I didn’t mean to get in a break. Really.
Given our strength in this race and my recent record, I didn’t want to have everyone block for me just so I could come in last in the break again. I even told Ed that if I got in a break, I’d try to kill it in order to set someone else up.
A few laps in, Jacques had been off with another rider. I decided to counter, not for tactical consideration but because that is the right and honorable thing to do after a teammate has laid it out there. This was not me trying to get off. This was me trying to pay Jacques a compliment.
But about a half lap later I was joined by Marc of Alberto’s. We plugged away for a few laps before we were joined by Adam of PACT and Jason of Flatlandia. Soon we started getting valuable time gaps: 20 seconds. 25 seconds. 20 seconds.
Hadn’t I told Ed I would kill such an effort? Suddenly it just seemed wrong to do so. Good breaks are beautiful, delicate and rare, lovely little flowers in the hardscrabble landscape that is bicycle racing. I’d sooner step on a orchid. Plus, I’d mistakenly gotten the idea that I was the only 30+ rider among the four and thus had 1st place sewn up. (Sorry, Adam and Jason. Your maturity and wisdom belie your youth!)
Adam was definitely the strongest, and both he and Marc asserted strong leadership to keep us rolling. Coming into Turn 3 of the last lap, I waited for Jason to come off a pull and attacked, knowing that he was flagging and that it wouldn’t take much to drop him (again, sorry, Jason), and I wanted to make sure I was going to beat at least one person. Unfortunately this put me in first wheel with Adam and Marc close behind. I tried some shake-and-brake, but I couldn’t get behind them. They both jumped coming into Turn 4 and I had no chance. Adam took a well-deserved win, with Marc in 2nd but first 40+.
In retrospect I should have focused on marking Adam, maybe even conspiring with Marc to tag-team him. Instead I took 3rd overall and 2nd 30+, and I was able to turn around and see Jacques, Ed and Randy sprint to clean up the scraps after spending so much of the race blocking for me. No win for us, but a pretty good team showing.
There were a lot of attacks in this race and we did a lot of work to chase/cover them. Anything that contained two or more of Get a Grip, Vitaminwater or WDT was considered a major threat. (WDT had only Tomasz Boba, but the way he’s been riding lately there might as well be five of him.)
Finally a threesome broke free with about 15 minutes to go: Turin, Get a Grip and Vitaminwater. In no time they were out of sight. Kirby, Andy from Project 5 and I did a lot of work to reel it in, but Get a Grip and Vitaminwater were too effective in blocking. I’d get to the front and turn around to look for relief and see only a sea of green and white. The break would stay away.
Looking at Ellen’s photos later, we’d gotten closer than I thought. The pack finished only 8 seconds behind the winner from Turin. Maybe a few more hard pulls could have done it. Instead, Shane had to settle for 5th. Nontheless, we’d raced well as a team, and it was great to race with new teammate Brian Smith.
It was such a beautiful day for racing, might as well race thrice. I was pretty spent, though, so I was merely hoping to hang on long enough for a break to get off so I could settle in for a leisurely ride in the caboose.
Fortunately it didn’t take long. After a Randy-initiated break got caught, Ed launched a strong counter with the field’s strongest riders going with. That developed into an eight-person break, and then a 10-person chase group formed. About 20 of us remained in the “field.”
After about 30 minutes of a lackadaisical riding – much to the dismay of riders who didn’t have any teammates up the road -- Ed’s group lapped us. Now it got interesting. Some of the group started attacking right away, but Randy, Matt Moran and I worked to chase everything down, along with a lot of help from Vitaminwater and Get a Grip. We all wanted it to come to a field sprint so we could take advantage of our numbers.
There was still a group off the front, as it were, and closing in on us. The group had been reduced to seven but still included Shane. It presented a tactical puzzler. Should we let this group catch on? That would give us two riders on the lead lap. But it would also give more firepower to other teams, and it would muddy the sprint picture. It led to some schizophrenic riding. Vitaminwater worked hard to keep up the tempo, and sometimes we joined them. But other times we rode as if we were blocking.
In the end it was moot, as the second group finally lapped us. Now we just needed to get Shane or Ed the win. Starting the last lap I went to the front to drive tempo, hoping to dissuade any last-minute heroics. I didn’t last as long as I’d have liked, nor was I able to reintegrate, so I don’t really have a good idea what happened after that. All I know is that I saw Ed bringing home an awesome sprint for 2nd to Mike Heagney of PYOC.
All in all, a fantastic day for the team, with special thanks to Brian Stockmaster and his helpers, who orchestrated a safe, excellent event that we should all be proud of.