Sunday, May 15, 2005

Poolesville Road Race

Here's my take on the 4/5 Poolesville Road Race.

LSV squad
JT, Ryan, Mark, Dan, Chris, Sean, Jack, Carl, Dave

After a nervous start on a narrow road and a turn onto a gravel strewn country road a
handful of guys rolled off the front, still early in the first lap. The group contained
a few of the favorites, including Pat Cusack of Rockville/Harley. I was near the front
glued to Eric Krause's (strong All American rider) wheel. Eric had spent most of
Walkersville in breaks so I knew he wouldn't let a strong move go without him. Once the
move had a few second gap he dropped a couple of gears and accelerated out of the pack.
I was prepared and got a very easy lift across to the break right on his wheel.

When we made it to the break and looked back there was a decent gap to the field. With
some strong riders and all of the larger teams (NCVC, LSV, Coppi) in the break we all
decided to work and give it a go. The 7 of us drilled it pretty hard in a relatively
smooth paceline...pull through and slide into the recovery long pulls, just a
nice rotation.

We hit the dirt and really gave 'er the stick bouncing down the Poolesville Pavé at 26
mph on the rivet. I was hoping that we could establish a nice gap and then rely on some
blocking in the pack to keep us away. However, one of the NCVC's in the break overcooked
the dirt turn and was dropped and there were enough fresh guys in the field that wanted
to be in the move.

It sounds like a number of guys tried to bridge pulling the field up to us by the end of
the dirt road. While we didn't stay away at least we put the hurt on and thinned out
the field. Once back together the pack was more calm and guys were less inclined to do
sketchy stuff to move up.

Shortly after the catch we hit the rolling false flat the leads up to the feed zone. A
few guys rolled off the front, but were just dangling there. It didn't look like much of
anything. Mark was up front keeping an eye on things and he wisely jumped across to mark
it just in case. A couple more guys went and gradually a gap formed. Once we made the
right turn onto the narrow, double-yellow line headwind section the break really started
to ride away.

NCVC and us both had guys up front and we soft pedalled into the headwind to allow the
break to get established. We talked about it and decided that it was still early and
this would put some pressure on some of the stronger guys in the field to chase it down.
That section of road is narrow and is the only part of the course where the yellow-line
rule is really enforced so nobody could move up and chase until we made the right
turn...this would come back to haunt us later. 8-)

We creeped along and chatted about shit while the break rolled up the road. Eric Krause
was stuck in between burying himself trying to bridge, but not getting any closer. We
were happy to see a strong guy wasting energy and getting nowhere...well, he still had
plenty left to throw down a respectable sprint at the end so he really is strong.

We stayed on or near the front making tempo, but keeping things slow enough to give the
break a chance. The second time through the dirt was a lot more mellow. I was on the
front on the right, chatting to Andrew Curry from Coppi on the left just cruising along
about 19 mph. After the dirt we got a time check of 1:30 to the break. The next couple
of splits were all 1:30 to 1:45.

The break looked like it could stay away. There had been a few short-lived bridging
attempts that we and the NCVC armada had covered immediately, but nobody was really doing
any chasing. We had a decision to make...give Mark a chance to stick the move or chase
it down and try something else. The break had lost one rider so it was a group of
5...enough guys to make it work and worst case 5th place. On the other hand, with 9
riders in the race and several strong guys in the field and feeling good did we want to
gamble on having just one guy in the break? I think the deciding factor was that Mark
has been riding very well recently and we owed it to him to give him a chance.

So we decided to not chase the break. However, we were really hoping that Pat Cusack or
one of the other strong guys that had missed the move would get fed up and bridge. To
that end we had 4 or 5 guys near the front the entire time. Ryan and Dave were all over
Pat and we were ready to go with any chase to get more of our guys up the road. It
looked like this might happen at the end of lap 2 as two NCVC's accelerated up toward the
feed zone getting a gap. Dave, Sean, & I quickly got their wheels and Pat Cusack got
across as well, giving us a strong group with 3 LSV's!!! We had a little gap to the pack
and were almost to the turn into the narrow headwind where we really could have gotten
away. Unfortunately, the pack clawed it's way up to us, single-file...with, I think, one
of our guys on the front. That was an instance where our guys should have eased up to
grow that gap and force others to close it.

