When I heard the news that Revolution 3 had taken over my beloved Branson race, I knew straight away that I would have to jump back in and try to regain the top spot after a 2nd last year. I have no good reason for it, but this would be my first REV3 event, and admittedly I was a little ashamed to have taken this long to toe the line at one of their races.
Travel was made less stressful (at least for me) by coordinating with training mate, Richie Cunningham. He was making his comeback race after a long time off with a broken arm and sore back, and knew the inside scoop for REV races as the defending series champ. We also had help on the Branson end from Ross at the Chamber, and Steve Sherer (who won his age group in the Olympic distance) with an elegant hotel room at the Grand Victorian.
After a nice spin out to preview some of the course on Saturday, we attended the pro meeting and panel, did a nice jog around the Landing to keep the muscles firing. Although we were tempted to check out a show, it was early to bed in anticipation of some serious pain from the demanding bike course.
When the horn sounded, I got a great start to the left, and was able to latch on quite quickly to the gun swimmers of the group, Poole, Leto, Collington, and Limkemann. After the second turn buoy, Collington went off course a bit, and Poole let a gap open as the other two battled for the swim prime. I was comfortably clear of the rest of the athletes, and cruised in about 30 seconds down in 3rd. Great swim.
The bike starts with a hill, and then continues to either climb or descend for the next 54 miles. I honestly don’t think I have raced a more honest and challenging half course, and from my previous times in Branson I knew it was critical to be riding near the lead. There isn’t much to say about the bike, except that it was ON the whole time, and we all kept the pace high and spacing legal. Towards the end I gave a couple tries to get a gap, but only ended up first off the bike by a second or two over a group of 6.
I took a couple extra seconds in T2 for socks, as I always do, so I came out a few steps behind. Straight away, the pace was hot, around 5:30/mile with a group of 4 making the selection: Thompson, Collington, Griffin, and myself. I knew these guys were in good form, having finished 6th and 7th at the World Championships a couple weeks ago (or 5th and 6th depending on who you ask…), so I just focused on keeping my breath under control. After almost two full loops of the course, I heard Griffo struggling a bit, so I made a move to open the gap. Thinking that Collington would come with me and do battle to the bitter end, I was rewarded with a gap on him too during that surge. With 6 miles to go, I wasn’t sure this was the perfect tactical decision, but I consulted the workouts I had done leading in and thought, “it’s only 13 miles, you can do it!” I’d be lying too if I didn’t think about how good Branson has been to me over the years… I knew that this was my race for the taking after 2 previous victories and a 2nd.
In the end, I crossed the line with a pretty good sized gap, my 3rd Branson title (and Magnum of wine from Stoney Hill), and the confidence to know that my Kona prep is right on target with my fastest time yet on the challenging course: 4:05. Richie came through solidly in 7th for his comeback 2.0, and I’m sure he will be back challenging for wins within a few more weeks.
As with any successful race, I have to give credit where it is due. To my lovely supporting girlfriend, family, friends, and fans. To my sponsors who eliminate the guesswork and just let me focus on my fitness: Zoot, Specialized, Volkswagen, Clif Bar, SRAM/Zipp, Tender Belly, Infinite Monkey Theorem wines, Fuelbelt, Sportpump, and Oakley. Also, a huge shout out to the REV3 race crew for putting on a class event, and the community of Branson for its support. I will be back next year to defend!
Pro Recap here:
For more information about Ben, Visit : http://benhoffmanracing.com/