2018 Snelling Road Race - Elite 3 - Words by Sean Brandt and Trevor Gilmore

TEAMMATES:

Jonatan Jatombliansky, Kyle Beikirch, Trevor Gilmore, Marcello Pederson, Alex Braunstein

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION:

An 11.7 mile loop of narrow country roads northwest of Snelling, CA. Starting with a long neutral (sketchy, cold) rollout from the Park. Course consists of several small hills, several sharp turns, excellent to pave-like pavement. Course is closed to oncoming traffic, both lanes available. Sort of a big P-shaped loop. Same course as past 30 years.

 

PREVIOUS RESULTS:

2012 - DNP; 2013 - 62nd; 2015 - 23rd ; 2016 - 43rd; 2017 - DNP

 

WEATHER:

Sunny and very cold (35° at the start)

 

GOALS:

Get 1 of 4 different riders (Trevor, Marcello, JJ, Kyle) on to the podium/win

 

PLAN:

Send multiple riders up the road in breaks, organize for field sprint if the breaks don’t stick. We would start with Trevor on the second lap, Marcello to follow on the catch of that break, then Jonatan for the serious late break move. If those failed, we would work for Kyle in the field sprint. Alex and I would play domestique duties - chasing things down, or slowing things down as needed.

 

We noted that Sunweb and Mikes Bikes also had about 6 guys, a handful of other teams had about 4 guys, and a couple of strong riders here and there. We’d want to pay attention to moves with these teams represented.

 

RESULT:

Trevor got 4th in the winning break of 4; I came across the line in 38th after sitting up with 1k to go.



 

RACE SUMMARY:

Snelling is an interesting race for me. I’ve clearly never had a decent result to speak of, and yet I LOVE the race and do my best to make it every year. Perhaps because the parcours is more my style, probably because it’s the big, sort of official opening to the road racing season. It’s certainly not the frigid temps and the earliest “day of” drive of the whole season. We rallied a legit number of Cat 3s to the race and we agreed on the plan outlined above.

 

After the very long, cold, sometimes sketchy rollout, the race usually “hots up” right away. It certainly did this year. Attacks started pretty much from the whistle. Dolce was doing a good job of covering attacks - Trevor made a very early stab with one or two riders, Alex and I were closing gaps, and and the field was not letting anything get away. It seemed as though everyone had the same idea as us, go figure. Our plan was actually to keep the race together on the first lap, since we thought it would be too early for a serious move to stick. But it also felt like we might need to rethink our strategy. Jonatan moved up and added to one or two attacks, earlier than planned, but it was crazy that first lap! That’s pretty much how the first lap played out, with nobody getting any sort of serious gaps - maybe a solo rider here and there would prize out some seconds before we chased him back down.

 

The second lap started pretty well strung out down the long straight of Keyes road. I was removing glove layers because it started to warm a bit, and I found myself guttered near the long end of the tail of riders. Jonatan and another teammate scooted up to me when it slowed a bit, so the race must have stretched back a bit further than I knew! We rolled toward the front of the group and could see that Trevor, right on schedule, had gotten a gap with a Sunweb rider. There was actually another two off the front between us and them, with maybe another straggler in no-man’s land before the front of the peloton. It looked like the second two might join Trevors group (which they did). I got to work at the front to begin disrupting any serious chasing that might ensue. I ditched my vest at the designated jacket-barrel the race organizers had kindly setup for the cold start, and settled in for some work.

 

For me, the next lap consisted of either: (1) Messing up the rotation, or (2) chasing down small groups of riders trying to get off the front. It was fun. Mikes Bikes had missed the move and so they, at times, threw one or two, maybe three guys up front to chase. I would sit off the back of a 3-4 man rotation and then every once in a while take my turn at the front with a high cadence soft pedal. Sometimes Mike’s would throw a guy off the front, along with another two-man team in pink, and so I’d chase them down, making sure to drag the field with me. At this point it was still a matter of keeping the field together so that we could launch our second attack.

 

On the third lap Jonatan came forward and said “We’ve lost Marcello”. At the time I thought maybe he had a mechanical, or, because I felt like I was working pretty hard at the front, maybe he got gapped off the back. Marcello is a beast and I should have known better. Unfortunately, someone had hit him from behind and he went down pretty hard. Lots of road rash and a broken clavicle. Heal up brother! At this point, we were into lap 3, and so I started working more seriously to destroy any sort of serious chase in the hopes the break would stick. Trevor had a gap of 2 minutes at one point in the third lap. When we heard that from the moto, the field got a little more serious about a chase.

