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09.16.13

Wimberly Takes 3rd at Masters National Champs

2013 USA Cycling Masters Road Nationals - Bend, OR

By Aaron Wimberley (Helen’s Cycles) 

Sometimes you can really surprise yourself when you take a chance. That definitely was the case for me going to Bend.

In the early part of the season I hadn’t even planned on going. By the end of the season, 40-something races later and fighting burnout, I REALLY hadn’t planned on going. Back in 2008 & 2009, I went to nats in Louisville when they had the so-called “Baby Masters” (30-34). I did OK in the ’08 road race, but got destroyed in both the ’08 & ’09 crits. So I had a pretty good idea of what caliber of competitors nats brings, which was even more of a reason for my hesitation. That being said, after quite a bit of encouragement from friends, teammates, & fellow SoCal competitors, I started looking at the big picture. My fitness this year has been great. I’ve had one of my best seasons ever. The course profile for the crit was perfect for me.  But, most of all, if I didn’t go, I would always wonder how I would’ve done. In all honesty, I thought my chances of a top 10 were slim:none, much less 3rd.

The day of the race I tried to relax as much as possible. With our race being the last one of the day (5:30pm), that was pretty tough to do. Especially when the first thing I saw when I looked on FB was, “CRASH! CRASHFEST! I GOT CRASHED OUT!” Then I had the whole mental game of deciding what strategy would work best. Do I sit in and hope it stays together for the sprint? Do I try to get in the breaks? If so, which ones? Who do I watch? Who’s the most important to watch? Let’s put it this way, when you’re solo in a field stacked with breakaway machines, sprinters, ex-pros, national champs, & world champs, there’s no such thing as the right strategy. You just race your bike as hard as you can without detonating before the finish.

When we lined up for the start [Mens CAT 1/2//3 35-39], I got as close to the front as I could. With 8 corners and a small field, I thought for sure there would be lots of heavy braking and a group would roll off  the minute any crashes occurred. From the gun, and for the first 3/4 of the race, we were flying. The only guys I really knew to watch were Rudy Napolitano, Mike Easter, Michael Olheiser, & Phil Tinstman. I’ve raced with these gentlemen enough to know that when they’re gone, they ain’t coming back. So I suffered at the hands of these guys for many laps as I tried to go with or bridge up to their multiple attacks. Towards the end of the race Rudy made a move that no one responded to. It was more like a move that no one could respond to (this was the category I was in). His gap grew pretty quickly. I thought for sure we were racing for 2nd. At one point, Olheiser, Tinstman, & Ivan Dominguez were working really hard to bring him back. Unfortunately, Rudy had a mechanical, losing his saddle, and ended up having to use one of the Shimano neutral support bikes. At that point he was chasing instead of leading.  I didn’t even realize this until the race was done, so the whole time I was thinking Rudy was up the road.

In the closing laps we had a couple of last-minute attacks. The newly crowned road race national champ, Stephen Bedford, I believe was in these moves, with one other rider who I unfortunately did not know. The last time I was coherent & not seeing doubles, I thought these two had made it up the road. So now I was thinking we were sprinting for 4th. The last lap I tried to stay in the top 5 as best as I could. I lost some positions coming out of turn 6 and made a huge effort to move back up before turn 7. I wasn’t far enough forward as we approached the final turn. The field was single file & taking the final corner a little wide. I jumped before the final turn & was basically in a full sprint from that point on. Out of the final corner I could see that Easter had started sprinting. Dominguez had come past him and was pulling away. When we passed the line I saw Ivan put his hands up & the officials call out Dominguez, Easter, Wimberley. At that point I was in disbelief. I really couldn’t believe it. “Wait! Did I just get 3rd?!”

To be on the podium with these gentlemen is a real honor.

To think that it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t taken the chance …well, you get my point. Thanks for reading.

A huge thank you to Team Helen’s and 8th Wonder Cycling, whose support helped make this trip possible. Another huge thank you to my family, friends, sponsors:  Helen’s Cycles, Trek Bikes, Bontrager, Troy Lee Designs, Spy Optic, SportMulti, FeedtheMachine.com, Bonkbreaker, Cytomax, MuscleMilk, and everyone else along the way. I am truly grateful.
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