Our team’s true annual road kickoff was yesterday at Lincoln Park. The elite squad was almost completely represented with several guys looking to have some success, notably Austin Venhuizen and Ryan O’Boyle.
The Lincoln Park P/1/2/3 race is pretty simple at its core, but generally has a few consistent aspects each year. 1) The wind. Half the field generally DNF’s as they find themselves out of position or just not strong enough to hold the pace, particularly on the backside of the course going over the bridge and 2) generally a strong-man break wins the day.
Let’s start with the wind. Navigating this course can be a whole lot easier if you play it right through the corners. As the crosswind the past two years has come directly from the west (towards the lake) positioning yourself throughout the course is critical to saving some precious race-saving watts. Anyways, the way I navigate the course (to each their own) is I try to enter the first long swooping turn with no one on my left side. Once I hit the midpoint of the sharper left-hander I try to carve it off a bit, which keeps me on the leftside throughout the backstretch shielded from the wind. At this point, after cresting the hill, I start thinking about setting myself up for the frontstretch. As I make my way towards the 90 degree righthand turn that leads up towards the 180, generally (if the race is at speed) it will be hit single file or nearly single file and upon the exit of the turn I push myself right towards the gutter. As I hit the 180, this allows me to stay on the outside…thus allowing me to exit on the right which guarantees that I’ll be shielded from the wind down the front stretch as well. If I failed to stay outside upon the exit of the hairpin, generally I’d let the guy on my outside go past on the exit which makes way for me to squeeze in behind in a single file manner heading towards the finish - such that again, I’m positioned directly behind or just to the right of the rider in front of me, shielded from the wind. Repeat. (Also, staying up front helps significantly as it allows me to have more flexibility in where I want to go and it of course allows me to avoid the constant whiplash throughout the day which can quickly kill a race, especially once riders start peeling off in front of you).
Also, as an aside, the wind today actually made the race significantly less technical than it could have been. The day before, Austin and I previewed the course with the wind direction coming directly from the North. While doing a jump and hitting the right hand turn heading up towards the 180 we hit nearly 40mph which might have caused a few people to run into the fencing throughout the day had it stayed strong in that direction. But instead, it compacted the race at that point and naturally mitigated the speed through the 180. Anyways on to the race…
A few thoughts entering the day included trying to get one of our strong guys in the move (O’Boyle, Austin, etc) and trying to mitigate Sammy’s from launching people up towards the break - as they successfully did last year. Whenever several Sammy’s riders hit the front near the 180, our goal was to have a rider near them such that they could either disrupt the move or get in the launch themselves. So, back to that strong-man aspect of the course: Ryan O’Boyle. The guy has a serious knack for finding the right move and not surprisingly found the right move about a third of the way into the race. Austin had attacked several times early but eventually got off the front after the O’Boyle move was established with one other guy that went to the finish ahead of that pack but behind O’Boyle’s break-of-the-day. Given that Sammy’s had a rider in the break-of-the-day that was almost sure to be outsprinted by several guys with a solid kick, they stacked the front and slowed the peloton down (particularly around the 180) in hopes of allowing the O’Boyle break to lap the field. If it did, I’d assume they’d try to create a long leadout train for him as that might be the only way to take the W. It worked and the move lapped the field with about 2 to go. O’Boyle made his way through the field to the front with 1 to go. I asked him if he was looking to launch a move early or field sprint: field sprint was the answer which sent me on one-man one-lap-to-go leadout mission for him. As we crossed the start/finish I hit the front hard and looked back to make sure he was on my wheel. As we hit the riser over the bridge, I made sure to flush far enough left to leave a clean line for O’Boyle but no one else (as anyone who wanted to go over the top of me would have had to come through the wind on the right). Still on the front through the right hand turn and up towards the hairpin I started to feel it. We hit the 180 1-2 and I started giving it just about everything I had upon the exit. I heard Ryan say “1 More Tyler” which made me pause for a second thinking…wait, was this NOT the last lap??? At that point my effort slightly decreased and the sprint went off…and I quickly was reassured that yes, this was in fact the last lap…thank god...and I coasted through the line. Anyways, Ryan ended up sprinting for 4th which is a solid result. Had I given it slightly more for a bit longer heading towards the finish line maybe he gets 3rd, but oh well. Austin also attacked his man late grabbing a 6th place finish. Can’t be too disappointed putting two guys in the top six. A nice start to the season and hopefully a platform for many more results ahead!
…oh...and here's the last lap...enjoy.