 

Over the course of the 4th and 5th laps the field shaved off about 30 seconds of the leading group of 4. Jonatan and Kyle were helping keep an eye on things up front. Jonatan was there to watch for a serious late-race counter attack, and Kyle and I reprised our roles from the week before, messing’ up the rotation. On the last half of the last lap it was clear the break would stay away, so we started to get ready for the bunch sprint for the last podium spot. I was thinking two Dolces on the podium would be sweet. I did my best to chase a few late attacks. After closing the last gap with just over 1km to go, I was pretty well spent. With the pace heating up, and super tired legs, I pulled up and over and let the group duke it out, feeling like my job for the day was complete. Jonatan was up front leading the group, and Kyle was right there in the mix. As I rolled across the line Jonatan was walking his bike across - having flatted with meters to go! Trevor had apparently broken a shifting cable and was stuck in a super hard gear, or super easy gear, I can’t remember. At any rate, he made a fantastic effort to stay with the break in the finale, finishing fourth.

 

TAKEAWAYS:

  1. Great fitness and lots of luck is needed to win a race. Both Trevor and Jonatan had great opportunities to win/podium respectively, but had untimely issues with their bikes. My view is, if you can get yourself to that point in the race where you are in a position to win/podium/etc., I view it as a success. In those last seconds of a race, so much often depends on following the right wheel, or making a split-second decision that makes or breaks a win. I find that last few percentages of the race between winning and a podium spot, or being just off the podium, come down to a roll of the dice.

  2. Racing with (strong) teammates/friends is fun. It’s always fun to have a strategy involving other teammates, and to be able to more or less execute on that strategy with super strong riders. And the fact that they’re your buddies gives you that little bit extra motivation to lay it all out there.

  3. I’m starting to embrace the role of ‘race captain’, helping direct tactics on the road rather than going into each race looking for a result for myself. The fact of the matter is, the winners of the last two road races are essentially my sons age. For chrissakes I’ll be eligible for the 45+ field next year! I have 8 years of racing under my belt and can share some lessons with the boys. I’ve never been the strongest guy in the race, but I’ve always felt like I can read a race pretty well. I think it’s going to be a fun year!

 

Snelling according to Trevor Gilmore: 

Marcello, I hope you have a speedy recovery.  I’m sorry you had to experience a horrific crash. Let us know if there is anything we can do.  


I notice my front tire is flat while riding to the start line. Thankfully Jonatan is right near me, and a stranger happens to have a tube and tire pump in his car.  We both swap the tube quickly, and hop on to the neutral field after the gun went off.  Given the large team presence (Mikes Bikes Development, SunPower, PenVelo, us and some strong smaller teams like Olympic Club), our plan was to attack hard and initiate a break.  If that didn’t work, we protect and lead out Jonatan and Kyle for the field sprint finish.  My role was to attack on the first 2 laps; then Marcello would take over for laps 2-4.  On lap one, there were several attacks, but nothing stuck.  As promised I attacked hard on the first “climb”, but was caught immediately.  Mikes Bikes, Olympic Club and Sun Power did the same.  To plan, our protected riders were sitting in the 60 person field, as to not burn matches on meaningless attacks.  
Starting on lap 2, I start noticing some people’s legs are not moving as fast, and some gaps are opening up on the “climb”.  The field is jockeying for position – the attackers are moving to the front, while the protected riders are sitting in.  I moved forward, observed for a bit before attacking.  “Make it count!” as Marcello would say.  I notice Madden Titus from SunPower, a turbo diesel freight train of a rider, is moving forward.  Which means he will attack.  We have a cross wind at this point.  I get on his wheel, let him lead me out and counter attack up a small false flat.  He manages to stay behind me, and we form a break on the field.  I look back, and the break it sticking.  It takes us a while to start working together in a meaningful way.  After about 5 minutes, two guys bridge up to us – Stefen Creason from Data Drive Athlete and Creighton Gruber from Team Swift.  At that point we have enough horsepower to maintain a break…as long as we work together.  Madden and Stefan take long pulls, while Creighton would skip pulls.  I admonish him, and he says he is “trying”.  I figure he is better in the group then if we drop him, since he is a climber who can help us the hills.  Starting on lap 4, the moto tells us we have a 2 minute gap on the peloton, with a solo chaser 1 minute behind us.  We continue to motor on (I was at threshold the entire break, and achieved a PR of cranking out 320 watts for 60 minutes, and 309 for 90 minutes.  Might not be impressive to fast guys but it’s a first for me!).  Halfway through the last lap, the moto informs us we have 1:30 on the field.  So they are closing in on us; however we only have 6 more miles left to go.  So unless a mechanical happens, we have this race.  Then, like clockwork, my rear derailleur cable snapped.  I was stuck in the biggest gear, and struggled to keep up with the break on the flats, spinning 65 rpm.  But I hung on.  I could not contest the field sprint since the finish line was on a hill.  So I passed the finish line at probably 1 MPH (given my big gear) but got fourth!  Thanks again to Alex, Kyle, Jonatan, Marcello and Sean for your hard teamwork and shutting down attacks in the field.  It was a tough day out for our team (Jonatan flatted in the field sprint, Marcello had a bad crash) and I’m glad we were at least represented on the podium.  I was not expecting my attack to stick, and am still quite surprised at the result.   This is the first race where I’ve initiated, and kept, a break!

