Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mad Cow Classic

mad cow course
I shirked my duties as a front range racer and I went out to Grand Junction over the weekend to race the Mad Cow Classic.

Executive summary:
I stayed with the lead group as we whittled down the group from 40-ish to under 10. I had a good race and I ended up finishing in 5th place.

Keep reading if you want the gory details.....

Course description:
About 7 miles out, 3 laps around a mesa, then back to the start. Each lap is about 14 miles and 1200 feet of climbing. The lap consists of a long false flat, a long descent, and a relatively short steep climb.

About 30-40 riders lined up for the start. The group was Cat 3, Cat 4, and 35+ open. I'm a Cat 4, so racing with Cat 3's and 35+ is a good challenge.

The race started a little quicker than it has previous years. One guy in a Wyoming jersey sat 20' off the front for a while. I don't think it was any sort of strategy, rather it was inexperience. He spent a lot of time with his nose in the wind the whole race (which is fitting for a guy from Wyoming). There was a cross wind on the way out, and I was having a hard time getting a good position. Five guys lined up in an echelon at the front of the group and I tried to start a second echelon, to no avail. I mostly ended up shielding guys, and they weren't interested in returning the favor. Eventually, I squeezed my way into a good position by just squeezing someone out. I'm not normally good at that type of maneuver, but I'm trying to get better at taking the positions I want instead of waiting for them to magically open up for me.

We didn't go really hard up the first climb, but we dropped a lot of people (a handful actually caught up later). The first selection was big. At the top of the first climb a 35+ rider attacked. I've seen strange attacks go clear on this course before due to rider complacency, so I decided to bridge up to this guy. I bridged up to him cleanly, but the pack wasn't far behind and we were quickly caught. This guy made several attacks through the race. I think his plan was to put in some half-hearted attacks until the group got sick of chasing him.

Our first lap around the "loop" part of the race was pretty uneventful. We weren't soft-pedaling, but we weren't going all out either. I did my best to stay sheltered in the slight breeze, conserving as much energy as possible. We hit the big climb towards the end of the lap and it was hard but nobody really hammered it.

The false flat part of the loop was getting hard the second time around. My legs were feeling it for sure. I worked my way to the front before we started on the downhill portion because I really like to go through those high speed corners alone. I was trying to make sure I had access to the front of the group in case someone took off because this is exactly the spot of the race that someone soloed to the win last year. I got boxed in as I was eating a gel, and the 35+ rider attacked again. This time, it looked real. Once I got to a better position, I tried to get the group to chase. Nothing. They just sat there, willing to let this guy (who was clearly strong) get a gap. I tried two more times to initiate a chase. When that wasn't working, I tucked myself back into the group and chatted with some of the other guys. We decided that he shouldn't get any more of a gap, but we'd leave him hang until the false flat section of the course. I was happy that there was at least some organization and people willing to chase.

By now we were on the big climb for the second time, and my pre-race plan was to attack here. With someone off the front, though, and a somewhat organized chase behind, I decided to wait and possibly launch a counter when we reeled the leader in. We could see he was slowing down on the climb, so I was feeling confident that we would reel him in soon. Amazingly, this guy didn't make the turn for the final loop and instead headed back for the finish line. I'm not sure if he screwed up or what, but we were glad to see him go. His constant attacks were irritating. (Plus he majorly violated the yellow line rule on multiple occasions which is *not* cool. He got a good talking to about it on the road.)

I contemplated launching an attack on the false flat, but it's so hard to get away there because people can see you for a long ways. I decided my best choice was to wait for the last climb up the big hill and try to create a break. Coming up to the climb, the wind had picked up and I did a good job "resting" by making sure that I wasn't in the wind. I wanted to at least be on the front of this climb to cover any moves or make one of my own, so I was sitting second wheel.

On the way up, I could see two guys (teammates) making eye contact with each other, and I figured they had something in mind. It was those two guys and me up front. One guy accelerated, and his teammate immediately swerved over into me and guttered me. Totally lame move. If you're going to try to physically block someone, you need to at least be a little more discrete about it. The attack was quickly reeled in and (as expected) his teammate countered with another attack. He got a good gap and it was clear he was going to be trouble. The attacks at the top of the climb whittled down our group to just 6 - one guy was up the road and his teammate was in the chase group (and of course not chasing). That left 4 of us to chase, but one guy wasn't doing much. It was a little frustrating have to carry so much of the load, but none of us wanted to race for second place.

The lead guy was strong. He stayed away until about the last mile. (What a pro maneuver, catching the leader in the last mile.) I was pretty spent from all that work and I found myself in the back of our group of six as we came up to the line. Once people started to sprint, the guy in front of my broke his chain. I had to swerve around him, and it created a gap that I couldn't close. I don't know if I had the legs to take that sprint, but I would have like to have a better shot. Oh well, that's what I get for being in the back of that group. I still ended up finishing 5th, which is a really good result for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Blue Sky Guy, pretty good report, pretty much the way it went down. I was the guy in the BIKE SHOP jersey(Cannondale) working with the two teamates. Considering the circumstances, I think our group of six was quite gentlemenly(sp.) including you. Thanks for coming down and racing with us. FYI I got second in the sprint behind Mike of Waltworks and the crit the next day was a similar finish for the local boys. Best of luck the rest of the season!