I’ve already included my heart rate and power data in the previous post, so here I want to detail how the races played out for those interested in reading about race tactics.
State championship road race, Hartselle, Alabama
First, Heath Goebel put on a great race with two excellent course venues. The road race was four laps of an 18 mile loop that had a nice 2 mile climb divided up into two main sections with the bottom section being longer and shallower and the top shorter and steeper after the feedzone which was pretty flat.
Now, about the race: Marx and Bensdorf (Mike Olheiser’s team) had a huge showing in a pretty small field making it pretty obvious that they would be aggressive in the race. Sure enough, they launched Darrell O’Quinn off the front within the first couple hundred meters of the race. He got a good gap and there may have been a small chase covered pretty quickly followed by another Marx and Bensdorf rider launched from the field. My teammate, Darryl Seelhorst, grabbed onto that guy’s wheel and they had a good gap, but Ty Stanfield (Myogenesis) and Matt Winstead (Inferno) set a fast tempo up the climb that reeled in Darryl’s two man chase near the top of the climb, but not Darrell O’Quinn who was motoring away by himself. His gap was well over a minute at the top of the climb, and he quickly extended it as our pace in the field was slow for the next several miles.
Then the attacks began: Nashville Cyclist would send a rider, then Marx and Bensdorf. Usually these breaks wouldn’t be hard enough to stay away from some tempo riding from Matt or any team not represented. One of them got away though with two more Marx and Bensdorf riders and a Nashville Cyclist rider. This break joined up with Darrell O’Quinn making it three Marx and Bensdorf riders up the road. I was motivated to get away before the climb so that I wouldn’t have to kill it up the climb – so I tried to get into a few of the moves, but the field would string out with Marx and Bensdorf leading the chase and the move would be shut down fairly quickly. I gave up hope of any of these moves succeeding and resigned myself to the inevitable fireworks the next time up the climb.
Sure enough, Matt Winstead set a killer pace the next time up the climb leaving only four of us together at the top — me, Matt, Ty, and Mike Olheiser. With three teammates up the road, Mike was along for the free ride. Matt, Ty, and I all ride for different teams, but we knew that the only way for any of us to have a chance at winning would be to work together against Mike who is a world champion and national champion several times over. We had some open “meetings” as we were riding tempo as to the best time to catch the break in front of us. If we wasted a lot of energy trying to drill back the break as soon as possible, then Mike would probably have been able to attack hard on the climb and simply ride away from us. On the other hand, if we didn’t chase hard enough the remnants of the field were starting to collect back into a group less than a minute behind us. In the end, we decided on waiting until the last time up the climb to catch the break. It worked out well that the break in front of us was actually rolling along at a very fast pace so that we also had to roll a very fast tempo meaning that we were able to distance ourselves from the field that had been gaining on us.
The last time up the climb, Matt again drilled the pace up the bottom part of the climb and we quickly caught the break in front of us. With the pace we were going (25 mph through the feedzone, average speed of 16.5mph for the entire climb) we just motored right past the break and nobody was able to catch on. This meant that the four of us were now on more equal footing with the exception of having a very fresh Mike Olheiser. We rolled along at a moderate tempo for the rest of the lap until we were about 3k from the finish. I launched the first attack hoping to either be “let go” while the others eyed each other or at least put the ball in somebody else’s court to do the attacking closer to the finish. Nobody was letting me go, but Ty had gotten dropped in the chase that Mike had to do to catch back up to me. None of us wanted to attack again so we rolled along at 15 mph until Ty caught back up. Ty made an EXCELLENT move and attacked immediately when he caught us. Mike didn’t respond immediately and Ty’s gap probably reached 10-15 seconds with about 2k to go. Then once Mike saw that neither I nor Matt was going to chase, he ramped up the speed and brought Ty back with maybe 1k to go. Matt counter attacked VERY hard immediately and got a gap but Mike had something left in reserve and was able to bring Matt back with maybe 500 meters to go. In hindsight, I probably should have attacked immediately while both of them were tired. Instead, I knew that 500 meters was a long way out and so I hesitated and wound up drifting past the two of them into the front position. Bad move, but it still almost worked. Fifty meters before the last corner, which came 250 meters from the line, I attacked HARD and had a gap coming around the corner at over 30mph. Then it was a downhill sprint for the first 200 meters followed by a slight rise the last 50 meters. I was able to get it up to 40mph sitting down spinning as fast as I could in my 53×11 on the downhill, but I couldn’t push it through the final rise to the line and got caught with 25 meters to go. Mike edged out Matt after coming around me, and I came in a split second later for third.
Downtown Huntsville Criterium
To avoid having to chase down Mike’s teammates, I knew that it would be best to get into a breakaway very early in the race. I checked with Matt before the race, and he agreed. Unfortunately, I lost position in a few of the corners on the first and second laps and then when Matt attacked and Mike followed right on his wheel I was way too far back to respond immediately. By the time I was far enough forward to attack to try to bridge to them, they had a 5-10 second gap. It was too far for me to do it by myself so I was hoping to get some help from the field. Darryl helped drive the chase, but the gap wasn’t coming down. I started looking for opportunities to get away from the group and it came about 25 minutes into the race. GW had already attacked and was off the front. I attacked with a Nashvillecyclist rider and got a gap bringing one of Mike’s teammates (Mike Lanaham) with us. We quickly bridged up to GW who started working with us to establish the break and begin our best attempt to close the gap to Matt and Mike. With Mike Olheiser up the road, Lanaham had a free ride with us as he had no reason to work with us. I was feeling better than GW and the Nashvillecyclist rider so I would pull for longer pulls sometimes pulling the entire lap with the hope that they could recover and help more.
Then the race got really confusing. We kept on hearing timegaps but we were never sure if it was to the field behind us or possibly even in front of us. Well, it turns out it was to the field in front of us that we were about to lap. Unfortunately, Mike and Matt had also lapped the field and kept right on going. I attacked hard right before we lapped the field and only Mike Lanaham was able to stay with me. Unfortunately, we picked up a couple of his teammates who had been off the front. They helped work, but this meant that Mike could stop working and rest. I attacked with two laps to go to get rid of his teammates and only Mike could follow. Then on the last lap, I led out the sprint and surprisingly made it a close call but still lost the sprint meaning that I got fourth place for the race.
Whew, I’m tired just writing about all of this. I think that will do it for tonight.