Pine Flat Road Race - Cat 2 - Words by Kyle Beikirch

Course starts with an out and back on some rollers along the lake, then continues along the lake  then flattens out in the middle of the race. Then a bit of false flat for a while with some little bumps and ends with two climbs. The first is Wildcat with is a 3.5 mile climb then a rolling decent and finishes with a pitchy 1.2 mile summit finish.

 

Field was a little less than 30. Big Orange from SoCal had 6 or 7 riders. Dolce Vita had Alex, Trevor and myself. The plan going into the race was for me to cover early breaks and to have them save their energy for the final climbs since they are better climbers. Plus I had raced the day before at Cantua and they were both fresh. I would say ⅔ of the field also did not race Cantua. The morning was kinda chilly and was really undecided on what to wear. I went to the start line with arm & leg warmers, vest, and full finger gloves. Just as the P/1/2 field went off I decided to ditch the leg warmers.

 

The race started off pretty uneventful. I stayed in the top 8 the entire time during the out and back keeping an eye out for an early attack. Vegan Athletic and DNA swapped turns setting the pace on the front and was happy for them to use their energy to be in the wind. There was only one real attack on the back section that got more than a few seconds that was started by Vegan Athletic. I immediately followed and stuck onto his wheel. When he was done with his pull, I looked back and there was only about a 3 second gap so I just sat up. The group rolled along the lake and I threw my vest to the side of the road as we past the start line.

 

Once we got to the flatter section, some action started to happen. People would put in digs but would never get more than a few seconds but I made sure to stay at the front just in case something dangerous went up the road. A Big Orange guy rolled off the front by himself and no one reacted to get a few second lead. Since they were the big team there, I thought this might work and bridged up to him. But he ended up not being very much help and seemed to be a ruse as another Big Orange rider from the group countered as we were caught. This guy would end up slowly building up a gap. I wasn’t overly concerned as he was a solo rider and didn’t look to be that strong. Knowing we had two big climbs at the end. He would need to get a few minutes lead to ever make it to the finish alone. Up a little ramp, I wanted to go at my own pace so went to the side for a clear path and ended up going a little faster than I anticipated. Got a few second gap and decided to roll with it over the top of the little hill. Once it flattened out I wasn’t gaining time, so gave up on that little effort.

 

Big Orange did a decent job of blocking the chase which made Trevor ancy. I saw him move to the front to help take pulls in which I immediately get up beside him and tell him to get to the back and save his energy and to leave it to me to keep an eye on the break.

 

As we get closer to the climbs I tell Alex to stick on my wheel so that I can pull him to the front to be in good position to start the climb. There were a few small ramps before the actual turn onto the climb and people would go hard up them but I would stay with them in case a split happened.

 

We hit the first climb and the pace ramps up. A few people pop off but most of the group is still there. I can feel the earlier efforts in my legs. Alex is right next to me and tell him I’m not sure how much more help I can be. I hang on the back of the group for a bit. The first part of the climb is stairsteppy and in my mind I tell myself I have to dig deep when it goes up and recover quickly on the flats and the short downhills. Putting in a little bit of extra effort to stay with the group and draft saved my race. On one of the very shorts downhills, I put in a little extra effort to move back to the front so that I don’t have to waste energy later going around people falling off.