If there's a gap with teammates in front of you, force someone else to close it. It's a
win-win situation...either your teammates get away or someone else wastes energy to pull
you up to them. At which point you're still in good position and fresh to counter or
continue to rest up for later. If you close the gap, not only do your teammates not get
away, but you've just wasted energy to pull the whole field up to them.

We still had Mark up in the break riding his ass off in a long breakaway with some strong
riders. Another rider had fallen out of the break so it was just 4 of them up the road.
We were getting a little nervous and had more discussions about whether or not to chase
but it looked like it might work out.

Cue up the foreboding music because late in lap 3 (of 4) we see a lone LSV/Kelly jersey
up on the horizon. We're hoping that it's a straggler from the 40+/50+ race, but soon we
can tell that it's Mark. Oh boy, we're in trouble now. There was still a chance that
the break had fallen apart and that the gap was coming down, but the next time split was
still 1:30.

We should have immediately put guys on the front to chase, but we waited. Near the end
of the lap on the false flat we realized we should be chasing, but it wasn't real clear
who would do it. I was cramping and not really on the ball.
We hit the narrow headwind and it was too late to do anything. The first 8 guys were
clogging the road riding tempo and we finally had several guys right behind them ready to
chase but unable to get to the front. The break was surely increasing the gap as slowly
as we were riding.

I think we realized that we didn't have time to catch the break so we started thinking
about 4th place. The pace started to pick up and we hit the dirt very fast once again
shelling more riders. Coming out of the dirt into the hill the chasing group/peloton was
probably down to only ~25 riders.

We were moving over the rollers pretty strung out when Dave launched a big attack from
probably 5 miles out. He put his head down and got a gap immediately. With miles left
to the line this looked like a suicide move, but he kept his gap for quite a long time
forcing NCVC to ramp up the pace and chase him. It was a bold move that might have
worked a little closer to the finish, but NCVC still had plenty of guys left and they
brought him back.

Heading up the false flat for the last time legs seemed tired because we were going at a
solid temp, but not really giving 'er full gas. Still in the diminished pack were 5 of
us. We had the numbers to up the pace and start a leadout. Sean led the way to the
front of the group and I followed soon after. Approaching the final turn it was Pat
Cusack, Me, and Sean on the front.

We took the turn smoothly and Pat pulled off leaving me on the front. Sean accelerated
on my right yelling for me to grab his wheel. However, another dude was glued to his
tire. I bumped shoulders with him and tried to lean my way in, but he wasn't giving up
the wheel. Sean accelerated and I grabbed a wheel on the left. I could see the surge
starting to come up the left, with still a long way to the line. I jumped to try to get
out front and keep it fast, but my jump was reaaaaalllly weak. I was immediately swarmed
and only able to latch onto the back of the sprint and do a seated sprint to the line.

When our leadout sputtered Ryan got swarmed....NCVC had enough guys that there were 3
separate groups of them sprinting. It was very crowded in the last 500 meters. He still
managed to hang on for 6th in the field sprint, 9th overall. Dave, JT, Sean, and I were
also right there, but on the back of the group sprinting for the line.

We raced really well...had guys in the breaks...always had guys up front...did some very
nice blocking/controlling the pace...covered bridging attempts...had a lot of guys there
in the finale. We raced a tactical and thoughtful race. Personally, I had a lot of

Maybe we should have chased the break, but we took a gamble and it just didn't pan out
this time. I think it was right to give Mark a chance. Probably what we should have
done was to get another guy into that break. When it was just dangling in front of us we
could have easily sent someone across. With 2 guys in that break I really like our
chances. I guess we didn't recognize the potential at the time, but looking back with
the narrow headwind section just around the corner, it was the perfect spot for a break
to get a quick gap.

In the pack we really tried to do the finish right. Sean and I got in the wind, rode up
front, and committed ourselves to lead it out from a pretty good ways out. We both had
good power, but the top end just isn't there. When we tried to ramp up the speed and
keep it strung out the speed just wasn't there. Sorry guys, but we tried. It's a bummer
that we had strong 5 guys in that group and only got 6th, 14th, 15th, 16th, & 17th in the
field sprint.

We all took our chances and gave it our best shot. In the thick of it when you're on the
rivet it's tough to really think through what you're going to just have to
react. In the end, we raced our bikes and we had fun.

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