of our group. Dissatisfied with the lack of willingness to work together, I tried to encourage people to work together with words. When that didn’t work, I attacked to create a more selective group which would work together. A small group came out and we caught the lead duet in maybe five minutes. Not long after this chase had occurred, we stopped working again. Right as the remains of the field came back together Vince Dietsch, Austinbikes, and Isaac Porterfield, Driveway Series Racing, slipped away. No one reacted immediately to their seeming slow roll off the front and quickly the gap was 30 seconds.

Over the climbs on the way back into town the fatigue of everyone, myself included became apparent. When we hit the KOM climb for the last time and some people with somewhat fresh legs attacked. I cramped, as did a number of other guys by the sound of it. (The same sound of agonizing despair I have heard after some large crashes.) I came over the top 10-15 seconds behind the group, put it in my 11 sat down, got as aero as I could and drilled it. Made it back… Phew. Then I attacked, and attacked, and attacked. My legs were cramping, but I wanted to win, and unless a group of guys who wanted to work HARD together got together, we were fighting for 3rd.

Past that, honestly, it all goes kinda vague. I was too deep in the hurt box to remember much…

Past that, honestly, it all goes kinda vague. I was too deep in the hurt box to remember much beyond some people attacking and floating up the road, it easing up somewhere inside one kilometer to go and me going full gas hoping to catch the people I saw floating ahead only to explode maybe 500 meters later. Impressively, I managed to roll across the line a full 30 seconds behind the field despite peeling off at about 300 meters. I rolled through in 22nd place, out of 22 finishers. Just cause you race strong, or hard, does not make you the best bike racer. After the race I got many compliments on how strong I rode, but the compliments should go to the guys on the podium—Isaac Porterfield, Vince Dietsch, and Mason Quintanna—who, like the new world champion, saved their matches until it counted and then used them to deliver a result.

After our respective races, the team went out for Mexican food. My teammate Grant Koontz had finished a respectable 10th in the Pro-Category 1 road race, and Michael had also made it into the money, finishing 18th. They were the only Super Squadra racers in the Pro-1 race. The team’s four founding members (David Wenger, Ian Dille, Phil Wikoff, and Steven Wheeler – the OGs as we call them) were having their own bro-tastic adventure in Richmond, Virginia, cheering on the world’s best bike racers on Libby Hill.

Over the summer, Grant, Michael, and I had traveled to California together for the under-23 national championships, where we had ridden amidst amazing Sierra Nevada scenery, sipped beer on the shores of Lake Tahoe, and raced our bikes as hard as we possibly could. And maybe, one day when we were older, we would partake in a trip that revolved around bike racing, but didn’t actually involve racing bikes. However, here, at this Mexican restaurant in Fort Hood, all we could talk about was how amazing salty chips and warm queso taste when you are completely, utterly, impossibly cracked.

About the author

Robert Wray

Robert is the publisher, founder, and button-pushin' monkey of TexasBikeRacing.com. He has 15 years’ experience in graphic design, art and creative direction, copywriting, brand development, marketing, and creative management. He lives in Austin and has developed a niche in the lifestyle and sports industry with clients including Harley-Davidson, Rossignol, Dynastar, Lange, and numerous cycling brands. He’s a big fan of coffee and anything with wheels.

Email him at gofast at texasbikeracing dot com

1 Comment

  • Jordan – great writeup! I’ve always found that course to be a challenge. I find that people usually attack near the ‘ urban village simulation’ on the back side of the course, from the left. I also find that the FINAL HILL, in the last 3K, tends to just destroy riders. I’ve also believed for years that a breakaway COULD win, but it would require the ability to recover from KOM hill, slip away, handle the outbound climb-to-the-furthest-point, and then complete faith in steady pacing and aerodynamics to keep it pinned.

    Fortune favors the bold, and while you didn’t get it this year, you will some day. Congrats on a great season, and W/Kg in the new year!

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