 

We hit the steady part of the climb and that is when a lead group of 5 slowly create some distance. Good news is that Trevor is one of those 5! The rest of us are shattered down the road and all just going at our own paces. I find myself surprisingly the 2nd rider after the lead group. I just pin it to threshold and go up the climb steadily. About 4 of us go back and forth passing each other on the climb while one guy in the chase gets about a 15 second gap on us. I didn’t do a great job of recon, so didn’t exactly know where the top of this climb was. Once I saw a group of people standing on the side of the rode that looked like a crest, I assumed it was the top (luckily it was) so put in a little dig  and went over the top solo with about 10 seconds to the solo rider ahead of me and about 30 more to the lead group. There were two riders behind me by about 5 seconds.

 

Going down the decent, I notice the two guys behind me are closing so I ease up and get on their wheel. I want to recover as much as possible, so I skip my pull and the other two guys didn’t seem to mind. We eventually catch the guy ahead of us as we get into the rollers. I notice up the road there is a solo rider. Unfortunately, I can tell it is Trevor, although I’m not sure the rest of the group realized it was my teammate. So now my goal is to keep this chase at bay so that Trevor can keep his 5th place. So the group wants to do about 30 second pulls to try to catch Trevor and even attempt to get back to the lead group. So I slot in second, and then when the guy pulls off, I take lead but don’t go hard. I think everyone is tired at this point, so no one reacts to this. Eventually the guy behind me pulls around and then I slot in right behind him and do the same thing over again. I keep on doing this about 3 more times, and is working like a charm. Yea, we were closing in on Trevor but only very slowly. In the process of slowing down our chase, we also picked up 3 more riders for a total of 7.

 

We hit the final climb and the 1k to go sign and I see Trevor has enough of a gap to make it to the finish by himself unless he completely blows up. My attention now returns to my own result. Luckily for me, with my blocking, I haven’t put in a hard effort since the top of the last climb. 2 riders immediately pop at the base of the climb dwindling it down to 5.  I try to stay in the top 3 without being on the front though. 1 one rider tries to slowly pull away and only gets maybe 2 seconds on us. He pops with about 400 meters to go though. There are 4 of us left as we hit the 200m sign. The pace picks up and another guy pops. At about 150m another rider goes, I follow his wheel, the 3rd guy cant match so now it’s just 1 v 1. I just dig deep and stay on his wheel and then with about 50m to go I empty the tank and pull away from him easily. Good enough for 6th place and 2 upgrade points.

 

Super happy with the result and way better than I expected since I had raced the day before and had done work earlier in the race. Also again, really happy how we raced as a team.

2018 Cantua Creek - Cat 3 - Words by Kyle Beikirch

Course is 3 laps of a out and back road for a total of 70 miles. Mostly flat with the last 3k being stair step uphill. Had teammates Jonatan and Sean with me in a field of around 25. With it being the first race of the season for me, always hard to figure out where I am exactly fitness wise, but training had been going well so had some confidence. The course finish also suited me with a short uphill finish. So the plan was for Jonatan to cover early moves and then have both of them help lead me out for the finish if it was still together. Hoever looking at previous race reports, breakaways were very common for this course and typically formed on the uphill section to finish each lap so had to be on the lookout for that.

 

Race started and within the first mile, attacks started. Jonatan did an amazing job the entire first lap covering attacks from the heavy hitters. Sean helped with the pace too and I tried to sit in as much as possible. We soon realized that any attack on the flat section could be easily caught so was useless. At the end of the first lap on the uphill, a guy goes off the front solo. He gets a decent gap of almost 30 seconds by the time we get to the turn around. On the next lap we keep him in check do some rotating pacelining. His teammate tried to disrupt the paceline and worked once but we picked up on his tactic. We slowly reeled back in the solo rider about ¾ of the way through the second lap. Some other small groups go off the front but get reeled back up. With a couple miles before the climb a few get away and get around a 20 second gap. As we hit the uphill to finish the second lap, all three of us know, this is a prime opportunity for the winning move to form. Some guys attack hard on the climb and Jonatan is there with them as they slowly bridge to the leading group to start the last lap.

