For one particular Saturday night, the reality becomes the dream: two athletes can lay down at night and dream for eight hours — but it can feel like forever.
You’re on top of the mountain, and there is no room left for anyone else up there but you. You are living the victory dream, and life is good.
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At the Sandy Hook TT, Elite Endurance athletes Amanda Rinderer and Chris Fritz both won the women’s and men’s overall, blazing the fastest times of the day with volatile performances. Sandy Hook is the prologue to the NJ TT Cup and is a flat, 7-mile out-and-back barrier spit — 2015 meant vicious ocean headwinds out, the wind pushing you home.
Amanda Rinderer is one of the state’s top triathletes and this season she wanted to start racing more time trials and road races. “I was ready for this race,” Amanda said, “and the bike is my strongest suit out of the three disciplines that I train for.”
The alarm went off at 6 and she could hear the wind howling. “I live a block from the water so I’m used to the wind howling, but not like this.”
At the venue, her husband helped her get her TT bike ready on the trainer. She warmed up slowly on the trainer, then found a steady, moderate effort.
She was not used to someone holding her bike at the start, but she remained focused, and Amanda just started riding. “I rode the same way I would during a long interval,” and she noted the headwind going out was brutal. On-course, she made instant calculations that the strong gusts were over 30 mph.
Amanda rode small and pedaled with strength. She knew the distance was only three-and-a-half miles to the turnaround, stay on this effort.
She hit the turnaround and told herself this was no time to relax — she came around and continued to hammer it. “Even with that tailwind, I felt like I was working just as hard or harder on the way back.”
“I knew I rode well,” Amanda added, “because my wattage was consistently hovering above where my strongest intervals are. But everyone starts at different times and it was difficult to know where I actually ended up against the other girls.”
And when she found out, she was surprised by this fact: Amanda Rinderer was 1st place overall.
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Chris Fritz, the men’s overall fastest ride of the day, was also surprised with his placing. “I no longer specialize in TTs or train the way I used to train when they were my ‘specialty’ in 09-11,” Chris said, “but I love them. I love the preparation, the pain, the intensity. I had significant hip-flexor issues my prior radical position had created, and I made some significant changes to my bike fit on the TT rig to alleviate these issues. My workouts felt great after these changes, the power was there.”
Chris wanted to place well in his 35+ age group, and as Saturday loomed closer and larger, the facts were clear — wind was going to be a huge factor.
Chris planned for all or nothing — he noted he would rather crash than lose because of compromising speed with safer wheels. Chris was confident he could succeed.
When Chris arrived Saturday morning, he was told many riders had assessed the conditions, went home. Chris had his P3 set up with an aggressive Jet up front, full disc in the rear. Chris is an experienced athlete and brought back-up wheels, conservative options, but he went with his gut.
Chris warmed up, not a long warm-up, and then lined up — and he was off onto the course. “I was getting blown around with that Jet 9 for sure,” Chris said, but he rode in the center of the right lane so passing cars wouldn’t get too close and the wind wouldn’t steer him into sandy.
Chris was able to hold his form to the turnaround, and then he nailed it. “Then the fun part,” Chris said. “32, 38, 29, 36. The speed was exhilarating.”
He crossed the finish line at 35.6mph.
Chris and his coach predicted he’d be 20 watts higher, but in these chaos conditions Chris knew he rode well.
He was shocked to learn he won the overall.
“When I win, I recognize the significance and breathe in the reward,” Chris said, “justifying all that I’ve worked for, motivating me to continue to improve so that I may win again. Bike racing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in life and I love every aspect of it. The greatest reward is winning.”
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Amanda Rinderer is a champion triathlete and is targeting peak performance for the Atlantic City 70.3 Half-Ironman.
Chris Fritz is a multi-time state champion and is planning to race a variety of TTs, road races, and criteriums this season.