Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Agony of the Teammate-less Racer

Let me preface this post by saying this is only my second season of racing, and the first season being fast-ish enough to really contend for a podium spot. Although that might just be the SuperSix.

This past Sunday was the road race leg of our home race weekend, following an awesome downtown crit in Clarksburg, WV. The road race course was about a 12.2 mile loop with some rollers and 2 climbs. The climbs themselves were respectable in terms of grade and length, certainly enough to break a C field. The morning of the race was certainly an adventure, as driving from Morgantown to Lost Creek in a thick fog got my attention up a lot faster than my coffee did. Fortunately, the race got delayed half an hour, which gave me some more time to digest my epic Black Bear dinner from the previous night. Very clutch. However unfortunately, our police lead cars did not show up in time and Todd had to drop out of the race to fill in.

Once the race started, Kyle and the NC State freshman set the pace up front at about 18 miles an hour for about the first 7 miles. Somehow they also managed to effectively block anyone else from attacking during this time. Once we got to the gravel hill I finally said enough is enough and launched an attack and drove up the pace. After hitting the descent, there was about 8-10 riders who could sustain my pace and I thought this would mean a break group would form.

Nope, huge wrong on that one.

I can't begin to explain how many people would not take a pull and just slowed the pace down. Not only did this let dropped racers back in, but relegated me to the back after a hard pull. Not much else happened the rest of the second lap, although the pace was at least above 22mph. Had a short conversation with Kyle just before the climbs, saying if we were going to make a gap, we had to do it this time. As we were getting ready to hit the gravel climb the second time I heard a scream from behind me. I didn't know what happened or how, but Kyle was down and out. Still, I attacked again on the climb trying to shed as much of the group as possible. Crested the peak with VT and App riders close by and this time I surely thought a gap could form.

Wrong again.

Once again, following the descent people would not pull. After some serious yelling and unkind words, people started doing work and an apparent break of 6-7 riders formed. This carried about until the first set of rollers came again and I found myself off the front after nobody followed my pull. I was not about to slow the pace down so I continued to attack. After maybe a minute a Navy rider pulls along side me and says "WVU, its just you and me." I was definitely ok with this and we started doing some serious work. This must have lit a spark up the chasing field as they caught back on after a couple miles and instantly shut the pace back down. Once again, the group increased to about 14 or so and I was getting pretty unhappy. I knew if I didn't get away for good on the climb this final time it would be a lot harder to post a podium finish. As with the previous laps, I put myself up front going into the gravel climb and gave it my all to get away. When cresting the top of the hill, I had maybe 10 seconds on 2nd, who undoubtedly had time on others behind him. Taking any and all chances to stay away, I hit the descent hard and fast giving my all to stay away.

Then it happens, caught by VT. But its the final stretch into the finish - He'll push on with me to the end right?

Again. No.

He sits up. App catches on. App sits up. Now the sprinters are all back in it. At this point I'm frustrated. The final mile is a mess of attacks and responses, and despite my efforts, the end of the race turns into a field sprint and I finish 8th.

In road racing, getting help from teammates is essential. Whither blocking, helping to launch an attack, or leading out, having help in the field is undoubtedly a difference maker. I learned this the hard way, watching other teams work together to take away my efforts. Some help blocking, and or sustaining and the race outcome is probably a different story. Hopefully next weekend with the C squad back in action, we can turn the tides and launch an attack that sticks.

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