The Tour de Tuscaloosa has to be one of my favorite race weekends of the year – plus it’s less than an hour’s drive from home! The Saturday criterium was held later on Saturday evening under the lights. The course was an eight-corner course with a large 35-40mph downhill and a stair-step climb. I made the mistake of going with the Lap 1 breakaway, and then going with the Lap 2 breakaway, and then sliding to the back of the pack for several laps. By the time I worked my way back up to the front, the winning move was gone. Still, my teammates Wes and Stuart rode hard at the front of the race to try to bring it back or get in a counter-move, but everything was getting reeled back in by the strong Jittery Joe’s team. In the field sprint for fourth place, all I could manage was eighth — which meant 11th place in the race with the breakaway already finished.
If the Tour de Tuscaloosa is one of my favorite race weekends, the road race course has to be my favorite course of all the races I do each year. It has a little bit of everything – mostly rolling hills, but one longer climb, a couple flat sections, and even a short downhill switchback section. 7 laps of a 10 mile loop. We started out with the plan (devised on the start line) that Stuart would go with whatever break went off the front early. Sure enough – a break went very early (immediately after the neutral section) and we had it covered. It didn’t last long before another break got away. Attack, chase, rest, was the flavor of the day and eventually a well-represented break got away with Stuart, two jittery joes, two cumberland riders, and a couple other riders. This break looked like it would stick – but there wasn’t a lot of cohesion because the jittery joes riders had a solo rider off the front. I’m not exactly sure when he got away. Eventually, Ty Stanfield (Inferno), me, and two Cumberland riders bridged across to the break but because the pace had slowed down the whole field shortly caught up to us. I think this was towards the middle of lap 3.
At the start of Lap 4, I attacked on the hill to try to get something going and a small break formed, but we were reeled in a mile or two later. On the flats before the feedzone climb, Scott Kuppersmith attacked and got away solo (the Jittery Joe’s rider was still by himself off the front just out of sight). Then on the feedzone climb, Travis Hagner (Warp 9) attacked and got away solo. I had already decided about midway through Lap 4 that I was going to attack hard on the hill right after the start/finish. I moved into position but I was about 3 riders back from the front on the lefthand side of the road just waiting for something to open up. Then the first two riders moved a little left and the riders on the right moved a little right giving me just enough room to squeeze through in the middle. I attacked hard and got away solo with nobody chasing. By the top of the hill I caught Scott and Travis who had joined forces (they slowed down a bit to wait for me). I drove the pace and we quickly got a 30-45 second lead on the pack.
We drove it as hard as we could. Towards the end of the 6th lap, though, we got caught by a group of 4 including Ty, a Jittery Joe’s rider, and two Cumberland University riders. We worked OK together but the Jittery Joe’s rider and one of the Cumberland riders sat on without pulling a few times and this disrupted the pace. Jittery Joe’s did have a rider off the front so I guess it made sense for him not to pull as much, but we were being chased by another group of about 7 riders who had gotten off the front of what was left of the field. This group of 7 caught us at the start of the feedzone climb with about 2 miles left in the race. I attacked on the climb to try to shell as many of the hurting riders as possible. Only Ty, the Jittery Joe’s rider, and one of the Cumberland riders was able to maintain the pace. The Jittery Joe’s rider counter attacked shortly after I got caught towards the top of the climb. I was just barely able to hang on for the descent and then was in second position when Ty launched his first attack. I was just able to hold his wheel, but it was still too far out for me so I was hoping that maybe one of the other riders would counter attack. It didn’t happen and so we slowed down. Ty attacked again on the last hill before the downhill to the finish. I was able to hold his wheel and then when he tired, I launched from about 350 meters to the line thinking that maybe with the downhill I could get a gap and hold it to the finish. It wasn’t even close as the Jittery Joe’s rider and the Cumberland rider both passed me about 100 meters from the line.
So the order of finish then was 1st for the Jittery Joe’s rider who had been off the front solo for a large part of the race, then 2nd went to the other Jittery Joe’s rider in our break, third went to the Cumberland rider, I got 4th, and Ty got 5th.
Here’s my elevation and time data from the crit on Saturday (I forgot my heart rate monitor at home, and I’m not sure why the speed wasn’t recorded). Also, here’s my heart rate data from the race on Sunday.
- I did lots of attacking here to try to get away to bridge to a break
- The break wasn’t working well together so everything came back together. Here is the start of lap 5 where I attacked to bridge to a two-man break. Note how my heart rate stays high for the rest of the race as I was trying to drive the break to keep it away from the chasers