Grayson Church | Successful & Important Road Racing Performances as he Builds to Late-May Peak
Grayson Church has had a successful career racing his road bike. He won the Page Valley Road Race in 2012 and the Appalachia Road Race in 2014 with late attacks on the final climb, dropping the break. He has also twice won the Jeremiah Bishop Gran Fondo overall, a classic platform to showcase his raw climbing strength.
As he matures as an athlete, Grayson can compete more effectively in events that don’t fully suit his strengths, and this year he is doing more flat and rolling road races, armed with a deeper, more medium power curve – as a skilled and accomplished racer, Grayson is building his form and confidence for a peak performance at late-May’s Tour of Tucker County and Miller School road races.
His first race of the year was at the monument Jefferson Cup, and Grayson managed an error-free day, scoring a top-10 with 6th.
“First-race nerves in the early sketchiness had me riding at the back, playing it safe,” Grayson said. He had planned to stay in the first third of the peloton, but there was too much in-fighting up there early-on, including a vicious crash.
Halfway into the race, as he got stronger and more comfortable, Grayson found himself rotating closer to the front. He noted the power was there when he wanted, although sharp anaerobic efforts still left him feeling not comfortable, not in control.
In the final third of the race, a dangerous move launched off the front and Grayson jumped hard and bridged solo, but when he reached the leaders the riders were fading – Grayson did instant calculations on the road, decided to sit up and wait for the field.
On the second-to-last lap, a serious move snapped off – two dangerous riders, GONE.
“I’d been trying to go with some moves and was a bit gassed when it went so had to hope we’d pull it back,” Grayson said, and the bunch was lighting it up as competing teams were both fighting to bring the move back, others disrupting the chase.
The 2-man move was 35 seconds up the road. As the field rolled into a steep climb, Grayson blasted off. He accelerated with everything and had a large gap immediately. He buried his head and locked in that steady-hard bridging effort, but he could feel himself the fading FAST – the top-end was incinerating his reservoir of power.
Grayson hovered in No Man’s Land, and one rider bridged up. Grayson noted he was feeling better as they began to work together, staying on the gas. Then another rider bridged. They continued to work, and then one of them began to sit on more.
And just like that five more riders bridge.
One lap to go, two riders up the road, Grayson rotating with a chase group of eight just behind. Early-on, not a ton of cooperation, desperate attacks launching in hopes of solo bridges, but nothing stuck. The eight riders settled on cooperating with half-a-lap remaining, actually pulling the leaders down to under 20 seconds.
“I thought for sure we’d close it,” Grayson said, “but then cooperation disintegrated completely. Lots of people looking around, no one willing to pull.”
And instantly another chase group of eight pulls up. Grayson was able to hold it together and just stay near the front of the pack, enough strength to finish 4th in the sprint and 6th overall.
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At the Morgantown Road Race, which is a fun rollercoaster A+ of a road race, Grayson was able to race aggressively and get in the winning 3-man break, taking 3rd.
“Overall a solid day,” Grayson said, “though I was getting put on the ropes a few times on the climbs.”
There was some action early but not many riders seemed willing to work. The action lit up when the field hit the big climb about 20 miles in. A big time trialist drilled the peloton with a diesel hard effort up the climb. “I was right on his wheel,” Grayson said, “and he had me fully on the ropes.”
Grayson was able to stay on the wheel there are just three of them, the time trialist, the sprinter, and the climber. They rode well through the rolling section and Grayson felt better as the race progressed, settling into the breakaway speeds of the day.
Cooperation and smooth rotations amongst the three leaders, and on the second-to-last climb the time trialist hammered it again, the sprinter looked strong and accelerated into the slipstream. Grayson struggled with the acceleration but was able to dig deeper than he had all year to keep contact.
The break remained together, and the run-in was a long descent into a short kicker, then 100m sprint to the line, and on the fast terrain the sprinter jumped early, Grayson didn’t have the acceleration, and then the time trialist put in a full throttle chase. Grayson was pinned as he chased in vein.
“I played it as well as I could but just don’t have those kind of watts,” Grayson said. “I closed on Ganoung late in the sprint but just ran out of road. They were strong.”