We actually had a sizeable field compared to years past–5 Aggies (me, Shane, Cody, Herc, and Tom), t.u. had a few riders, and MSU had once again stacked the field. I wasn’t so concerned with their cat 3 riders as I was the 4 cat 1’s. Jason and Todd were carryovers for last year, whereas Alexi is a recent addition, as was Josh Carter…husband of the MSU coach. I was in a playful mood, so at the start line I loudly asked which lucky fella had Haga-duty.
The race turned out to be a comedy of errors for MSU, and I was beside myself with laughter. As I learned later in the race, here was the sequence of planned events for the race:
1. Carter would attack immediately. They expected I would follow. I did.
2. Carter would attack again immediately. They expected I would follow again. I did.
3. Here’s where things went wrong for MSU: After Josh’s second attack, Jason and Todd were supposed to counter and leave me behind.
The way things actually went? I ended up off the front with Josh and and Joseph from t.u after the second attack. We didn’t really push the pace…just kind of rode tempo for a little while expecting the counterattacks to come flying by. We checked back and saw we already had a 10 second gap. Josh blurted out, “Well that’s not the freaking plan.” He confessed that he would not be working with us, as he was not the chosen rider of the day. Joseph and I decided we’d keep the pace a nice tempo just as a placeholder. There was no way we would stay off the whole race, so why burn too much energy? Funny how things work though, when MSU forgets a simple plan… By the first climb of the first lap (about 10 miles in), we were out of sight. Josh was irate with his team behind us. At this point, Joseph and I had a decision to make: we could sit up and refuse to drag Josh around all day, and go back to the pack where we would again be outnumbered by MSU, or keep going and hope that we could drop the sprinter on the climbs later on. We pressed on.
And that’s how the race went! When MSU received a scolding from their coach at the end of the first lap to start racing their bikes, Texas and the Aggies stepped up to shut down every attack by MSU. Apparently they were angered by such tactics and resorted to wheel-chopping and brake-checking to shake the wheelsuckers. Greg now has one less spoke in his front Neuvation….
Up the road, Josh and I were joking back and forth that Joseph and I should stop for a while to take a pee break, and he should go back to the pack to tell his teammates how angry he was. Neither happened. We kept him guttered at every opportunity, but the pace wasn’t quite high enough to do much damage.
There was a hot spot sprint for omnium points at the top of the second climb on the first lap. Josh playfully attacked ahead to get the points, but sat up about 50 feet before the line and checked to make sure he was clear. When he turned back around, I jumped without shifting. By the time he realized what had happened, I was flying by and caught him at the line. He laughed at himself as I came by.
With my teammates shutting down MSU behind us, our gap continued to grow. With our success all but guaranteed, I began contemplating the best way to ditch the sprinter I had dragged along thus far. Unfortunately, I could tell Joseph was tiring quickly after 70 miles of work. I would likely have to do all this by myself. 90% of the course was dead flat, but the rest was downhill into the canyon and some good climbs back out of the canyon. The first half of the loop was into a block headwind. An attack would not do there, but perhaps on the tougher of the two climbs I could get a sufficient gap to time trial away from Josh in the remaining headwind portion. Halfway up the climb, after setting a high pace already, I punched it. Josh was at the back, so I made sure Joseph was between us before I jumped so I could have a good gap. Even better, Josh wasn’t paying attention at the time. He’s not a climber, but those climbs were only 2 minutes long at a quick pace and were simply not enough to drop him. So I sat up for Joseph to tack back on. No need to burn bridges yet.
When we turned into the crosswind section with half a lap remaining, I punched it again. Again I got a good gap because Joseph separated me and Josh, and again Josh was able to pull himself back even despite the fact that I myself was riding on the grass fringes of the road in the gutter. Again I waited for Joseph. My next attack came with the turn into the tailwind section. I was disappointed to see a truck in the opposite lane at the exit of the turn, because I planned to attack going into the turn. I would have to wait until after the turn to avoid plastering myself on a ford’s grille at 35 mph. Josh was ready for it though and I couldn’t get away. So once again, we waited for Joseph. With that, we cruised in to the finish at a relaxed pace, talking about the weather and the cool jets off to our left. I thought about attacking on the final climb about a mile and a half before the finish, but knew it wasn’t long enough to drop Josh and decided to conserve energy.
We made the last turn towards the finish with 1K to go. I was leading still and had a fresh national-caliber sprinter on my wheel. I had both of them guttered in the crosswind and was riding easily waiting for Josh to go. I was riding with my head cocked to the side, watching the shadows of the riders behind me with my finger on the shifter. I was in a full sprint before Josh even came by me because I was able to see him jump from behind me. Nonetheless, I could only stay even for a short time and he took the win as I rolled in for 2nd. Jason and Alexi rolled in together for 4th and 5th, then Herc, Cody, and Shane came in for 6th-8th.
I was amped up for the time trial. I wasn’t feeling too worn out from the morning’s festivities, and the weather was terrific. Anybody who knows me, knows that I researched the course. A 6 mile point-to-point course with 2/3 of it in a strong tailwind, I was expecting the winning times to be in the 12-13 minute range. You should also not be surprised to know that I google street-viewed most of the course, and all of the last two miles. There were two descents and two climbs on the course, and the second descent was quite technical so I wanted to be prepared. Because of the steep climbs on the course and its technical nature, I opted to race it with my road bike. My aero equipment consisted of a 303 in front, aero helmet, and skinsuit. I wanted to record power, so I left the open pro with PT on the back.
