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Posts Tagged ‘Georgia Games Cycling’

This weekend was the Georgia Games Road race, and it came at a time when I haven’t had the usual business travel.  As a result, fitness was pretty high for this race, and due to rain, rest was also high.  This combination created the highest peak form of the year.  Fortunately, our team was also riding well, so we swept all the races.  I didn’t personally do much this weekend, but I also wasn’t in position to ride very hard either.  So, I don’t get too worried about results since they come when form is high.

Saturday was the Georgia Games road race, and it was supposed to be a long 90 mile race.  However, we only had about 12 riders in the race, so they shortened it to 74 miles.  Not ideal for me since I normally train 87 miles on a Saturday ride which is much faster pace than 12 riders raced this road race.  My TSS for the race was close to 200 compared to a normal Saturday of nearly 320 TSS.   When you factor in that I was in a breakaway for a lap and doing most of the work, it was very easy.  My normal average power for 4.5hrs + hrs is about 220 watts, and I think that was likely close to what I averaged over 3hrs, with 60 min peak falling around my normal 2.5hr average power.  NP was pretty low too.  However, this is common when there are only a few riders, and everybody is marking everybody else.  I dislike small fields for this reason.  They end up racing more similar to small crits where everyone is marking everyone else, but nobody is really racing their bikes and trying to go fast due to the small pack size.  These small fields usually race so slow that nobody gets dropped, and every rider can stay in the pack riding tempo.  I prefer a hard NCC type road race where there are 80 riders drilling it up climbs, crushing the flats, and flying down descents.  It is a good road race when only 2/3 of the riders finish the race and less than 1/3 finish in the lead group with a select few in the lead break.  Now, that is a good race.  We didn’t get that type of field for the Georgia Games road race because it is a small local race to start with, and all of the strong Cat 1 riders were in Madison, WI at the Elite National Championships.  So, our race was just a fun group of 12 riders taking some pulls and trying to get away every now and then.

