Thursday, March 25, 2010

Post race thoughts from Madera SR

Readers familiar with my love/hate relationship with the Madera Stage Race know why it was marked as a priority race for this spring (if you don't know, go search my blog posting archives from 12 months ago). I'm happy to say this year I survived Madera and finished without the cranks falling off the bike. So on to the recap...


Typically this is a tame race given that the TT is later in the afternoon. Guys usually will sandbag a bit to save the legs, but then again, with the field we had this year you just didn't know. Specialized had split up their 35+ team and had some of them (Lyman, Roemer) riding with their juniors in the P12 field. However, Safeway looked strong with Dan Martin.

And speaking of Dan, he attacked pretty much on queue after the first lap. He stayed away long enough to take the first prime, but he was caught soon thereafter. After a short break, Dan attacked again. This time he got some help and stayed away to almost snag a second prime. We caught him with probably 10 minutes to go before the finish.

The wind was pretty strong coming across the course and it made the west and north legs of the course pretty hard. In retrospect it could have been harder if a team was motivated to gutter everybody, but thankfully that didn't happen.

By the way, did I mention Dan attacked again?!? Off he goes, and as I roll up to Ramon I said, "We need our guys on the front". Calmly Ramon looks at me and says, "GO!". I hit the gas from about 20 places back and caught a ton of people by surprise. I bridged up to Dan and a few other guys were on my wheel. We had about a 10 second gap with 4 laps to go, but it was caught with around 2 laps to go.

Coming into the last lap I worked to get near the front when we hit the crosswind section. I had to work hard to get up there and was rewarded with being around the 5th wheel coming through the final corner. The Rocknasium train came flying through the apex just behind me and had a pretty good jump on the field. I looked around and realized it was going to be a pack finish so no need to sprint this one the legs for the TT. I rolled across feeling pretty good about not burning too many matches for the TT a few hours later.


The wind was so strong that everybody knew to throw out any potential time target you'd shoot for. Last year I did the TT in 22:36, good enough for 9th place on the GC. This year I came into this TT with better fitness and stronger legs. My target was sub-22. But with the wind I knew that was unrealistic.

After a good warmup I proceeded to go out pretty hard and hold almost 31+mph on the downwind section. What proved to be beneficial was the pacing I forced on myself to leave just a bit in the tank for the returning headwind section. I was able to average 24+mph into the wind. I didn't pass many guys so I wasn't able to gauge how well I did by that criteria, but I had completely emptied the tank and knew there wasn't any left to give when I crossed the line. I was happy with my time of 22:43

Later that night when the results were published I was in 4th. However, there was a missing rider (Innes from Specialized); come to find out he showed up on the results the next day after the stage race was over. He had clocked in at 22:39 so I was actually sitting in 5th coming into the RR. Vitamin/Bike Plus had 3 guys in the top 7 so it was going to be an interesting RR.


After a bit of strategy/tactics discussion at the start, we rolled out with a neutral start up in ~40* weather! Clear as a bell and cold. On the first lap somebody attack. Oh yeah, Dan Martin attacked. From what I could see it looked like Dave had found his way into the break, so for us it was an opportunity to relax just a bit.

The demons from last year loomed large as we hit the bumpy ~4 mile stretch of road. I got through there without breaking the crank, so that was a minor victory. And I didn't have any of my water bottles eject, so another small win. As we came up through the rollers and past the finish line I saw Dave sliding back through the pack. Come to find out he just flatted, so we had lost a teammate.

Ramon was doing an excellent job of being our road captain. He was making sure we had people up front when it was necessary and he made sure I stayed out of the fray to protect my GC position. If I remember correctly the pack stayed together for the second lap and then Dan Martin attacked again, this time drawing out Dan Bryant. This duo hooked up and stayed away all the way through halfway of the final lap.

By this point there were some tired legs all around. Chad had fallen off the back with a double snake bite flat. Ramon had done the work of 3 men up front and popped off (immediately after Ramon popped Ron Anderson from Specialized popped, so you know it was pretty brutal up front).

We hit the bumpy section and the Vitamin/Bike Plus guys find there way to the front and slow ramp up the pace. I was in death mode and found myself getting caught behind riders who were getting gapped by the high pace. I continually had to hop around folks and close down the gap to the next wheel. At this point there were no teammates to help, I was on my own. Coming out of the bumpy section I was in the lead pack of ~25 guys with the rollers coming next.

Somewhere another gear was found by the pack and not by me. There was a hard acceleration and I could not keep contact. I looked around and the only person near me was Dan Martin. We hit the first roller as hard as both of us could; we probably were only 10-12 seconds behind the lead pack when we crested. We held that gap but the lead group accelerated again as they wound up their sprint. I had no relief from the wind and found myself riding as hard as I could with my head down watching the yellow line as my guide.

I crossed the line not aware of who might have been in the lead pack and whether or not I could have lost any GC places. Come to find out Innes had flatted so that moved me up a spot, but 3 other riders behind me on GC were in the pack that finish ~25 seconds ahead of me. That bumped me down to 7th on GC.

Overall I'm really pleased with the effort the team put in during the weekend to support my "A" race goal. I learned a ton during the RR and hope to put this to use during the Chico SR. Many thanks to my teammates who worked so hard, I'll be more than happy to pay you back during your "A" races.


Bill said...

Congrats on a great win. The SJBC team rode a very
I know this is the Madra post, but I wanted to congratulation you and the SJBC team on a smart and tactical race at Warnerville today.
I was very impressed with the juniors on the team, very smart racing. I was in the main pack and was blocking with one of the juniors (on the last lap) and he was doing a great job.
In the "bunch" sprint they were giving me the one two, and kicking my butt. letting gaps open to a teammate that I had to cover, twice in the last 1K.

Great racing today, you guys deserved the win.

Bill Beers

Manley Man said...

Thanks! I was pretty impressed as well by how well our juniors rode. It was nice to see our plans execute as well as they did.