 

With their gap growing, Sean and I do as much as we can to disrupt the main group from chasing them down. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy. Several times the people at the front of our group would try to form a rotating paceline. We would get in the paceline and then when we were about 3-4 from the front, let a gap form, causing the guy in front of us to be stuck in the wind. We were able to pull this off about 5 times pretty easily. By the time we reached the halfway point of the last lap, the group had given up on catching the lead group. Sean and I chatted about the lead out and discussed when he should go and where to drop me off for the sprint.

 

We hit the final climb and Sean and I are actually too close to the front than I would have preferred. The climb lasts longer than you think so wanted to let some other guys lead the first part of the climb.. A guy goes off solo from our group and gets about 10 seconds. No one wanted to be the one to chase him down. It was a smart move by him, luckily for us, he didn’t have the legs and would end up being caught with about 1k to go. But before we caught him, Sean and I were in the front 5 of the group. As it is a stair step climb, there are some small flat and slightly downhill parts, and I actually found myself on the front with about 1.5k to go which was not the plan and panicked a little. So I eased up and luckily some other people upped the pace, and Sean was on their wheel and then I grabbed Sean’s wheel and let him know I was there. Sean did a great job of pulling me up the climb. We got to a flatter section inside 1k to go and Sean gave the his last bit of energy and dropped me off. It was a little earlier than we had planned but there was only two other riders no more than 2 seconds ahead and we had almost a 10 second gap behind us so worked out anyways. I slowly crawl my way to these two guys and then sit on their wheel. I stay there and let them do the pulling. They are starting to fade so I keep looking back to make sure the pack isn’t closing in and luckily they are not closing fast. The first guy finally pops so its just me and one other guy for the final drag. The last part to the finish is steep like the bump finish. With about 175 meters to go I start my sprint. I am slowly gaining on him. I get even with his wheel and he matches my paces and gets a few inches on me, but then I empty the tank and pas him and get him by about a bike length. While it ended up being only for 10th place. (Didn’t realize how big the breakaway was). It felt good to win the bunch sprint and see that my legs are in good form so far.

 

Was really proud of our team! We executed on our tactics almost perfectly. The only thing I think we could have done better is maybe not have Jonatan cover so many moves at the beginning. Maybe he would then have more for the final sprint, but happy with the result.

2017 Giro di SF Cat 4/5 - Words by Cam Juarez

I got a start near the front of the pack but settled into a nice armchair ride midpack waiting for the dumb early moves to die down. Benoit and I managed to avoid the many crashes that dwindled down the number of remaining riders. With 6 or 7 laps to go (8min remaining) I attacked the field from the middle of the climb carrying more speed than others though an outside line in the corners. With the field stuck in the traffic jam after the hill, I pushed hard off the front and opened a decent gap before the next corner. By the next lap or so an official told me the gap was  17 seconds. I started settling into a nice tempo ride losing a bit of ground on the straightaway by the start finish ready to make some up through the corners and hill when a fire truck pulled in front of me and an official started blowing their whistle with both hands in the air. Figuring this meant slow down, I did exactly that and the race was nuetralized. After another bad crash, the race was nuetralized again. On to the 3rd start of the day after watching a rider from our field get carried out on a stretcher, you could feel the nerves in the bunch and my main goal was to remain upright. I finished midpack in a field sprint after getting cut off twice in the corners with 2 laps to go when I was trying to move up. Pleased to not start the off-season with injury but bummed that I didn't get a result with good legs.

