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Ken Woods Road Race

Posted on June 1, 2021 at 1:35 PM

Ken Woods Road Race May 21, 2021 By: Matt Denis

An often-overlooked aspect of the glamorous profamateur bike racing scene are the hotels you end up

in weekend after summer weekend. The final preparation for big days in the saddle usually consists of

piling four bikes, four bags, and four bodies into the cheapest room still available when we finally got

around to booking 36 hours previous. All of which I only mention to say that no one was surprised to

see, as we rolled up to our motel in Red Wing, MN, that it was in the shadow of a penitentiary. Lucky for

us, it also abided by the other rule of the road: never be further than three miles from a Perkins.

Potential jailbreaks notwithstanding, we were able to get our pre-race pancakes, which is all that really


With pro races all pushed back further on the calendar than in years past, the local racing scene has

been filled with some extremely talented fields, and the Ken Woods Road Race in Cannon Falls was no

different. The field wasn’t overly large, but included an assortment of pros, former pros, and very

talented juniors. With a climb near the finish of each 20-mile lap, we assumed that the day would go to

a break filled with Project Echelon riders, and our plan was to try to get me into that break. The first

hour of racing was full of attacks, counterattacks, 100% humidity, long stretches in the gutter in the

crosswinds, and a good tempo up the climb. Nothing was able to get away, due in large part to the great

work being done up front by Reece. He patrolled the moves, never let the pace slow too much, and

generally looked after me. Behind, Trevor was helping to keep me in position and relaying information

about the composition of the group.

Around the 35 mile mark, the move finally went. The pace slowed in the crosswinds, and in the ensuing

bunch-up, John Heinlein of Project Echelon, Chase Wark of Guillotine, and Patrick Welch of Vol Gas

came up the outside from the back of the group with a full head of steam. Given their strength, and the

fact that they represented the major teams in the race, I think most in the group knew right away that

the podium had just rolled out of reach. I made a couple of attempts to get across with Luke Feuerhelm

of Lux, but to no avail.

Once the move was gone, the race behind settled into more of a rhythm. I rolled through with Luke and

some of the members of Project Echelon, who wanted to make sure the break wasn’t completely out of

reach if something were to happen to John. Given the heat and the intensity of the racing, it was hard to

organize a true chase, as it seemed like someone was always trying to miss a turn. I figured someone

would try to use the hill on lap 3 to figure out who couldn’t vs. who wouldn’t, and give the group a much

needed reshuffling. Matt Zimmer of Project Echelon attacked and distanced Inno Zavyalov, who was

trying to follow, and I figured the time had come. I bridged across with only Matt’s teammate Peter on

my wheel and the three of crested the hill together, with Inno using his TT prowess to get across before

we could open the gap too much.

The final lap was tactical and slow. Inno didn’t want to work because Chase was up the road, and I was

trying to figure out how Project Echelon wanted to play their numerical advantage in the chase group. In

the end, we stayed together and took steady pulls to make sure no one from behind could get back on

terms. The tactical nature only heightened on our final time up the climb, everyone looking at one

another as we posted by far our slowest time up the steeper part of the rise. With Inno and I unwilling

to roll the dice with an attack, a sprint for 4 th was in the cards. I positioned myself in third wheel, feeling

good about having Peter, who I know is a fantastic sprinter, stuck on the front. With a couple hundred

meters to go, I laid off Inno’s wheel and wound up my sprint. Peter is a smart racer. He’d put the race in


the gutter, forcing anyone who wanted to sprint to do so on the windy side of the road. Coupled with

Matt calling my move ahead as I wound it up, I never was able to get the initial gap on Peter, and the

two of us drag raced up the final slight rise in the road, with Peter nudging ahead in the final 50 meters.

In the end, while I would have loved to have made the winning move, and felt like I had the legs to do

so, the fifth place was my best result in a P/1/2 race since upgrading, and doing it in such a talented field

was even more icing on the cake. It tells me that the work that Eric and I have been doing is paying off

ahead of some of my bigger targets this year. The first of those targets is now rapidly approaching. I’m

writing this from my parents’ house in Pittsburgh, and will be traveling to upstate New York for the

Whiteface Hillclimb, (8 miles at 8.5%) on Friday, June 4. Stay tuned to hear how I manage carrying the

torch for all the Iowa flatlanders who insist that a 20 mph headwind is just as hard as a 6% climb.

Ken Woods Statistics

Place: 5 th /21

Distance: 83.4 miles

Elevation: 3400’

Avg Speed: 25.0 mph

Avg Power/NP: 256/312

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