Tour de dung 2013
OOA fielded 4 in the Masters 40+ Cat 4/5. I was feeling good after a short relapse with a cold mid-week. I think I lucked out this time around! While it wasn’t exactly t-shirt weather at the start, it was at least dry, not too windy and really, not all that cold in the big scheme of things. A good day for racing.
Due to my illness and IVRR on the horizon I put the idea of doing the double race again out of my mind. I chose the masters race because I felt it was my best option for getting a few more upgrade points. Additionally, it helps when one’s partner races at about the same time of day too.
At the start line it was John Hadden, Scotty Hile, Dan Donahue and me. Dan had raced cat 4 in the morning and ended up with a flat a couple K from the finish. Dan was looking to sit in and see how he responded and help launch a result at the end if he had the legs. Dan’s email earlier in the week said he’d be ‘hammerin’, whether he was racing or not. John was up for his usual preference of trying to wear down the field and Scotty was open to helping the team for results as well. The general plan was to get me in a position for a solid finish in the points, winning being the ultimate goal of course. At the same time we weren’t ruling out the possibility of anyone of us taking advantage of a break. We also planned to roll the dice and gamble on letting one or two guys going off the front, but chase anything larger, or that looked threating. There were 33 in the field.
Within the few kilometers we lost Dan to a flat. He came to hammer, but ended up with a hammered front tire instead. I remember looking over to my right and seeing Dan’s hand in the air while he coasted to the gutter with squishy front rubber. I felt bad for Dan as we had barely started and to top it off we had just lost a quarter of our firepower. Our goal and race tactics just got a little tougher for the three remaining racers.
Classic Masters 4/5 Racing
The first couple laps were the somewhat predictable masters racing with little attacks and counter attacks here and there, but only by a few racers. John was laying down his usual punishment to ensure the pace stayed honest or to put in our own counter attack after others had just been reeled in. On the last step on the hill on Lotzgesell Rd before Cayes Rd on lap 2 there was a split that had a few guys hurting but it was reeled in on the downhill. After the first riser on Woodcock there was another split that should have stuck. John was with 5 other guys, but none of them knew what to do and 1/2 didn’t have it anyway. A bummer because no one in the pack was really laying down the chase. Finally, there was sufficient chase to reel everyone back in. The remainder of the lap wasn’t too exciting. John and Scotty were working hard. As we entered the hill again past the parking lot I was half expecting another surge by someone, especially Tacoma Bike or Starbucks who had been, up to this point, the most aggressive. On the lead up to the last step it appeared we were just going to ride the entire hill at tempo. My legs felt fine so I figured it would be a good idea to stretch them a bit, give John some relief and cause some of our aggressors to chase, maybe wear’em down a bit, so I found a nice solid gear and just applied power and rode on ahead. Most attacks had been coming by way of someone either sprinting up out of the saddle, or trying to launch silently out of a slip stream at speed. I powered up past the top 7 or so riders which included John. I tried to relay to him I was planning to put on some pressure. Again, I was only wanting to cause guys to dig a bit.
Lap 3 Solo
When I got to the top at Cayes Road to make the left hander I saw that no one chased, they just let me go. Really? Am I that non-threatening? I decided to keep the pressure on for the downhill, fully expecting to be caught at the turn, but when I made the right hander onto Anderson E. I still had the gap andmaybe a little extra. I figured they’d surely chase now. I’d be caught by the bridge for sure. By the time I got to the bridge, I had extended my gap. Holy smokes! I began wondering if I was really putting the on pressure, or if the pack was just planning to let me cook for a while? I was riding at my threshold, trying not to go too deep as to blow up, but not really saving anything either. As I approached the small uphill grade on Anderson before Woodcock I got a brief glimpse back and could see one chaser and a lot of distance to the pack. Geeze… I’m opening things up and maybe I’ll get company. I later learned I had about 45 seconds here and there was first a single chaser that turned into three but they never caught. REALLY? On Woodcock I would just work on keeping a solid pace whether uphill or down and keep the pressure on. When I passed the rumble strip, my mind had two thoughts. One was that I might just make it solo to the end of the race and two, if I am going to go the distance, it’s another lap of this!… My legs and lungs hurt, but not bad enough to quit. I had eaten most of my shot blocks on the back straight in an effort to to make sure I had plenty of fuel for when I would not be able to eat. At corner 4 I still felt good about my gap, but noticed I had lost a bit. The headwind across the finish line didn’t do me any favors. It was great to hear the cheers at the start finish, but all I could do was bury my head, forearms on the bars, frothing. As I rounded the corner by the parking lot I could see I was still holding my own. Now it was time to ride the hill smart but not give up too much ground. When I turned left at the top, I saw I only had a few seconds. I kept the distance around the right hander back on Anderson to about ½ way to the bridge. It was here I realized I was still losing time. At that moment I decided to sit up and get a rest so I could reintegrate as the pack came by. With only a few seconds here and legs getting fatigued I wasn’t going to hold off a charge. I wanted the legs to stay in contact and a respectable finish. They didn’t come by as as fast as I thought and I was able to blend in just fine. Got quite a few kudos. Maybe I earned some respect. I half-heartedly asked a few guys in mid pack if I could just have 4th place for 4 points. I know no one gave me any slack, but it is ironic that is where I finished. Should have asked for 1st place!
Back on Woodcock guys were now mostly trying to conserve. We had the three of us near the front. At about 3K out, John drifted back on the right for a breather. I jumped up to his wheel and at maybe 2K out he went back to the front to keep the pace up. I decided to roll the dice and stay there on his wheel which put me second wheel overall. Not the greatest position 2k from the finish line. But if I was attentive, I knew it might work. We were hoping Scotty would find his way up, but he got boxed in on the yellow line side. We rounded corner 4, John leading out. I knew John wasn’t going to have much more left, as well as he mentioned he was close to being done, so I asked him to ride the yellow line and just do what he could, that I’d pass on his right when the time came. I figured this would give a clear lane to the right with hopes that I could jump on the next departing train. Just as I was thinkingI’d have to move around John and go for it, the train began rolling by on my right, I was able to grab third wheel due to a gap opening up. This was about 500 meters or so. I’m still not good at judging the distance between 1k and 200. The guy in second decided to go wide left at 200 and I followed him, only I didn’t stay in close enough contact and found myself gutting it out in a sitting sprint again. Just as I had sight of the finishline a Tacoma Bike and one other charged off from my right, I think launching off another racer. I was able to hang on to 4th place, once again missing 3rd. I was happy though, since this meant another 4 points and I did it after riding 14 miles solo. The team, especially John deserves a big round.
An Almost Podium
The race flyer showed the Masters 4/5 as prizes going 5 deep. So in a way, 4th is a podium. I went to pick up my forgotten prize from last week’s fourth and now this week’s. They were having trouble locating it, so Jason just gave me/us a box of Camelback hydration tabs, a snack ball (??), and a growler of beer Georgetown unfiltered beer.
Once again, racing is predictably unpredictable. John said only three guys were trying to chase when there was a chase. So depending on the race, being in a break doesn’t necessarily mean you’re trying to stay away from the entire pack, well in a way you are, but in a way you’re only racing against those few who want to or are willing to chase. I think I found a racer in me I didn’t think existed. I also know if I could have generated just a little more power, I probably would have stayed away. Something to work on! I’ve also made these little power moves in the past, for whatever reason they often don’t seem to entice an immediate chase the same way as someone getting out of the saddle and really going for it does.