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Them’s the breaks

By Luke Seemann | Jun 24, 2010

Race name: Greenbush Road Race
Race date: Thursday, Jun 24, 2010

I was not digging this course at first. With almost 70 masters riders on narrow, windy roads, I found myself at the back for most of the first half, thanks to my sheer inability to hold position. I’d get halfway up through the crowded pack, then scrub some speed here, yield a wheel there, and suddenly I’d be at the back again.

But it was easy enough riding in the back, the occasional vexations of the accordion effect notwithstanding. As such, I was pretty sure nothing would stay away on this day. Everyone was just too rested. That said, I also wasn’t looking forward to a bunch sprint up the closing climb. It would be mayhem.

So as we started the fourth of six laps, I was able to find some good wheels and space and finally made my way up near the front. I thought some riders were off, but I wasn’t sure. As we approached a series of three steep, windy kickers, I told myself that if the opportunity came, I should go, even if it meant violating my guideline of “Don’t attack until it has hurt.” After all, I came to race, not to ride around in circles. Let’s race.

The opportunity came. We hit the hill and I was still in good position, and a lane opened ahead of me. Once everyone had settled into their climbing rhythms, I punched it.

By the time I looked back, I was out of sight. Such is the benefit of attacking up a windy road, as I discovered last year at Hillsboro: It doesn’t take much to get out of sight, and by the time you are gone, half the pack still won’t even realize you’ve left.

I had ridden solo for a mile or two when I was joined by IS Corp’s Chris Halverson and another rider. This was excellent: Halverson is a prolific champion in Wisconsin, and I knew his teammates would join Randy and Brian Morrissey in blocking in the field. As soon as they caught on, we worked together to drill it, and soon we caught two riders who had been up the road, making a five-man break.

Coming through the start/finish area, we were told we had 30 seconds. Over the ensuing rollers, I could see some chasers. I urged more speed, and after a few stout rotations, no chase would ever be glimpsed again.

So, how do I win this thing?

Halverson was without a doubt the strongest rider here. He pulled the mightiest, and he also came with the deepest palmares. This meant I’d have to outride him and outsmart him. That’s a tall order!

Naturally I sought to exploit my strengths. Coming through the series of kickers for the final time, I hung out at the back over the first one. I may have grimaced and feigned a cramp.

Over the second kicker, I attacked. Again I got out of sight quickly. This was still about 6 miles from the finish, a bit long for me to time trial, but I was hopeful that I could at least make our group smaller and lock in a better placing. I sensed some of the other riders were struggling. Ideally I could reduce it to just me and Halverson ... and maybe then I could get lucky in the sprint.

After another mile or two solo, I was caught. Rats. Did I do any damage? One. Two. Three. Four. Double rats. We were still all together.

And now that I’d opened hostilities, all eyes would be on me. I put in a few more attacks, but the timing and terrain never worked to my favor. Halverson even tried to put pressure on me by gapping himself, daring me to call his bluff and sprint around him to the others. In a perverse way, that was flattering.

Still, I was hopeful for the sprint. It was a long, not-terribly steep climb to the finish ... I should be OK on this one. If I just come around the corner toward the back, I should be able to follow wheels all the way to victory and a cowprint jersey.

A great plan! I sat fifth wheel with about a hundred meters to the corner. Perfect.

Unfortunately, I had wrongly assumed that the others were also planning on a drag race up the hill. Instead, Halverson put in a furious jump well ahead of the turn. Even if I’d seen it coming I don’t know if I could have covered it. The void he left created a gap between me and the other riders, and I just ran out of space to close it, crossing the line in 4th.

A proper podium is one of the many things that the Tour of America’s Dairyland does right, and I dearly wanted to take a place on it, if not win a cowprint jersey. So 4th felt a bit like first loser. Oh well. As I often say, better to have broken away and lost than to have never broken away at all.

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