Race Recap Hotter ‘n Hell
This year was my first time to make the trip down to Wichita Falls, Texas for Hotter ‘n Hell. The 80 mile road race is held in conjunction with the largest century ride in the country, bringing over ten thousand cyclists to the city for the weekend. On the flat roads of North Texas, the typical challenges of the race are the heat and the crosswinds, but this would be a particularly cool edition of the event with temperatures in the low 70’s for the 7 AM start and only reaching into the mid 80’s by the finish.
Hotter ‘n Hell is one of the most prestigious road races in Texas, reflected by the strong field which this year included Elevate-KHS, Elbowz, Meteor x Giordana, DNA, and many other strong Texas teams and riders. The plan going in was to be reactive and follow the right moves to get into a good breakaway. With Ben Gramling as my only teammate in the race, we knew it would be a tough task covering every move against teams with five or more riders.
Once we got out of the neutral start section and into the race, it didn’t take long for the attacks to come. And once they started they didn’t stop. The race had the feel of a crit, with no breakaway ever able to really get established. I got in as many of the short lived attacks as I possibly could, never knowing which one might finally survive. At about 15 miles to go we had a strong group off the front of a strung-out peloton, but the group may have been just a little too big and couldn’t quite get out of reach.
With just over 10 miles to go, two riders – Matthew Davis (LaS’port) and John Ryan (Matrix/RBM) – went off the front just before we made a turn that would give us a tailwind all the way to the finish. A few minutes later, I saw Tanner Ward (DNA) moving up the side of the peloton and followed his wheel hoping he was preparing to attack. We jumped to get across to the breakaway and there was not much reaction from the rest of the peloton. With less than twenty minutes of racing left and plenty of firepower in our group I was fully committed to making this breakaway survive to the finish. At first we were working well together, but eventually some riders began to tire and think of saving something for the finish. We got a time check with about five miles to go telling us we had a 30 second advantage on the peloton. This was the only time in the whole race that a breakaway was established long enough to actually receive a time check. Most of the work over the last five miles fell to Tanner and me.
As we approached the final mile, we still had about a 25 second lead on the chasing peloton, led by Elbowz. I attacked on the ramp up to an overpass. I was only able to drop one rider, with Matthew and Tanner still on my wheel. I tried to get one of them to come through and lead us into the finish, but they sat firmly on my wheel. I had made my move and it didn’t work. With the peloton closing in quickly I decided to lead the other two into the final sprint to make sure I at least got onto the podium. Matthew held off Tanner for the win and I crossed the line a second behind them and just ten seconds ahead of the peloton.
I went into the race without any expectations, knowing my chances for success on such a flat course were pretty slim. I knew my only chance was to get in a breakaway, and I was glad to see my aggressive racing pay off with a podium result. Thanks for reading! As always, I would like to thank our great sponsors at City Title & Closing, Smithfield, Shoulder Center of Arkansas, CLIF Bar, Custom Electronics, and The Bike Route.