Lodi Cyclefest Criterium Cat 4 35+ - 1st - Words by Matt Johnson

Here's the breakdown of how I won my first race. As most of you know, I said that I was "resting/taking a break from racing" to keep from burning out. Yeah, whatever. 
I woke up Sunday, around 6, feeling pretty good. I had played with idea Saturday a little bit, but I didn't go out and do openers. So I'm quite unprepared. I looked at the course (a nice hour glass course semi-technical) for a minute and the start time and made the drive to Lodi (1h 35mins). Once I got there I had doubts: I didn't mentally/physically prepare for this race as most folks do.
Skipping to mid-race. I'm staying with the top 10 wheels (21 racers total) and trying to keep away from these hard chargers who want to collect all the primes. Theses same guys kept sprinting for the line for $20 here and $20 there. 
Really TL, DR
Wrapping up on the last prime with 3 to go, the pack is completely strung out, there are 6 guys just off the front trying to recover. I told them, "let's go" to which they gave no response. So I responded by slowly pulling away. As I went around the corner, I looked back and the the field was sitting there 100m behind. So I went for it! Putting in some effort to create a gap (I don't have power) but my HR was in the red 185-190. I hit every turn as hard as I could (bombing corners). As I came around the straightaway finish I looked back and I didn't see anyone (2 to go). I'm really reading lap cards this time (ie. Cat's Hill) 
As I come to the line with 1 to go, someone yells "21 seconds!" As I go around the corner, I can see them and they're single file and charging. The announcer is acting like this the most amazing thing he has ever seen in his life saying "here comes the pack!" and "can Matt Johnson hold them off?!" 
On the final lap I recall wanting to throw up, being so exhausted I was only holding my head up through the turns. As this faded feeling continued and sucked it up dug even deeper. In the final stretch, I could see them coming. I was getting nervous, but then I heard the announcer say "they are not going to catch him..." Second place and co. ended up finishing 5 seconds behind me.

Takeaways: always plan for your race and once make that move you have to commit.

Santa Cruz Crit Cat 3 - 9th Place - Words by Kyle Beikirch

Field was 23 with 10 of them being Mike’s Bikes and 4 from Sun Power. If any break were to go, it would have to include those teams. Since it was just Marcello and I, we just wanted to be defensive and not create any moves but just be on the lookout in case something dangerous went up the road.

 

The first turn on the course is a nice downhill switchback. They had done some patchwork on the turn which made it a little dicey. There was some loose gravel on the inside line.  Twice Marcello had his back wheel slip, but didn’t crash, so I tried to avoid that. Pace was high throughout, but never felt like death until the very end. I did notice the first few laps that after the switchback a small gap would form, and I would have to waste a little bit of energy to catch back on. At first I thought it was because I was taking the turn to slow, but after paying attention the next few laps, figured out that I was waiting too long to start pedaling again which was creating the gap so quickly corrected that. Using a little trick I learned from Coach Ryan on the course is on the backside after the downhill, a lot of the riders end up coasting and drafting behind the riders in front of them. However, if you just use your momentum and go around the outside, you can gain some spots pretty easily. Yes, you use more energy than just sitting in the draft, but the positives of gaining all those spots for just a little bit more pedaling is well worth it. With all of those spots you gain, you can take the hill just before the finish just a little bit easier. There were a few crashes on the switchback that I was luckily able to avoid.

 

Luckily for Marcello and I, Sunpower made  a bunch of attacks in the race that Mike’s Bikes would constantly miss out on, so they would constantly have to pull the field to catch the break which helped us out a lot. In the last third of the race with about 5 laps to go, a guy from Mike’s and Sun Power start getting a gap. I see this as a dangerous move and jump on it. The sunpower guys pulls us along and the Mike’s Bikes guy doesn’t pull through and we eventually get caught. Not soon after another sunpower guy goes and the same Mike’s Bikes guy follows. I’m still recovering but Marcello gives me a nice encouraging push on my back to bridge back up. Same thing happens again with the Mike’s bike guy  not doing any work. I’m not really sure what their plan is. It seems pretty logical to me that both sunpower and MIke’s would want this type of break to stick and would put in an effort to make it work while their teammates block in the field, but oh well.

 

So we are all back together for the last few laps. My plan was to attack hard on the narrow road right before the hill, but in order for that to be effective I need to be at the front. However, I failed to do that. One thing I am learning in the Cat 3 races is that while I have the fitness, I need to be more aggressive and assertive.

