Saturday, June 1, 2013

Post US Championships/Pre-Dauphine

Let’s start with the time trial on Saturday. I previewed the course on Friday after a nice drive from Brevard in the morning, but I found out that my previewing led me a bit astray. I think several things went wrong. The first was that I was on my road bike because my tt bike was still in transport. The fact that I wasn’t on my tt bike didn’t give me as real of a feel for the course. I perceived the course to be harder on the road bike than I think I would have on the tt bike. I think this was also influenced by the second factor: the weather. It was windy on Friday and nearly calm on Saturday, so when I was previewing the course, the difficulty was amplified. The combination of no tt bike, trying to ride easy, and excess wind made the course seem harder. The third was putting my SRM on my tt bike. I was glad to have the SRM on my bike for the information during the race and from the file afterwards; however, I only had a 53-tooth chainring on my SRM, which I learned only during the race was perhaps not big enough. I believe a 54 would have helped me a lot on the longer false-flat downhills. I spent a lot of time in my 53x11, and although I was never officially spun out, I probably could’ve gone faster with the 54.

Regarding the result of the tt, I am pretty happy with it. Although I’m not strictly tied to the numbers my SRM reads, I like to reference it for feedback, and according to the file, I rode pretty well at my limit. I can’t ask for much more than that! Honestly, I really thought (almost expected) I had a good shot at the podium, so when I fell short of that, I was pretty disappointed. Seeing my effort and knowing how I felt though, I was happy to look at the positive that I had recovered well from California and was ready for a good race on Monday.

So let’s discuss Monday’s road race. It was a new venue in Chattanooga this year (for the tt, too), but the general setup was very similar: a local circuit plus a long lap including a decent climb. After I previewed the climb on Sunday, I was almost certain the race could (it all depends on how it’s raced) be more difficult than in Greenville because the climb was longer and seemed more difficult. So how did it play out? Surprisingly, the race was more “traditional” that a championship race might normally be. By that I mean that a breakaway went, a team set tempo (Bissel and Livestrong), then it was up to the “finishers” to finish it off. Normally, a championship race is more unpredictable and has a lot more “negative” racing with guys not willing to work or risk, so this was a nice change of pace, and it allowed me to relax a bit more. Although, I did spend a bit of energy in the beginning chasing breaks because I never knew if something would roll away and how it would play out after that. In the end, I was safe in the field.

The real action of the race following the initial fight for the breakaway happened the first and last time up the climb. The first time it was Chris Butler from Champion Systems who attacked. I’m not entirely sure why, but maybe he and his teammate, Chad Beyer were trying to launch one of them up to the break. The most interesting part of the move though was once Chris had a small gap off the front, it was Chad on the front of the field pulling (essentially chasing). I never looked back, so I don’t know if the group had been substantially reduced, but I don’t think they were doing themselves any favors at that point. Regardless, it was not a significant move and the field regrouped. The third time up the climb, there was a thought whether to attack, but I ended up being content to sit on the tempo that Bissel was setting. Looking back at how the race played out, attacking could have been the better plan, but hindsight is 20/20!

As is predictable, the final time up the climb things came to fruition. Bissel upped their tempo from the previous time immediately at the bottom. The field got strung out and the lead group began to emerge. As Bissel’s tempo dropped, I decided it was now or never. I made my attack with a couple guys in tow. I rode across the gap to the break, slowed for just a couple pedal strokes, then kept going; I was now alone. I rode solo to the top and crested with 20-30 seconds on the chasers, Lucas Euser and Chris Butler. At that point, I had to be logical though and know that 40km and 20-30 seconds didn’t give me good odds. I kept going at a good rhythm, so they at least had to try to catch me. Lucas was the first to catch me, but he refused to work because their team was all in for Kiel Reijnen who was in the group that was chasing. Just like that, it was game over and the group swelled to 11-12 guys, plus another 7-8 who caught us a bit later.

As the group swelled and we raced toward the final local circuits, the attacks were flying. I did everything I could to try and create or follow the proper move, but it just wasn’t happening. Eventually Phil Gaimon of Bissel found himself solo with a gap. The group began to set a tempo with United Health Care and Jelly Belly because Kiel and Freddy Rodriguez were there, who are both good sprinters, and they had teammates present. The gap to Gaimon grew slowly to 30+ seconds on the final lap. I was quite certain it was all but over because no one was willing to work together, and everyone wanted to just follow an attack instead of follow then work. It felt like people were content to race for second place, but not me! At 3 or 4km to go the chasers finally reached their limit, so I knew it was the moment: the gap had to be closed, if possible. I don’t know if I actually attacked or not, but I buried the hammer. I never asked anyone to help because I knew I either I had to close it, or the race was for second place. I knew in the back of my mind that this effort was likely going to cost me the chance at the win, but so was never closing the gap, and I wasn’t there to race for second place. I did close the gap at about 1km to go, at which point the other guys began attacking. I followed the moves as best I could and was tailing on the back of the leaders as we entered the final corner, but that wasn’t good enough. With only 300m from the final corner to the finish line, I knew I had to be top 3 or 4 wheels out of the corner to have a shot, but my effort had cost me the energy to make it there. I came out of the corner with a clear view to see the sprint, and I thought Brent Bookwalter was going to take it, but then I saw Freddie Rodriguez jump, and I knew it was over. Although I came away with nothing material, I left the race feeling very positive and proud about the way I had raced. There wasn’t much else I could have done to give myself the opportunity to win.

Following the race, it was a Busche caravan back to North Carolina. My parents, brother, and sister-in-law, who had driven from WI to see nationals, were now “swinging” through Brevard to see our new house. Despite the chaos and late night shenanigans of it, I think it was worth it. They spent 1.5 days in Brevard, so we took them on a hike, Lisa took the girls shopping, I took the guys riding, and we all enjoyed the company. Lisa and I were very sad to see them leave, but that was quickly erased by the sudden urgency of getting me ready to fly back to Europe the following day.

So that brings us up to speed. I’m now at the top of some mountain in Switzerland at a ski resort, socked in by the fog and rain (no, I haven’t been treated to the amazing views), hoping the sun will shine soon, waiting for the Dauphine to begin tomorrow. And I think it will begin with a bang! We ventured out this morning to preview the final of tomorrow’s first stage, and I am going to say that there is already going to be a fairly select group of riders at the finish. The finishing climb is not super difficult, but it will come after three other difficult climbs. The first is a category 1 (9.2km @ 6%) that starts only 3km into the stage (hence the bang!), followed by another category 1 (7.6km @ 7.5%), and finally a category 2 (4.5km @ 6.7%) whose descent is the run into the finishing climb, a category 3 (6.9km @ 3.3%). The stage is only 121km, but it has plenty in store for us! Send us vibes for good weather and strong legs!

1 comment:

CC said...

Watching the Nationals, I was impressed with how you raced.
I am surprised that when you were in some 4-5 man groups that not one person wanted to work with you to keep others from joining. Not all had a teammate they were working for and they would have a better chance against 4 guys than 20 guys, but who knows what everyone was thinking.
Glad to see 1 person there was racing for something other than 2nd. That was the consensus of the various Twitter updates....i.e. "oh look, they are all racing for 2nd, content to let Phil G. win".
Thanks for not racing for 2nd.