Our brick lair
By Luke Seemann | Apr 5, 2009
Race name: Hillsboro-Roubaix
Race date: Saturday, Apr 4, 2009
We at XXX Racing-AthletiCo don’t like to make little plans.
We make big plans that stir men’s souls.
But rarely do those plans get realized as perfectly as they did in Saturday’s 3’s race on the hallowed ground of Hillsboro. Indeed, even though we didn’t get the V, everything transpired exactly as I’d hoped it would, thanks to great teamwork and smart, hard riding.
Our early plan was to take the first lap easy. We’d try to stay up front and out of trouble, but we’d try to be patient and keep things holstered. The exception would be if a sizable group were to form, in which case we would want to be involved.
About 5 miles into the race, such a group came together. A dozen riders, maybe 15. WAY too early for my blood, but I was relieved to see that Peter was in it. Perfect. Peter’s just who we want in a break: He can ride like a gorilla for hours, but unlike some of us he has the fast-twitch you need for the sprint.
A few miles later the group had about 10 or 15 seconds and the pack was getting antsy. We were heading west with the tailwind and were spread all across the road when an official stepped into the road and commanded us to stop. “I ought to DQ all of you!” We were all a bit confused. Few of us had ever seen a field neutralized for a scolding before. Couldn’t argue with it, though: The centerline violations had been atrocious since the start.
This pause gave the breakaway just the cushion it needed. Soon it was out of sight, and when we rolled into town for the first time, we were informed they had three minutes on us. Not much, but still viable.
Shane and I climbed well and rode aggressively over the bricks. A foray off the front didn’t last long, but it accomplished a lot: Namely, it stressed the field and left me in second position, which is exactly where I wanted to be. From here on, it was a block party. Eventually Burnham Racing organized a decent rotation, and Jacques, Shane and I sat comfortably in their wake. No congestion, no hard work, no worries.
As we came into town the second time, we got the gap again: Three minutes. Beautiful.
Now about our plans. Earlier this week I had sent a map to my fellow 3’s. On the map was I had drawn blue lines indicating the direction of the wind, and I’d also draw a big white X for the point where I’d like to attack.
Every year I’ve done this race, some slithery rider has been able to slip away on the final lap. Indeed, after 50 miles the peloton is simply too tired to put up any fight. With the break safely away, I figured that this year would be my turn to be the slithery one. Plus, I had come to Hillsboro to race. After two laps of blocking, time to get my race on.
I concentrated on the X. In the miles leading up to this point, I focused on staying in the top 10, and even chased down the dangerous Chris Padfield, lest he obstruct my plan.
And then I hit the X, and I hit the gas.
Shane would tell me later that I slithered away so decisively that nobody even realized I’d left.
A minute later I came across Aspen from Get a Grip and Tim from Burnham Racing, who earlier had escaped themselves. They appeared to be flagging, but once I joined them they were able to pick up the pace, and we had a good, smooth line going. Soon we scooped up a Melon City rider who had also escaped. The four of us rolled together for the next 10 miles.
I was feeling good, but on a shallow hill I feigned distress and moaned with each stroke. Aspen guffawed. Obviously I need to work on my acting. When’s our clinic on that?
With three miles to go, a solo Proctor rider had bridged to us. Impressive. From here on I started being conservative with my pulls. Once we he hit the final climb into town, I heard someone yell, “Do your thing, Luke!” So I did it: I attacked at the base and got clear. Descending onto the bricks, I thought I was clear for good—all according to plan!—but Proctor caught me on the penultimate corner.
As we headed down the bricks, someone from XXX yelled, “You’re in the top 10!” Wuh? That’s crazy talk! But sure enough: Unbeknownst to me, half of the break had been reabsorbed by the pack. (Even crazier, I would discover later that we were less than a minute from the break, and only 16 seconds from its last member. Had I realized this, I might have worked harder in the chase to complete the bridge.)
Proctor wanted me to come around but I clung tight to his wheel. I couldn’t see the others gaining, so I didn’t see much benefit to taking a pull at the point.
As we headed down the final 400 meters, my mind did a quick catalog of all the sprints I’d lost and what lessons I could cull from them. (This is an extensive catalog.)
I decided that this sprint most resembled the two-up sprint I lost at last year’s Leland Grand Prix, where the winner would tell me my mistake was to jump too early. So this time I waited ... and waited ... and feigned a jump ... and waited ... and maybe 30 meters from the line I finally gave it everything I had. It wasn’t much, but I was certain I came around him with the throw.
Turns out I hadn’t, and according to the chips, I lost by a mere 14/100th’s of a second! Oh, the agony! So close to winning my first sprint ever!
The good news was I’d held on for 8th, my best Hillsboro to date.
I made a beeline for Peter, writhing like a stuck pig in the grass. No acting here: He was in a spot of bother. He somehow summoned enough energy to hold up three fingers. 3rd! Phenomenal. He’d worked his tail off, obviously knowing what grief would be in store for him if he were to get dropped from the break. (No lie. The first rule of Break Club: Do not get dropped. The second rule of Break Club: Seriously, do not get dropped.)
And then I turned to see Shane and Newt finish well in the field sprint, followed closely by Chris Kinonen, Kirby and Jacques.
A win would have been nice, but we got two in the top 10, and in a race of serious attrition we didn’t lose a single rider. Clearly the team’s best performance ever in the Hillsboro 3’s.
And it all went to plan: XXX in the break, XXX in the chase, and Newt and Shane kicking butt in the sprint.
This is going to be a good year.