Wheels of Thunder Men’s 45+: Hopping the Hofer Express
Craig Hofer, John Talley, and Joe Paulson modeled the Magenta in the 2012 Wheels of Thunder 45+ criterium, held yesterday in cool but thankfully dry conditions on the 1.6 mile undulating course near the Denver Broncos headquarters in Dove Valley. In their brief pre-race strategy discussion, Craig and Joe agreed that getting Craig into a break should be the plan of the day. With the impressive form that Craig had demonstrated two weeks earlier to make the podium at the Koppenberg, Joe was hopeful they could avoid a field sprint, as his own form was highly suspect. He had mostly recovered from the Federal Center crash he and JT had been caught in a few weeks earlier, but had only gotten his repaired bike back on Tuesday, and had promptly pulled something in his right leg in his first hard efforts in the road position after weeks on the TT bike. He was also still dragging from the previous sleepless Weekend from Hell involving two emergency root canals in two days. Joe thought “I know I didn’t bring my A game, but do I even have my “B” game, or perhaps just my “Wanna-Be” game?”
During the 45 minute race, Craig jumped into several promising attacks, and JT and Joe frustrated the chase efforts as much as possible, but nothing came close to staying away. The last fruitless attempt was reeled in at the beginning of the bell lap, and Joe started thinking out the end game. What’s that group up the road?!? Oh, that’s right- the 45+ cat 4 race started right behind us; it must be them. Where’s JT? There he is; grab his back wheel. Oops- pinched off in corner 1; got to fight back on. ”Hey JT- I’m behind you.” Now, stay tight through corner 2- made it. Whoa, we’re starting to get close to that cat 4 pack. Where’s Craig? Just then, a tap on my hip: it’s Craig coming by, pointing to JT’s wheel. Craig rides past JT, tapping JT’s hip and pointing him on to Craig’s wheel. Just like that, we’re in lead-out train formation!
Craig ramps up the speed, and takes control of the front of the now lined-out field, with JT and Joe tucked in for the ride. We’re more than a 1/2 mile out, but he keeps pulling like a train. Here comes the final corner. Danger time, will we be swamped? No, Craig somehow keeps the power on, and we’re through cleanly. JT takes over for the long front straight, but we’re about to catch the cat 4 field. This is going to get complicated. Now at top speed, JT stays in the downwind gutter as long as he can to minimize the draft behind us, but we’re going to have to go out and pass on the upwind side. Just as JT starts to move right, Joe’s peripheral vision catches something on the far right- here come the sprinters! It’s way to early, but got to light it up right now to avoid getting boxed into the back of the 4s. Out clean. Passing the group like they’re parked; made it!
There’s the 200 meter sign up ahead. 200 Meters?!? No way I can hold the front that long! After that lead-out, got to try. Are they coming? Don’t Look!!! If you look, you lose. 100 meters; starting to bog down as the hill ramps up. No- dig deeper! 50 meters; you look, you lose! 20 meters; find something more, anything more. The line! Yes!!! The chasers are still a couple bike lengths back; got it! I should put my arms up…nah- too tired.