This is one of our FAVORITE events of the racing season. Karel has raced this event for the past two years and placed 34th his first year and 14th last year. This race is open to Pro Teams Only and if you aren't on a professional team (full-time Pro) then you must be invited. Although Karel was in the money for both years he had a few of his team members with him last year. This year, Karel was all alone, racing for an overall place and a possible position for the $15,000 overall purse prize (largest single-day pursue for GA). This race is known as the fastest cycling event in the US and with a downhill finish, I always get chills watching the finish.
Last year I ran the 10K which is in conjunction with the cycling event. The event also has an incline skate division, walk division and wheelchair division. The whole course is closed to traffic and the course is NOT easy. You are either going up or down (as you can see in my pictures...if they do the course justice).
We left for Marietta GA (just outside Atlanta) on Sunday morning. I was able to get in a 30 mile ride before we left and at 8:45am we hit the road for our 6 hour drive to Marietta. Luckily, we didn't get our typical ATL traffic and the ride went smoothly. Campy was a joy in the car (like always) and when he wasn't sleeping, kept us very entertained. We brought sandwiches with us so with only a few quick stops we arrived shortly after 3pm.
We stayed at the Homestead Suites in Marietta, about 1 mile from the race start at Cumberland Mall. I always look for Extended stay-type hotels when we travel because I enjoy having a full kitchen when we travel. Usually, the stove and big fridge (and extra space) come in handy when we travel for races for more than 2 days but I don't think we have ever stayed in a hotel without a fridge and/or microwave. Campy made himself at home as soon as we arrived by playing with his bear (he only knows his toys as "bears") on our bed.
Karel wanted to loosen up his legs so as he rode his bike, Campy and I went to the US10K expo. Campy was the center of attention and he surely enjoyed everyone telling him how cute he is...ok, I enjoyed it as well :)
Around 4:45pm Karel, Campy and I headed to the Cheesecake factory, hoping that they would allow dogs in outdoor seating....Nope. I wanted Karel to have a good dinner so I told Karel to order something and we could pick it up when it was ready. Karel ordered orange chicken w/ Pasta (I ate our food that we brought in the room) and while that was being prepared we headed to Hawthorne Suites for Karel's packet pickup.
Karel and I both eat early (and not a lot) on the night before a race and luckily, the Cheesecake Factory does not go overboard on portions when ordering out as they do inside the restaurant. Around 6pm we were back in the room and after eating our dinners it was finally time for a little resting. Campy and I were pooped but Karel wanted to venture out in Marietta and headed to the International Market to do a little shopping. He came back with lots of interesting foods and fruit and I welcomed a few "international" treats for our trip home. At 9:30pm, lights were out.
We woke up at 5:30am on Monday morning and Karel had his oatmeal and coffee. Campy and I headed out at 6:35am for the feed zone.
Because the entire race course for the runners (Cobb parkway) is closed to traffic at 6:45, I wasn't able to watch the race start, which is super exciting to watch. There are SO many athletes in one area, it is just amazing.
I headed 5 miles down the road and parked at the feed zone for the cyclist. The cyclists do 11, 5-mile loops so it was nice knowing that I was able to see Karel every 10-12 minutes. The course is filled with rollers and after 11 loops, the races make a sharp left hand turn to the finish. The cyclists go in the opposite direction from the runners and I remember last year cheering for Karel as I was running to the finish line. Karel told me he likes hearing the cheers from the runners, since the runners just keep coming and coming as the cyclists are racing.
There was a 3-man breakaway for most of the race and the winner of the race (Frank Traveiso) was in the break for a few of the laps. The break got caught with 1 lap to go and I knew the finish would be exciting.
With 3 laps to go, Campy and I made our 1 mile walk to the finish on rolling hills. I ran a few minutes with Campy on the downhill finish because he kept looking at me like "why aren't we running mommy? Everyone else is!"
We found a good spot for the finish and the announcer (who I absolutely LOVE listening to, who also announces speedweek in GA) did a great job getting everyone pumped up. The finish is crazy fast and you can hear the guys running out of gears and pushing as hard as possible. It is so crazy fast, it is almost scary.
Like the last 2 years, I didn't spot Karel crossing the line. Along with trying to take a video (which didn't turn out that well) and holding tightly to Campy's leash, I just hoped that he would have a good (and safe) finish.
After everyone crossed the finish line, Campy and I walked to the other side of the finish line and spotted Karel and his exhausted face. I asked him how he did and he said "I think 10th or 12th". I told him GREAT!!
Karel was anxious to cool-down so I told him we would meet him back at the hotel. With payout usually taking 30 minutes after the results are posted and Campy and I having a 1 mile hike back to our car, we decided to get going. As we were walking I hear the announcer call out top 10 cyclists.
And in 10th place...no Karel.
Bummer, I know he would have loved to be top 10.
And in 9th place....
Are you kidding???? I didn't have my phone on me and I knew Karel heard his name on the loudspeaker so I just started to talk to Campy. "Can you believe it Campy? Karel got 9th place!!!". Campy listens very well. I was so excited I was just smiling all the way back to the car. Of course, I find a text from Karel when I get to the car "I GOT 9th!!!".
Although the money is nice, Karel is super excited to have a top 10 finish in an NRC event. This race had 170 starters and is absolutely a race for the big pro teams.
Karel, I'm SO proud of you! I know you work just as hard on the bike as you do in both Trek Stores that you manage. You have passion for whatever you do and you are such an inspiration to me and many others. Most of all, you love being on the bike and it shows. :)
Here are his stats:
Total Time: 2hours and 18 minutes
54x11 gear ratio
Top speed (finish) 55 MPH
Enjoy the pics.
Since my video isn't so good...here's a great video of the finish.