or A Tale of Two Races
Four days ago, I wrote this, partly as a tip to get some of the 3’s and 4’s thinking about the race, but mostly to get my head around what I was going to have to do over the weekend. Putting a complex idea into words helps me to condense it into components that can be addressed one at a time. Sometimes, in the end, it looks simple.
“The most important thing to remember is to anticipate the hill and be in a good position to go with a move on any lap, although the later it gets in the race, the higher the probability that something is going to go. If a few hitters make a move, I’d suggest going with it.”
This is exactly what I spent the entirety of my race doing on Saturday, and exactly what I forgot to do on Sunday. The two days, despite being raced on the same course in very similar conditions, showed how bipolar bicycle racing can be by resulting in two radically different races. On Saturday, one team took charge and brought the race back together for a field sprint, and on Sunday, a well represented break left an unmotivated peloton to struggle for scraps. I wasn’t particularly successful in either race, but both presented situations that I could learn from.
Saturday was beautiful; 85 degrees and sunny with a slight southwesterly wind. Uncharacteristically May weather in late March; the perfect day for a race. The close proximity to Austin meant that many of my teammates were able to sneak away from responsibilities for an afternoon to come race; Team Wooly Mammoth fielded a team of eight for the P/1/2, giving us the opportunity to practice racing cohesively as a team. My job was to mark the hitters and get into the break only when they went; the rest of my teammates would mark other moves to make sure we were represented in any break that got up the road.
For the duration of Saturday’s race, I raced smart instead of hard. Gaubert made the early break, so the pressure was off the team; all we needed to do was follow wheels as people tried to bridge, and if one of the main players made a bridge attempt, it was my job to go with it. I surfed the front of the peloton and kept an eye on the “hitters.” When they started moving to the front, so did I. When they jumped; I jumped. My teammates did an awesome job of babysitting my impatience. When John or Chris saw me in the wind, they reminded me to stay hidden. As a result of the team’s expectations, I rode a better race; more reserved and more focused (the way I should be racing all the time). I was always aware of what was coming up on the course, and positioned myself accordingly. With each unsuccessful attempt to bridge, Super Squadra got more impatient and finally just decided to take control of the race and chase the break down. When it was clear that the race was going to a field sprint, John and I switched roles on the fly: I was protecting him for the sprint. It was a good call on his part as he took 4th on the day.
We entered the race with a solid plan, and the race just decided to play out in another way. Just because our strategy didn’t manifest, doesn’t mean it was a failure. We had a man in the early break and we consistently marked and covered bridge attempts. On Saturday, we raced as a team and we raced smart; a recipe that we intended to follow on Sunday as well, although with a smaller team of four.
On day two, we wanted to be aggressive and try to make the break; I was going to make sure my attacks were meaningful and effective, snappy enough that when I attacked, I wasn’t taking the entire peloton with me. When the race started, we immediately took turns covering attacks and countering when the would-be breaks were caught. We tired, but kept with the plan as attacks went off the front. What I didn’t realize at the time was that none of the big players were active; they were waiting. On our first trip up the hill at mile 5, Brant Speed and Gray Skinner blew the doors off the race and the winning break was established. 787 and Squadra were present, as were a few of the stronger unattached riders. Our overzealous execution of the plan to get into the break made us unable to go with the break when it happened.
With a reduced team, efforts should have been metered, with careful attention paid to upcoming terrain and the activities of other teams. Regardless of what changed in the peloton from Saturday to Sunday, the hill was still the most significant geographic feature on the course: it deserved an equal amount of attention the second day. In the end, we had a plan and stuck to it, but it was too wide-open; we stated an objective without taking into consideration how we were going to achieve that goal.