An account of the day from Nick Diniz, who placed 3rd overall in the open division, 1st in his age category and was 1st Canadian overall.
"The start was much faster than I was expecting (like 45kph), so it was especially important to stay with the lead group. If there was any hesitation, I knew I would be dropped off the back, and might not see the front of the race again.
Since there was rain over night, we were really worried (but prepared) for the mud. It was 17km into the race, so I invested a bit of extra energy making sure I stayed near the front.
The group hit the muddy road, and I was in the top 10 wheels, thinking I’d be able to leverage a bit of my cyclocross skills to stay at the front. What I wasn’t prepared for was just how sticky this mud was and within 20 meters my whole bike was clogged, with my drivetrain and both wheels completely clogged. I didn’t bother running like many others, deciding that it was pointless to stress out. I convinced myself instead of racing today I’d just try to enjoy my ride since it seemed there was no other option than admit defeat.
Everybody was in the same boat though, and the bike race quickly turned into an army of people marching their bikes through the mud. I walked for about 45 minutes (5km) pushing my bike through wet grass on the side of the road to wash some of the mud off and get the wheels spinning again, using the walk to get as much fuel in me as possible while the stress was low. Once we were back on ridable roads, I was relaxed and my legs felt great, but the leisurely pace through the mud meant there was over 100 riders ahead of me.
I scraped all the mud off of my bike and got to work, riding a strong pace I knew I could hold all day. Rolled solo for 30 minutes, passing a few groups, and picked up one rider who was really eager to start driving the pace. Around 80km in, my bike started to clog up again, requiring me to use a paint scrapper on my fork and chain stays while rolling, which was a somewhat sketchy experience.
We kept on rolling by groups and picking up strong riders until the first support zone at 127km. After a smooth stop with Evert killing it in the pits and help from the Orange Seal mechanics cleaning my bike we rolled out in a solid group of 7. The vibes were really good in this group, and with 200km still to go we were all eager to ride steady and just keep on reeling in riders ahead.
It was getting really hot however, and around kilometer 200 I found myself rolling off the front of the group up every climb. With the finish getting closer and my legs still feeling great, I decided to up the pace again and go on solo. This was one of the toughest parts of the course physically, with a handful of steep climbs and really rough gravel, mixed with thunderstorms and heavy rain that had rolled in.
It was absolutely pouring at Aid Station 2, and my moral got another boost getting to see the whole BRIDGE crew. At this point I knew that I’d be able to ride strong to the finish only 70km away, and was mostly focused on riding smoothly to not flat or have any mechanical issues. There was one more muddy road around 50km to go, which required another 15-20minutes of walking. After making sure the drivetrain was clean to avoid mechanicals we ended up rolling with former World Tour pro Nicholas Roche, who drove it on the front for about 30km (which was one of the cooler experiences of my race). We let off the gas for the last 20km, blowing through foot deep puddles (some would call them rivers) on our way into Emporia for the finish.
We finished the race cruising easy into town, and even though I knew I had a really strong ride, I was still really happy to hear that I finished 3rd in the open race. My Surveyor performed flawlessly all day, and I had no flats or mechanicals, due in large part to the amazing support I had from Jason keeping the bike running smooth all week. I’m super grateful for the experience, and can’t wait for the next one."
- Nick Diniz