I thought I would try this one again, since last year half the field dropped out so I got fifth place.
Once more the start and finish were on the flat side of the course, though the finish was closer to the start than last year. There were two groupings of races, a batch starting at 8 am which included women, 5s, and several classes of juniors (this was again a LAJORS race); and the batch at 11 with the 1-2s, 3s, master 1-2s, and even the 4s. So I got to sleep in, and didn't have to ride with 5s. Win, win.
Not quite as hot or windy as last year, so I could forget about persevering through attrition. 12 in my field, more in the others of the 11-am batch. Starting from the main crossroads that is Herriman, a very gradual climb persists for several miles until the actual climb, up by the Kennecott copper mine tailings pile. Top of the climb, former site of the start/finish, ick. There is a guy in the field who says he is an expert-class mountain bike racer, so of course he fiddles around on the false-flat before taking off on the climb. Predictably I get gapped, though I think there was one guy even slower than me on that first lap. Yay.
But after the climb is a nice downhill, and I wasn't gapped too bad (or tired, yet) so I caught on there. Then there is another false-flat for a couple miles, but downhill so it's easy to push along the 53x12. Two more miles of actual-flat brings us past the finish line to the crossroads, 9 miles down, 5 laps to go.
Next lap, same thing. The pack (all 11 of us) fractures a bit, me in the rear and a lead group of 5 with various stragglers. Still not too tired, I sweep up the stragglers on the descent and bring them to the leaders on the false-flat-down. One more lap down. Shortly afterwards, I overhear somebody talking about "that big guy, pulled us all the way around!" and I have to laugh to myself, remembering the "hey! you! big boy! you sumo!?" bit from the good old days of RUCT.
Lap three, more of the same old, same old. Getting boring, also taking me longer to catch up. Lap four, I can't make it back to the leaders, and form my own pack instead. I have three disciples who are willing to suck my wheel down the hill and on the flats in exchange for not being strong enough (or interested enough) to drop me really badly on the way up the hill. Lap five.
Lap six, one follower drop his chain before the climb. The remaining faithful can see the leaders off in the distance, and we mount a somewhat determined chase until the turn onto the finish straight. It's a mile and a half to the finish, and we could most likely have barely caught the two guys in front of us (four before them were not possible to catch) at the finish, only to be outsprinted there. So we ease up a little, contemplating endgame strategy. One guy comes up with "try to outsprint Henry starting from 500 meters out", I go with him and appear to still have some jump left despite sucking at climbing and doing lots of pulling-around. Seventh place is mine, all mine. Woo hoo.
Nothing but prestige, and respect from my fellow competitors, comes with this placing, so after a banana or two I head home early for once.