The plan we had engineered the previous evening was a simple one, yet it relied on tactics seldom seen or understood in the ranks of CAT C collegiate cycling races (Thats CAT 4/5 for those of you who don't have mid-terms approaching).
We were going to attempt a breakaway supported by team blocking. We being myself and the other scrappy members that composed the DePaul University Cycling Club.
Sprawled out on hotel beds and surrounded by the caranage of several pizza boxes we decided that the place to launch the attack was on the sizable hill that inhabited the University of Michigan crit course. After riding the course that afternoon it was clear that this was the point at which the field would be split. Whoever got to the top of that hill the fastest would be in the best position to take the win. I, weighing no more than a handful of Triscuits, was chosen as the man to take that hill and breakaway to the finish, while my teamates Nick, Eric, and Dave would do their best to slow the rest of the field down. We had never attempted such a gambit before and we were confident that such a ploy would not occur to any of the other less tactically birlliant teams.
The next morning our plan for total victory was nearly sabatoged before the race had even begun. During our warm-up my rear wheel was T-boned by another teams rider. Although I managed to stay upright on my bike, I knew without looking that the rear wheel was unrideable. Our race was beginning in less than 10 minutes. The other rider clearly felt bad, but as there was nothing he could do, I told him not to worry and to continue his warm-up.
I know had to find a 9-speed wheel or I was missing out on this race. After trying on wheel that didn't work, a University of Chicago rider came to my aid and we got the wheel in place. A few seconds after I joined my team at the start line the race began and we were off.
The first lap around I made a spirtited attack on the hill to test the field and see if anyone had the climbing legs to follow me. No one did, and I spent the next mile or so off the front of the pack pedalling along at a comfortable pace. The next several laps followed just like this, until the final lap where I jumped to the head of the pack and made my move on the hill.
The road leading up to the climb got progressively steeper so I didn't have much momentum going into the hill. Pushing down hard into the pedals I came out of the saddle and I gave it everything I had. The entire pack behind me seemed to be moving in slow motion, when I reached the top I thought for sure that I had broken away completely. One rider, a University of Wisconsisn guy had managed to stick with me. This turned out to be invaluable, because he quickly took control and started arranging 10 second pulls between the two of us. With less than two miles to the finish we had created a huge gap between the field, cranking at 30+ the whole way.
The last part of the race is a bit embarrassing, because for whatever reason while the U of W guy and I were together, I got the idea in my head that we had one lap remaining. Whether this was due to misinformation from the UW guy or to shear stupidity on my part, I'm not exactly sure. Perhaps a combination of the two. Long story short, after taking what was to be my final pull and expecting him to take his UW yells to me: Let's Go! and takes off for a solo finish on his own. I didn't even have time to react, instead I crossed the finish line with a dumbfounded expression on my face. Lesson learned this race: Always know what lap you're on and know when to begin your final sprint.