Snelling Road Race Cat 4 - 2nd Place - Words by Kurt Brown

Breakaways don't always get caught, and the am/pm in Ripon is on point.https://www.strava.com/activities/887953347
As with most "Bay Area" races, Snelling is far away...very far away, almost 3 hours from any form of Bay. Doing a race that far away meant the day started off really early, a 3:45 wake up time for me, and a 4:20 (true story) meet up with Brian Kuczynski (BK) and Kortney for the drive out. Three hours later, we were pinning numbers in the parking lot and hoping the temperature would crack 50 degrees.
We started with a group of approximately 30 riders in the cat 4 field, BK and I were the only Dolce Vita guys in the pack, vastly out numbered by SunPower and Team Mike's Bikes. Snelling is a fairly unique race in that it offers the entire use of both lanes of traffic on a ~12 mile closed circuit. It wasn’t long after the neutral roll out that the first flurry of attacks started. There were quite a few attempts by various riders to escape the peloton, I swear the one LOW rider in the field attacked at least 20 times #cat4tactics. SunPower was keeping tabs on everyone and shutting down any and all breakaway attempts, even attacks from some of their own teammates #cat4tactics. BK put in a few good efforts at the front in a crosswind section in an attempt to split the field, but unfortunately the wind really wasn’t blowing hard enough to force a selection. I put in a fairly hard attack on one of the few hills on the course and managed to get a decent gap with about 3 other riders in tow, but it was quickly shutdown by the still fresh-legged peloton. The race followed this pattern of sporadic attacks and quick chase downs for another 35 miles or so, I made a couple more attempts at escaping during this period, but with far less success than my first.
The race calmed down after we were neutralized for a breakaway in the Cat 2 field that was quickly approaching us from behind. After all the neutralization drama and with about 40 miles covered I decided I needed to do 1 of 2 things: either A) Wait until we got to a section of fairly rough pavement that immediately leads into a hill, and make an absolute last ditch effort to escape (I’m so not a sprinter) or B) Work to stay in the top 3 wheels before the final corner to the finish and then cross my fingers. With about 17 miles left in the race, decision time was rapidly approaching, ~1.5 laps left, we were approaching the hill.
SunPower had managed to get a guy up the road, but he was not really gaining time on the bunch and the field was fine with letting him hangout there as we maintained a civilized pace behind. As the road started to get bumpy, I headed left over the smoothest section of pavement (I had figured this out by trial and error over the previous laps...I still don't know how I avoided pinch flatting) The moment had arrived, and I kicked hard as the road turned upward, going straight past the flagging SunPower rider, I took a half glance back after the road flattened and noticed that I had a sizable gap on the field!
I'm in the break; I am the break, what now? I'm not bad in a TT, but 17 miles is a long way. Thankfully I didn't have to spend too much time contemplating a 17 mile solo TT as almost out of nowhere a rider from CA Technologies (Charlie) latched on to my rear wheel. We started trading turns at the front, and quickly gained a minute on the field. After pulling off the front, Charlie asks me if I’m all in for taking this to the line, I say yes. It was either we take first and second or end up DFL, we weren’t planning to leave anything in the tank and we had an entire lap left to attempt to stay away. We worked together pretty smoothly for most of this time, trading 1-2 minute pulls. With about 6 miles left the moto ref rides up to tell us the gap is down to 45 seconds, we do some quick mental math and some looking back and decide that although tenuous, we could do it. About 3 miles to the finish we were both looking very ragged, gaps opening up after pulls, thoughts of whether or not my power meter was broken, it was saying 300+ 10 minutes ago!?
As we descended into the 2nd to last corner I let a small gap open up to his wheel, I make an attempt to close it down but end up being too cooked to do anything but keep pace a few meters behind #byecharlie. Paranoia kicks in with about 2 miles left, I'm now alone and the pack is visible in the distance, it’s definitely way behind, but it’s enough to prompt me to not put my 2nd place in jeopardy, and I dig deeper. Charlie finishes with about a 10 second gap on me with the pack a further 30 seconds behind. I almost can’t believe it, the race is over and we held off the pack!
What did I learn?
"Race towards your strengths" - I'm not a stellar sprinter and doubt I would have had as much success fighting it out in the final bunch sprint.
"Sometimes the break works" - 17 miles is a long way out, 30 miles is even longer, but my teammate in the cat 3 field won solo from that far out.
"Having teammates is important, even if it’s just one" - Having BK cover attacks that we considered dangerous and putting in attacks of his own did a lot to soften up the competition, and saved me from chasing down break attempts.
"You can burn matches" - It took me 4 tries to finally escape, but it worked.
"You can burn too many matches" - Charlie played it very smart, I only saw him twice that day, once following an attack that looked like it had potential, and the second time when he joined me in the break. Without teammates to work with, he had to choose his moves wisely and it paid off. At least one of my attacks could probably have been categorized as foolhardy, and I might have had a bit more left at the end had I not been so aggressive.
Next up? Bariani with Mario and Matt!