I was second to last to start because of the road race finish that morning. I punched it down the starting ramp and semi-sprinted for about 200m before diving into the left-hand turn at 30mph into the tailwind portion of the race. This leg of the TT was on the road race course and included the smaller of the two climbs. Dropping down into the canyon, I sprinted down until I spun out my 53×12 around 47 mph. To save energy I got into my super-ridiculous-tuck until the bottom, when I popped up at 50mph. I spun as quick as I could to keep momentum on the flat, passing my 15s man just a couple of minutes in. I passed Joseph (my 30s man) at the end of the climb. I kept the pace hard on the climb, but saved enough energy to punch it again over the top to get my speed back up.
A short distance later, the second left-hand turn came up. Railed it. Here was one of the toughest parts of the course, as it was a stiff head/crosswind and I had almost no aero gear. I was tucked as tightly as possible and killing myself to maintain speed, knowing that the next descent was just around the corner. Railed that one, too. Now I had to really push it down the hill into the block headwind.
Now comes the part that my recon paid off. I scrubbed speed down to around 20 mph for the hard U-turn at the bottom of that hill, sweeping from left curb through the apex and back out to the guardrail at the exit of the turn. Back out of the saddle to re-accelerate down the hill, sweeping the inside of the right-hander and hugging the curb on the right side. The left hand sweeper looked sharper in person than online, so I adjusted accordingly for a later dive into the turn. I continued the turn after the exit to line up for another late dive into a blind right-hander at 40 mph. From here, I wound through the neighborhood at nearly 40 mph. I was thrown off mentally when at turn popped up that I wasn’t execting (I hadn’t street viewed the whole thing apparently). Not too shaken, I just scrubbed some speed for the off-camber left hand turn, then punched it again. Some more winding turns, then another left hander. The finishing hill was in sight, and I was 50 m from my 1:30 man. Good thing I had saved a tiny bit of energy throught the neighborhood, as the 13% grade was rough after killing myself for 5.5 miles. I all but sprinted up the hill and continued pushing as hard as I could across the top. When I crossed the finish at 12 minutes and 26 seconds, I wanted to throw up. Turns out I had bested Jason Short of MSU and his full TT-rig by 8 seconds for the win!
My mood was boosted when I saw the results of the time trail from the previous day. I was leading in the omnium 32 to 27 over Josh Carter, with Jason in 3rd with 26 points. I knew the day would be tough, but if I could manage a 5th place or better in the crit I would win the weekend overall.
About 25 minutes in, everything fell apart for me. Alexi had attacked and we let him go. He was slowly pulling away as we played cat and mouse back in the pack. Finally, Cody made the effort to bridge to Alexi as a counter to Shane’s move, and Carter followed him up there, I think along with either the SMU guy or Joseph. From here, my memory is a little fuzzy because so much happened so fast. Somehow or another, due to attacking and counter attacking, it ended up with Cody, Josh, Joseph, Alexi, and the SMU rider in the break. I was about 10 seconds back from the break with Jason, Todd, Herc, and another t.u. rider. Shane had slipped off just a bit earlier after chasing down another attack. I was yelling at the Aggies next to the course to make sure Cody sat on to the break and didn’t work.
Herc was burned up, but killed himself to pull for a while. He dug himself just a bit too deep into a hole, and dropped off our group along with the Texas rider when I pulled through again. I looked back and saw only two MSU riders on my wheel. After my “oh crap” moment, I tried to gently ease the pace so Herc could get back on.
And that’s when they started attacking.
Todd went first. I followed. Then Jason went. I followed again. Then Todd went again. He got away. So now it’s just me and Jason, like old times. Most of the course was in a 25 mph crosswind, so you’d better believe I had him guttered. You know that little 12″ wide section of concrete between the curb and the street? We were using half of it. I had to move over when going by the mailboxes. I was pushing pretty hard, but the break was still dangling 10 seconds ahead and Todd had made it up there. Ben shouted at me that they were becoming disorganized, so I killed it for a lap to make it up there. By the end of that lap, I was within 75m of the leaders. I was about to explode all over the road…just had to push a tiny bit longer. We were about to turn into the tailwind again, so I quickly reached for my bottle.
I should have seen it coming.
I’ll let you be the judge, but the same guy that was chopping wheels and brake-checking in the road race attacked at the same moment I put the bottle in my mouth. I should have chunked the bottle, but I doubt it would have helped. I tried to give chase, but like I said this was at the end of a last-ditch effort to catch up. Jason sprinted up to the leaders and shouted something to the effect of ‘GO!’ and that was the end of my race. MSU assembled on the front and drilled it until they were out of reach.
If only that’s where the pain ended. I still had 25 minutes of time trialing to end this race. I was able to hold the leaders at around 10-15 seconds away for a couple of laps, but started slipping back. When it became clear I wouldn’t be making it to the leaders, Cody stepped up and started attacking them to wear them out. I’m not certain how the race ended, other than Cody pre-empted Josh’s amazing sprint by jumping into the last turn. The finish was not far from the turn, so Carter’s super-long sprint wasn’t as effective. Josh ended up winning by half a wheel over Cody in an awesome finish I wish I could have been a part of….
After the race ended, I had to go take a spin for a little while to cool off. I was pretty angry. MSU didn’t care one bit that Cody, Joseph, and SMU got a free ride in the break–they just were focused on making sure I wasn’t there. The season is still early, and they’re just getting me all riled up. Brace yourself for more tales of throwdowns in the Men’s A.