Thomas Ross Hallock

2004 Texas State Championship Road Race

I found this old e-mail Steen sent to the race team back in July:

On Jul 29, 2004, at 6:12 PM, Steen Rose wrote:

The State Road Race, October 10th, is my big goal for the fall. I am going to win it. I was 7th there last year, on the same course. It’s late in the year, and its long and hard, but I’m going to show up to win.

…and remember thinking that it seemed a little bit pretentious. A friend of mine later reminded me that it’s only pretentious if the claim isn’t fulfilled. :)

Before the race started, I made a commitment to myself that I would not do any work until at least 90 miles into the race. I had already pledged to helping Steen win this race as he requested back in July, so my job was to “manage” the later breaks and I wanted to be fresh when the time came.

So, despite the obligatory early moves that go from the gun and somehow manage to stay away until the pack begins to worry near the end of the race, I did practically nothing; just sat in, ate several Clif bars, and watched the race as a passenger. Fortunately, Keith McCulloum managed to bridge up to the main break in a 4 man chase group, This eased our minds and allowed us to take on a laissez-faire attitude whenever things would stir up in the pack. Because of Kieth’s presence in the break all would not be lost if it stayed away until the end of the race.

I did pull off a couple of moves and managed to get second on the first king of the mountain sprint. And then there was the time two laps later, when Greg Germer warned Steen and me to “be ready at the top of McMountain”, and we formed a solid break/chase group of three for several miles. Only being a half-hearted effort, we succumbed to the chasing pack rather quickly.

Sitting in was difficult, and it helped to stay near the back to blind myself from any action at the front of the pack. It also helped to know that with more than 60 contenders, the field was more ambitious than normal given the context of this event.

The early break was caught on McMountain near the end of lap 6, after being away for 65 miles. Counter attacks came just after the feed zone and a few riders got up the road. Though they kept their distance for a lap, it was apparent that they were not making little time on the now tiring pack.

Near the beginning of the last lap, the pack split almost exactly in half. Being at the back I didn’t see what caused it and still have no idea why this happened. No-one seemed interested in bringing it back together and the two halves just started drifting apart. Before I knew it, there was a 40 second gap between the two packs. With just about 3/4 of a lap until the finish, Steen suggested I just set a solid tempo on the front and not let the front pack get too far up the road.

Per Steen’s recommendation, I went to the front as soon as we turned onto Highway 6 and started putting in my first genuine effort for the day, setting a moderate pace. I started feeling myself coming into form and gradually picked up the pace until I was setting a pretty hard tempo. I remained exclusively at the front, eying the shrinking separation between me and the pack. As we turned off Hwy 6, I looked back at the pack and to my amazement, there were only 8 of us left, with Steen right on my wheel. Though this may have looked like a breakaway to a spectator, this group was not working like one: I was pulling Steen up to the pack, others were welcome of hang on if they wanted, but I wasn’t really interested in trading pulls at this point.

Steen tried to work the crosswind by positioning me all the way to the left with just enough room for him to get a draft but leave nothing for the riders behind him. “move right about two inches… perfect!”. I pulled for a couple more miles and took a quick break to recover a little, but was quickly back on the front. Our best chance of winning this race was to catch the main group before McMountain so we could use the hill as a launching point for a final attack. Robbie Robinette accelerated and halved the gap. I pulled the rest of the way back up, joining the main pack right at the base of McMountain.

At the same time we caught the main pack, they had caught the leading break of three, which put us in the lead group. I sat in to recover a bit and waited until we were about halfway up the hill before I made my final attack. The whole time, Steen was tightly on my wheel and the two of us had a good gap by the top of the climb. We knew this was our only chance, so I started giving everything I had. In this situation, getting about a 30 second separation from the pack is key to making the break stick. Steen and and I began trading pulls. I glanced over my shoulder and it looked like the pack behind us was fracturing under the attacks of people hoping to bridge up to us. Eventually, Stefan Rothe bridged up solo. By the time he caught us, he was understandably cooked, but he was still willing to offer what he could.

After looking over my shoulder again, it looked like we were actually going to make it; I could no longer see the pack any more. After the right turn into the finishing stretch came a shallow-grade but long-enough hill to stir things up a little more. So, I turned the screws just enough to hear Stefan put out a yell and see his wheel disappear. Steen came around Stefan as he fell off, and the the two of us rode across the line to the cheers and applause of a welcoming crowd of spectators. Steen took the win as scheduled.

Things couldn’t have turned out any better for the team, and I’m glad I was able to deliver on a commitment made to a solid teammate.

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