Monday, March 3, 2008

Merco RR

Coming into this race I was not feeling the best. I re-aggravated my L4/L5 injury about a week earlier when I pushed myself hard on a cold and rainy days while doing a ton of climbing up Kings and OLH. I was able to get my prescribed workouts in leading up to the race, but I had a sense in the back of my mind that I probably wouldn't be on the same form as I was at Cantua.

Prior to the race we (Allen, Matt and myself) had some chats about what we wanted to do. Needless to say we wanted to at least push the pace and make this race hard. We were hoping for strong winds and attacks from other teams to help make this race interesting. Several teams were well represented (Davis, Colavita, Dolce Vita, Wells Fargo, Synergy, Don Chapin) and thus you would think that they'd be doing stuff towards the front to help push the pace. Not quite so...

As we were lining up for the start, I voiced my concern to Matt that it might not be that easy to move within the group as we did have 100 riders. So I decided to do a bit of pre-race "racing" and moved myself up to the front of the pack as our group was called up to the starting line. This was a smart move as only 4 miles into the race I heard a guy go down behind me. From what I heard it sounded like he had taken a hand off his handlebars and was adjusting something (maybe sunglasses). He hit small pothole and there went his day.

The pack wasn't used to the fact that the entire width of the road was open for us so moving around wasn't too bad, but as folks became used to riding across the whole road we looked like one big mushroom coming down the roadside. The wind was gentle, but not strong enough to make a big impact. None of the big teams ever got to the front to take control. A couple of meek attacks occurred, but nothing stuck as the pack quickly jumped on them. Personally, I would have let them gone up the road a ways and suffer, but that's just me (Clark, remember how we made the Zteam guy suffer at Pesky...I wish that would have happened more often). Anyways, back to the race.
About halfway around the first lap Matt attacks while I was setting tempo and I let him go and watch to see if others try to bridge. No one tried, so I just maintained the pace and watched him get about 500 yards out in front of us. After a few minutes a couple of folks decide that maybe we should reel him in. As we're within 100 yards of Matt two guys bridge across, they reached Matt but it didn't work out. For the rest of that lap myself, Allen and Matt spent time at the front setting the pace.

As we rotated through no other teams really wanted to come forward to assist. Every now and then a Dolce Vita rider would attack, but he'd pop after about 45 seconds and we'd have him back in our midst. Coming into a tricky S-turn with about 18 miles to go, a couple of riders attacked. Allen promptly chased them down and brought the pack with him. At this point I decided to attack from about 10 riders back. As I attack and pass Matt, I hear Matt mutter under his breath, "Go Todd!". Yo Matt, I was one step ahead of you, but great minds do think alike. It was ironic that we both thought the same thing at darn near the same time because we both recognized that the pack had slowed when Allen finished pulling us up to the break and a ton of people on the front were grabbing for their water bottles.

I got about 75 yards of a gap and a NowDirect rider was trying to bridge across. Just what I needed as I knew I didn't have the strength to TT to the finish this week. I eased up just a bit and barked some instructions to the guy on my wheel. He was dying, so I eased off for about 15 seconds, then yelled at him to pull through. He was slacking, so I dug again with him in tow. 30 seconds later I look back and yell for him to pull through and we can "TT this bitch!". Apparently my latest dig to stay away put him in the pain closet even though he was on my wheel. I looked back one last time, and saw the peleton in an arrow shape and knew they were chasing us down. So I let the gap close and got back into the group towards the front. I knew that was probably my best shot for an attack, and my back was feeling pretty fatigued at that point.

I stayed at the front and continued to put in significant pulls. Nobody would pull around! Finally a CVC rider pulled through; I turned to him and said, "Thank you". To which he then turned back to the Colavita rider and bitched him out, "Why don't you give the big guy a break?!? He's pulling his ass off!". Thanks CVC, you're my friend at future races. We approach the 5k sign and there are still way too many riders in the pack at this point....wheelsuckers. Teams weren't driving the pace at the front and I was getting tired of trying to be doing that role by my lonesome. I ended up sitting about mid-pack as we got closer to the line. Since the pace wasn't blistering there wasn't any room to really advance in the peleton.

With about 3k to go, I found the wheel of a Davis rider I had marked due to his prior good result at Snelling. We started to make progress up the left hand side of the road when a guy a few riders ahead of him touched his brakes. This set off a chain reaction. Next thing I know I'm seeing the Davis guy brake and his rear wheel starts to move hard right. We touch wheels and I had to turn into him hard to stay upright. And for those who never have experienced this, doing the wheel-touching drills are what saved my day. I stayed upright at 20mph but those behind me weren't so lucky. I felt somebody briefly touch my rear wheel and I knew they were in trouble. Why did I know? Because if they had done the right maneuver and turned their wheel into mine, the contact would have been harder and caused me to slow down. But alas, it was a brief tap and then I heard that sound that we don't like to hear. I didn't look back at the crash, but it was a blow to my morale. This took the wind out of my sails.

I wasn't interested in my placing at that point, but did take a glance up the road to see where Matt and Allen were. I saw Matt near the front so I was happy we had a guy in position. With 300m to go, the moto-ref rolled up to me and said, "You've got to be careful, you can't swerve like that." I'm big enough on the bike that I probably blocked his view of what happened in front of me and all he saw was what happened behind me. I told him, "I'm sorry that those guys crashed, but I had to turn into the wheel in front of me just to stay upright just like I was coached to do at the skills clinic." I rolled across the line, tired and bummed out knowing there was a helping of asphalt given to my fellow racers who were behind me. My sincere apologies to those nursing injuries this week.

After the race I got quite a few "atta-boys" from guys thankful that myself and SJBC were setting a hard pace. On one hand I respect their comments about our strength, but on the other hand it makes me just a bit mad when somebody comes up to me, says "wow, you really put in a ton of work at the front..." So Mr. Sit-on-my-wheel-and-don't-pull-through, why didn't your team of 8 get to the front and do a bit of work. I could get all worked up over this, but on the drive home Matt made a good point. Perhaps these teams that field a large number of riders only have one or two guys with the level of fitness to keep the pace high, and thus the rest of the team just sits in. Ok, valid argument, but this race would have been more fun if more of the well-represented teams would have attacked and done some work. Plus, another lap would have been nice as it would have narrowed down the field more.

Anyways, this was a fast 46+ miles of racing. We averaged 24mph and I ended up doing 333 watts of normalized power over the course of almost 2 hours. So yeah, I got my hard ride in. As for tactics, we didn't do the best on this. We probably should have protected Matt better; his result was great for the fact that he was near the front and attacking every so often. If we had one more teammate we would have had a very solid group that could have set the pace, attacked at will, and have a guy saved for the final group sprint (hint, hint...get registered early and often this season as the M35+ 4/5 races are filling up super fast).

4 comments:

veloandvino said...

there are a few tt's coming up...

hope to see you.

Tall & Manley said...

I'm coming over to the ITT down in Exeter on the 15th (i think that's the day). Me and a few other SJBC'ers (Clark, Ramon) are planning to roll over there Friday morning then scope out the course and bunk up that night at the Lampliter. Hopefully I'll be in good shape w/ the back and this cold I feel my body fighting.

dblrider said...

Todd:

Glad to hear you kept it upright in the chaos. Are you close to getting your Cat 3 upgrade? The 4's just don't really do tactics well - as you surmised, there are usually only one or two guys with great fitness and the rest are just there to suffer in the pack.

Tall & Manley said...

I'm getting there and it's my goal for 2008.