While summer heat should be no surprise racing across the south, the record breaking, triple digit highs the LITESPEED – BMW team faced down in the inaugural Cookeville Regional Medical Center road race made for some truly epic racing on the last day of June! Taking place on the former Avery Trace course, LITESPEED – BMW brought Chris Chotas, Chris Brown, and new rider Anders Swanson to contest the hilly 52 mile race in central Tennessee. The other strong state and regional teams were all represented – Friends of Great Smokies, Swiftwick, Marx and Bensdorf, and Sonic brought multiple riders, setting the stage for a great day of racing.
With temperatures already in the high 90s at the 9:25 start, the team aimed to place a rider in any early breakaways, and then keep one or two riders fresh to counter if the break was reeled in. LITESPEED – BMW rode the plan to perfection, as Chris Chotas helped initiate and drive an early break of 4. They were joined shortly after by a few more riders, including Andrew Reardon of Swiftwick, Matthew Munier of NashvilleCyclist.com, and Ben Knoernschild of Marx and Bensdorf. As this break went up the road, Chris and Anders were content to let other teams go the front and manage the work of bringing the gap down. Temps soared above 100, and the field began to shrink under the incredible heat and the rolling and sometimes exposed course. Fortunately, LITESPEED – BMW was well fueled with plenty of Cytomax and a variety of Clif Gels and Blocks; if there was a day where nutrition and hydration could make the difference, this was it! The gap to the break hovered between 1:30 and 2:30, and as the main field approached mile 40, the pack had shrunk to about 12 riders in pursuit of the break.
Seeing an opportunity to break free of the remaining parts of the field and potentially bridge to the break, Chris Brown put in a splitting attack up the 2nd to last climb at mile 42 – a short but steep punch that flattened out enough on top to successfully ride a gap on to the finish. There was no response from the field and Anders launched as well, riding with Chris up and over the climb. After reaching the top of the climb, Chris and Anders rode up to Chotas, who after an amazing effort for 40 miles in the break had just slipped back from the remaining group of 4 breakaway riders. More on Chris C’s efforts later, which were all the more impressive at the finish.
After descending, Chris and Anders settled in to a two man rotation to bring the remaining riders back. Following some huge efforts from each rider the break eventually came in to view, but just 45 seconds too late as they hit the final climb out of reach. Anders ended up 4th, Chris Brown 6th, and despite the extraordinary amount of work he put in early during the break, Chris Chotas held off the field for an 11th place finish. A pretty amazing ride given the record breaking conditions! Andrew Reardon of Swiftwick took the win after his effort to bridge early and join the break. Although the team just missed the podium, having all three riders finish in high places was a testament to a well raced effort, great teamwork, and clutch nutrition from Cytomax and Clif Bar! Despite the heat, it was tremendous effort from the LITESPEED – BMW team on a course which made a very welcome return to the racing calendar. The team is already looking forward to returning to the course next year, but hopefully with some cooler weather!