You lose some, you lose some
By Luke Seemann | Jun 6, 2010
Race name: O'Fallon Grand Prix, Spring Prairie Road Race
Race date: Saturday, Jun 5, 2010
Two state championships, two very frustrating races, for very different reasons.
Only 22 men lined up for the P/1/2 state championships in O’Fallon, and six or seven were from the Dogfish team of St. Louis. XXX Racing-AthletiCo had me and Dave Moyer, and a hodge-podge of other teams were represented by one, two or three riders.
The first of four 22-mile laps was extremely pokey. A Nuvo rider went off solo after about 10 miles. The peloton shrugged. “80 miles in the blazing sun? Ha!” (He would stay away and finish 3rd, a gutsy effort.)
Midway through the second lap, three more riders got away, two of them Dogfish. There was no cohesive chase. Dogfish obviously did not want to contribute to the chase, but nor did any of the teams with only one or two riders. None of it was improper or unwise, but it yielded a rather negative race.
I tried to take hard pulls whenever I could, especially whenever I saw Dave up there with his nose in the wind. My hope was that he could eventually launch a small chase group—ideally with Will Nowak from Verizon u25, who has been flying lately—that could bridge to the leaders. He was very aggressive in trying to get off, but the right combination never came together.
Finally I was in front riding tempo as we hit a good kicker at the end of the second lap. Some riders attacked—including our friend Seth of Recycling, who had even told me to expect an attack—and I proceeded to make a series of miscalculations.
I figured the climb was short enough and the pack big enough that I could “sag climb,” continuing at my tempo and still be on terms at the top. I misjudged.
I figured I could hammer over the top and get back on terms by the start/finish. I could not.
I figured the pack would slow down at the feed zone. It did not. It sped up.
And with that, my race was done. As the remaining field drifted away, I turned around, headed to the start/finish and found some water to hand up to Dave on the next lap. At least I could still be useful somehow.
Today was the Spring Prairie Road Race, Wisconsin’s state championships. I’ve often done well here, although the finishing climb isn’t well-suited to a Cadel-esque climber like myself. It’s short and steep, up to 18 percent, and it depends on a 30-second explosion of power on the final trip. I don’t do explosions. Rather than 18 percent that goes 50 meters, I’d much rather have 8 percent that goes to the moon.
But you go to war with the hills you have, not the hills you wish you had. I did the 30+ race, which had about 35 riders. No team had more than three riders, so being alone wouldn’t be much of a disadvantage.
About six riders got away on the second of seven 6-mile laps. I wasn’t too worried. We hadn’t worked very hard at that point, and they weren’t extending their gap. I was certain we’d catch them. While others panicked and chased, I sat in, making sure I didn’t fall too far back but also keeping my nose out of the wind.
This set me up perfectly as we hit the climb. Hitting the corner in 3rd, I went full gas. A few riders came with, and we caught the break at the top. They had paused to collect their breath, so I rode straight through, attacking so that we could maximize any gap I’d created. It worked: When I finally drifted back to check the damage, the race had been reduced to 12, and only Comma-Van Wagner had multiple teammates.
The next lap, we were 11.
With two laps and 12 miles to go, it started to rain. After cresting the hill, I attacked. I was soon caught.
I attacked again. One rider came with, but he fell off. I had a good gap so I kept going.
It started to rain harder. Thunder crackled in the distance. I was wearing my Flanders socks, so a bubble of Euro cool wicked all the water away, but it made for an unnerving descent: I couldn’t see a thing, but fortunately the road was smooth and straight, so I just stayed in a tuck and hoped for the best. I wasn’t going as fast as I might have under dry conditions, however, and the pack caught me at the corner.
We turned. I attacked again. This one didn’t last long, and at this point we were in the strong tailwind section. Attacking with a tailwind is like trying to jump up out of an airplane, so I tucked into the group and conserved for the upcoming climb.
One lap to go. And a very slow lap it was. Everyone was chatting and resting for the final assault of the hill. There is not much sense in attacking guys who are chatting and resting. You want to attack guys who are listing their heads and drooling. My hope was that someone would attack and put us in a spot of bother—then I could counterattack.
But nobody ever did. It was a reminder of an important lesson: Sometimes, in the absence of difficult terrain or fast riding, you have to create the bother yourself. I’m reminded of a tale Randy tells from the old Proctor road race, in which he attacked and counterattacked himself and then counterattacked himself yet again ... until everyone finally got sick of covering his attacks and let him go.
Instead, I moseyed into the final climb with everyone else.
In a previous sprint here, I made the mistake of being at the front. That left me blind to the other riders, and they got the jump on me. This time I tried to sit at the back, keeping my eye on a few of the stronger riders. But I took a bad line into the turn—I went inside; outside is where you want to be—had to scrub some speed, missed the jump and by the time the legs were firing, five guys were down the road and out of reach. You don’t need to crest in first here, but if you don’t crest with the leaders, you may as well have crested last. I ended up 6th.
In retrospect, I wish I’d attacked a few more times. Who knows if the next one would have been the one to snap the elastic. Worst case scenario: I get dropped and finish 8th loser—not much worse a fate than 5th loser.
The most frustrating part was driving home and not feeling the usual zombie legs. There is shame in getting dropped, but at least it indicates you left everything out on the road. Greater is the shame of doing well but going home feeling like you could still ride another hundred miles. Never again!