Last week, some of the team lined up for a local road race called the Harbins Road Race located on the outskirts of Dacula, GA. The race was short for a Pro/1/2 race at only 65 miles, but it had a decent climb that required riding every lap for 9 laps. The big guns were up in Greenville racing the Pro Crit Nationals, and some others were at other races in other states. With only about 15 starters, it was clear that Thomas Brown, United Healthcare of Georgia p/b 706 Project was the favorite. Thomas is an excellent cyclist who can win races anytime. The rest of the field didn’t have any consistent winners, so it was pretty wide open.
An early break went away with a couple riders, so I bridged up halfway at about half effort just keeping it close enough to me in case they rolled away. I’d prefer to put in a few hard pedal strokes early rather than chasing for several hours. The group slowly got a gap. Once the gap become 30 seconds, it was a confusing situation for me. Is this a good break to help drive? There were 7 riders in the break, which is too many riders, but we didn’t have Thomas in the move. He would be stuck chasing later or forced to solo bridge. It seemed like a good move considering the chances of winning the sprint from the break were better than sprinting straight up against Thomas.
So, for the next 60+ miles we rode what seemed like the slowest break I’ve ever ridden. The rotations were smooth, but the pace was very slow. It felt like we were going 1 – 2mph slower than a typical breakaway which is a lot slower than normal. There were a few times that I bet most of the riders considered going solo, but the head wind would kick up every time they tried to attack the group. Also, there were only a couple riders who could have attacked the break and ridden away. Each time someone attacked the break, it didn’t contain the legs required to ride away.
Tip of the Day: If you plan to attack your breakaway companions, make sure you are one of the strongest riders in the break. Don’t think that you are going to successfully attack a break if it contains stronger riders than you.
With around 12 miles to go, my teammates rolled up to the break so I knew that it would come down to Thomas Brown sprinting for the win. I considered going off the front solo and probably should have tried since he may have let me go since he couldn’t chase every rider on our team. We could have started launching guys and forcing him to chase each one. If there is only one very strong rider left in a front group riding against a group of riders on the same team, that’s probably the most effective approach. At some point, they have to stop chasing each attack and hope that no gap is established. I never attacked, so I’m not sure if that would have worked.
In the end, my teammate Brendan Cornett made a perfect attack leading into the steep uphill sprint. Thomas had to chase, but he couldn’t see me about three bike lengths off his rear wheel. In hindsight, I should have kept that gap and used it for a flying start into a fast sprint right as the hill started. It would have been tough, but I would have flown by at a couple miles per hour faster. Instead, I sat his wheel and couldn’t come around since the uphill effort made the draft effect less important. So, it was a second place on the day. Several years earlier, I was in a similar finish where I dropped a few bike lengths off his bike and got a running start. I’m not sure why I forgot how to approach a steep finish with a three man break, but there you go, that’s bike racing.
On the back front, things were not great, but it was strong enough to ride without a lot of pain. I”ve realized the back spasms come from repeated hard sprints from corners, so I”m going to minimize those types of races this season. Next season I hope to be back at Speedweek, but this year I’l be a spectator.