Saturday, April 16, 2011

Leland 150k bike race 2011

The race is 150K with about 50% on gravel roads. This helps me if I can stay in front because it strings out eh peleton and allows my TT skills to kick in a bit. What I have to do is survive the first few attacks and make sure I don’t get left behind by a good group that can win it. I also try to help out the better cyclists on my team like Patrick.

Last year I learned 2 lessons:
1. I missed the first massive attack and the 2 guys stayed away and won.
2. I showed my strength too early for TT’ng and ended up pulling the last like 90 min.

So this year I tried to follow the first couple attacks and keep Patrick in the front, but didn’t want to always be the guy to chase down each attack. So after like 3, I sat up for the 4th and let someone else do it. Problem was, nobody did, then Patrick did and I am supposed to be looking out for him. So half way through the first lap I saw a gap, I chased it so Patrick wouldn’t have to, when I looked back we had gapped the field, but Patrick didn’t come…. Damn, now what??

I decided to sit at the back of the 4 man group, and do as little work as possible. Problem was we just entered the first gravel road, which the rain turned into a mud pit. Ugh. Because there was only like 9 inches of semi packed dirt mud, and I was sitting 4th I was having to do 425 watts to BARELY hold on, and I couldn’t hold a wheel!!! Damn it! I was told first rule is to never get dropped from a break and I was about to break that rule…

I decided to drop back to the 2 CAT 1 riders chasing me about 15 seconds back, and did. I was taking turns for like 5 min, and the guy I was following let the lead guy go. Great, now I went around him, but it was too late, by the time I found a place in the mud to pass, the guy had like 20 seconds on us. The guy with me said sorry, and then dropped off. NOTHING was going as planned.
So this was supposed to be a 6 lap course, each lap about 15 miles. At the end of lap 1 I was isolated about 50 seconds behind the lead 4 and about 90 seconds ahead of the group. We were about to go into the wind for about 20 min, and last time it was all I could do to go 14mph with a pack! All I could think was there was NO WAY I can out TT a group of 4 (3 x Cat1, 1 x CAT3) solo into that kind of wind. Decision time, the idea of dropping back that far too maybe get dropped from some more sprints was not appealing so I decided to chase.

At about half way through the wind section I was encouraged to be catching one guy who dropped off, and not lose any time to main group, but I wasn’t gaining. When I picked up the guy, he worked with me for about 10 min, and then dropped off. The ref said I was 38 seconds back, then 33, then 28… After 53 min I finally caught!

As soon as I did, one guy said, “Pull through”. I told him no way, I need to rest a min, just chased for close to an hour. He then said, “OK, let’s drop the dead weight, and stood up and sprinted. We were going into the wind on lap 2, and he did the sprint during like a 90 second stretch where it was a cross wind. I told myself no matter how bad it hurt, fighting wind for 15 min solo again, would be worse. I made the group, another guy dropped, now we are 3.

What was surprising to me was it was a CAT 1 guy, and a CAT 3. I thought if I made the front, I would definitely with the 3 race… Not the case. At the end of 3rd lap CAT 3 guy dropped. Now it was me and the CAT 1.

We decided to work together, into the wind. 15 second pulls. My glasses were COVERED in mud. I couldn’t see a thing. I took them off but on the mud roads, his wheel spray went into my eyes, and I almost crashed. In the cross wind he told me to not pull so hard, and I didn’t think I was, so I felt like maybe in another lap I could dial it up, but I didn’t want to do 2.5 laps solo with the wind. 5 min later, he dropped off and waved me on! WHAT!? Holly crap, I was winning the race!? Problem was I had 2 complete laps left. I told myself to not panic, be steady and TT it.

Finishing up lap 4 O couldn’t see anyone behind me, and the lead vehicle told me they were going to take 1 lap off. (Between us, I was thanking God! ) So I told myself I basically had to survive a 20 min solo effort into the worst wind imaginable. Positive was I could take my glasses off as I wasn’t getting wheel spray in my face. 

After the wind section I looked back and didn’t see anyone. The motorcycle came up and told me I had 4.5 min lead! Wow, now, no flats!

I couldn’t believe it. I did 5 laps, just about 75 miles; I was freezing the entire time, and could not believe I won. I’m not sure what happened behind me, I guess most of the field was told to turn for home, and most only did 4 laps? I don’t know. But wow, I was so excited.

I want to thank Rich for the awesome new Focus bike and Bicycle Heaven Team for helping me get ready and telling me what to do.