Simply put, today went poorly. A 6 man TTT with all of Ghisallo’s Cat 3 team represented was not what I had in mind for today’s race.
However, it was a good reminder that, even when you consider yourself a “brains over brawn” bike racer, you can still be swiftly and painfully proven to be inept. I’ve spent quite a bit of time racing at significantly below peak fitness, and as a result feel that I’ve become pretty good at conserving energy, reading races, and being in the right place at the right time such that I avoid getting dropped even when stronger riders might. Today, I got complacent.
Our race started off slow. For the entire first lap it was easy to sit at the back and chat, knowing that with the developing winds, any attacks off the front would be quickly and easily neutralized. The course was pretty flat with a cross-wind for the first 8 miles or so, turning right into a tailwind section, before turning for home with some larger rollers into a headwind. I figured with the slow pace on the first lap, any dangerous attacks would come in the rollers on the run into the finish at the end of the second and final lap. Though it would have been easy to move up, I contented myself with staying at the back and positioning myself on the right side of the road, so that I would be sheltered during the crosswind section. This proved to be a disastrous choice.
The finish line was also the feed zone, and being on the right side of the road meant that I became stuck in traffic as racers slowed to a crawl to grab bottles. As soon as the front of the pack turned the corner, Jack and Adams and a few other astute racers guttered the race and drilled it as hard as they could into the cross-wind. By the time I cleared the corner I was already 40-50 meters off the back. I waited for a small pack, including Zak, to catch me and we managed to chase back on in short, if slightly disorganized, order. However, the boys at the front had no intention of letting up on the pace, plenty of people started to detonate, and the tail of peloton disintegrated.
Soon the lead pack was down to 10-15 riders with a second group containing, Zak, Jordan, and myself beginning to coalesce. We started working steadily but quickly to try to bring the gap back down. Unfortunately, organization in the group was a bit lacking and while Zak and I initially believed it was people being selfish and not working, in hindsight it seems there were a lot of dudes at or way past their limit, and we slowly shed them. I figured if we kept the gap reasonable through the cross-wind, as soon as we turned right into the headwind the leaders would ease up a bit and we would catch back on. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. By this time we had been chasing for nearly 20 minutes, were down to 5 or 6 guys, and I had taken 24 pulls over 400 watts with a normalized power of over 290 watts. I hadn’t counted on the chase taking quite so long, and while last year I may have been able to pull off such an effort, this time around as I pulled off, someone surged through a bit too hard and I missed the last wheel. Jordan yelled at me as I dangled off the back, urging my legs to eek out one more 600+ watt effort to catch back on. Unfortunately, the elastic finally snapped and Jordan, Zak, and their bedraggled companions rolled up the road without me.
Rather than face a solo 26 miles to the finish, mostly into a headwind, I opted to turn the ship around and spin the 8 miles back to the start/finish. All told, close to half the field chose this option.
In summary a few remarks from today:
- Jack and Adams demonstrated exactly what it takes to form a selection and splinter a field:
- Take advantage of any difficult course sections.
- Drill it as hard as you possibly can with as many co-conspirators for 20+ minutes.
- The selection today was absolutely incredible to behold. 10 or so guys worked seamlessly for nearly 30 minutes to make sure anyone not strong enough to contribute was long gone.
- I’ve never seen such calculated and meticulous destruction of a cat 3 race before.
- Zak and Jordan are hard men. Zak went down today, chased back to Jordan, the two of them worked together to catch back up to their group, and then Zak attacked and dropped them all in the run into the finish. (I’ll let the two of them detail this portion of the action themselves)
- You two did the work of four racers out their today, it just came a bit too late in the race.
- I look forward to racing with you guys this season and seeing the tactics and the strength sync up.
Finally the moral of the story: Even if it’s easy to sit at the back, DON’T.