I must say that this is one of those races that just makes you hungry to go ride, ride and ride some more. It is a well-organized race with a limited field of 50 for the cat. V. The course is a 22-mile country road loop with roling hills and plenty of turns. As the riders go into town, they start off with a climb and then a left turn and descend down a long cobbled road right through town. This section is the "Roubaix" part of the race. But, my take on it is less Euro and more like that of a Norman Rockwell sensibility. It's hard to appreciate when you're bouncing all over the cobbles, but this is the kind of good, country life that's made even better with the freedom of being on a bicycle- bombing through at a blistering speed! The potential is there...
For the cat V race, we had a crew of 5 riders: Bob, Rico, Matt, Jim and myself. We had a simple strategy in which we would try to conserve our energy for the first half and then work on getting something to happen on the second half or play it for a sprint finish. Rico's job was to cover attacks and get into a break in the early part of the race. Matt's job was to sit-in on a chase group if one goes after a break with one of us in it. If we had to chase, then Jim was our guy. Bob had a free range to look for opportunities, and to also be the lead-out guy if we came down to a sprint finish. My job was to be the road captain and go for the sprint. With that plan, we started the race attentively and sitting close to front.
Although our overall plan didn't quite work out in the end, we did benefit greatly from having one early in the race. About halfway through the first lap, a crash happened when someone touched wheels. Several riders went down hard in the crash, but all of our guys escaped as we were riding close to the front to mind the race. It seemed that everyone got even more nervous after this crash and for a few miles, the pack was somewhat restless. Shortly after this point, Bob and I went to the front to take a pull and test the waters. On a slight uphill with a headwind, I upped the pace to see how the pack would react. They wouldn't give us an inch, so we backed off. It was apparent then that they weren't too keen on anyone getting away.
As it turned out, the pack didn't let anyone go throughout the race. As we had planned, we would have had a card to play in this scenario. The problem was that I made a couple of simple errors and ended-up getting spat out of the pack on a climb going into the second lap. I didn't realize that my front derailleur didn't shift to the small ring and was gapped on the climb because I was in too heavy of a gear. The initial gap wasn't bad, but the second mistake was that I didn't react quick and pushed hard enough to close it immediately. In no time, the peloton was gone and I was left a good fifteen or twenty seconds behind. Eventually, I found a few other guys that fell off and tried to work with them to chase back on. But, only one other guy actually wanted to work with me and we traded pulls for awhile. Eventually, we found Bob and it felt like we were going to make it back on the last climb. We were pretty close. Unfortunately, we were asked to slow to a near stop as an ambulance came through between us and the pack. That effectively killed the effort to rejoin the pack for the finish. But, as we had planned, Bob still gave me a great leadout to the finish. Rico and Matt finished in the main bunch and Jim was a few seconds behind us.
All in all, it was a good experience. As a team, we did well with everyone managing to take a turn in driving the pack. I was a bit disappointed in losing contact with the main group though because I felt really strong in the finish. Of course, feeling strong doesn't mean squat when you're not in the race. So, it makes me hungry to do this ride again- specially with the crew that we had! But, the positive thing is that we've shown our capacity to really do a good job as a team. I'd say there's much to learn yet, but not a bad start for a bunch of newbies. So, yeah, there is definitely potential there!
Good job to all who did this race!