With four of the twelve riders, we knew that we could get in every break with ease.  The question would be whether or not we’d win the race.  It started with my teammate, Chad Madan, going up the road and eventually that getting brought back.  Then, another teammate, Nick Van Winkle, went up the road.  This time, a Village Volkswagen rider tried to bridge, so I followed since he was bridging up to my teammates break.  Once it the break, I came to the front to drill it.  We had two riders in the break, and I was fresh, so I wanted to help the five get a little gap.  I immediately realized that this break was in trouble.  I gapped almost all of the riders doing about 85%-90% effort up a slow riser at maybe 2%.  I tried to get them to rotate, but they were already tired and breathing heavy with our break only 100m up the road.  That’s a terrible sign and should have been my first warning that these guys were not in shape to ride a break or faking it because they didn’t want to push the pace required to stay away.  I get in breaks all the time with Pro/1 riders, and I know how hard you need to ride in the initial 5 – 10 min to get the break the gap it needs to stay away.  I was definitely a few notches under that pace, and they were still unable or maybe reluctant to go that hard.  In hindsight, I should have gone solo and let someone bridge up, but I was worried that there may not be anyone strong enough or smart enough to bridge up.   So, I eased up a bit, and tried to pull this group of five along.  My teammate, Nick, was awesome and pulled really well, so these comments are directed at the other three riders.  To be fair, the Village Volkswagen and Veloshine riders were fine, but the Atlanta Cycling rider was terrible.  He started sitting on the first 5 minutes of the break.   I’m not sure if he thought that we were going to pull him around all day or just didn’t like his odds, but he skipped 75% of his pulls which eroded the confidence in the other riders.  Suddenly, I’m seeing the other two guys skipping pulls to try and get him to skip pulls.  I should have sat in front of him, gapped him off the back, and sprinted up to the pack over and over until he popped off.  Next time, I’ll do that without a doubt.  I’m hoping he wasn’t one of these points guys who didn’t like the idea of working in a break with someone in the GBRA points standings.  I have raced only a handful of races in GBRA series, and the key to that series isn’t racing with or against someone, it is basically showing up to races or not showing up to races.  They give so many points across the board that it comes down to participation, not who is the best racer in the state.  I’m hoping he wouldn’t not work in a break because of a series, but who knows, I still can’t figure it out.   So, instead of gapping and popping him off or attacking the group to weed it down to those who wanted to work, I did the dumbest thing possible, I just came to the front and drove it nearly alone over and over when the break was not rotating.  I wasn’t doing it blindly, I knew that I had enough strength in my legs to drive that break and still ride off the front at the end.  I’m not usually that strong, but I had some fresh legs.  The downside to cycling is that usually when you have those legs, either the other riders see that or it just isn’t realistic in reality because everyone eventually gets tired no matter how strong they are at any given time.  When we got to 1 minute, I knew that any decent paced rotation would work.  So, we got a rotation going that everyone was happy with except me.  I was talking to the group and explaining that we were still going too slow.  Again, not sure if these guys don’t have a lot of experience riding breakaways or just didn’t think that the 5 guys (less my two teammates who wouldn’t chase) were going to be able and chase them down.  I told them exactly what would happen at that pace.  I said that Tim Gotsick of Lupus could easily chase down this break at only a minute unless we ramp up the pace.  Again, nothing changed, so I gave up and just rode whatever pace the group felt was fine.  I could tell most of the riders were ignorant as they were talking about who was from out of state, and I’m thinking 1. I race for the win, not some medal, so I don’t care who’s in state or out of state and 2.  We’re going to get caught at this speed, so it’s a moot  point what state you’re from…   Whenever I’ve been in breaks and people are figuring out stuff like that (who’s Cat 1 vs Cat 2 – state champ race, who’s going for points vs omnium, etc….), it always gets caught, always…  Needless to say, we got caught doing our slow rotation because Tim Gotsick and Christian Parrett slowly pulled us back.  I know Tim and Christian are strong riders, but I know they were not drilling it up there either, just going faster than the five of us.  None of this would bother me except for the fact that the Atlanta Cycling rider finally sees the break about to get caught and finds enough energy to drill it for the next minute….  Honestly, who doesn’t think their odds are better 1:5 vs 1:12.  Well, after that got caught, you knew nobody in my failed break would try another break for a few minutes and Tim/Christian likely were not interested in bringing back another break so soon, so it was the perfect time to counter.  Chad suggested to my other temmate, Gary Gomez, to attack.  Gary went really slow and easy up the road and dangled up there for a while.  It was so slow and gentle that nobody in the pack was concerned.  Jon Atkins slowly bridged up to him in the same manner, and they both looked innocent out there enough that again, nobody in the pack was concerned.  About that time, the pack dropped their speed significantly which worked perfectly as Jon and Gary started to ramp up their speed slightly which was hard to tell from a distance out front where they were dangling.  This is really the key to a successful breakaway.  The counter works so well because it comes at a time when the riders who recently pulled back a break are pulling off the front, the riders who were in the prior break are hiding out, and the remaining riders are waiting to see who will emerge to continue shielding them from the wind.  It is usually the pack’s lack of interest that creates a successful breakaway and not the speed of the actual breakaway itself.  In Cat 5, Cat 4, and Cat 3, the stronger riders always think they can get in a break and never succeed because those packs are more motivated by every place in the results.  In Cat 1/2, most riders think their results are going to come from conserving energy and being strong at the finish or strong during a hard selection, so they avoid doing work whenever possible.  When you time it so the majority of riders in the pack are thinking this same thought at the same time, the breakaway will always get away.  There are two ways to always get in the break.  First, you can be an expert on pack psychology and time it perfectly so you only go after moves when most in the pack are tired, lack interest, or lack belief that the break will survive.  It is often the latter (lack belief) that creates the break as innocent moves like Saturday’s are innocent until they are not innocent and nobody wants to emerge to pull it back once everyone realizes it is suddenly getting a little too far out to be innocent.  The other way to get into breaks is the way I often get into them.  Build up your power to the point where you can ride the front of a race and burn four or five matches over and over.  When everyone is getting tired, they let you go, and you end up in the break which was logical since you went with the last four or five attack/counter attacks in a row.  I learned this approach from one of the best riders in the Southeast, teammate Chris Brown.  I used to think he was a master at “seeing” breaks, until I raced with him a few times and realized that he was just so strong that he didn’t worry about picking the exact move, he’d either get in the move or bridge to the move that “looked” dangerous.  If it wasn’t the right move, he’d reset and start over.  If I go back and read early posts from last year and this year, I complain about repeatability and how I struggle at this move, but my fitness is much higher now so it is much easier for me.  The one caveat is that large NCC type races are so much faster that I still can’t do this very well.  Also, my ability to do this is a road race is decent, but my ability to do it in a crit is still lacking, so I still have a ton of work to do in this area.  Crit repeatability is repeat moves at 1,000 watts over and over while road race breakaways are usually 5 min efforts at 400 – 440 watts which is easier for me to do several times in the span of 10 – 15 minutes.  So, still struggling with repeatability on the short, but doing better in road races.

Here are the 3 keys to a breakaway as outlined by Neil Bezdek in a Cycling Magazine article that is really excellent and worth reading.  I agree with the breakdown and his points made in the article are spot on:

1. Winning the Move

2. Managing the Gruop

3. Executing the End Game

Creating the Winning Move is described in detail above.  It can be a hard effort to get away or an easier dangle type move that slowly gets away, but the key is the lack of interest from the pack in chasing the move for it to succeed.

Managing the group was also described in detail above from my Saturday experience.  I did not manage the group and should have quickly shed the problem rider with a few hard gapping moves off the back or just attack the group to reset the table with fewer players who wanted to work.

Executing the End Game is the icing on the cake in any break and an area where I need to improve.  Even though I stress the importance of the initial break success and working hard, there is a time where you need to switch that hat for a more strategic who do I need to watch and how can I start to conserve.  Just don’t do that in the first 5 minutes of the break or with a short 1 minute gap when there is a fresh and motivated set of riders likely interested in chasing you down.

On the racing front, I’m likely racing Dingo Crit this weekend, so it should produce a couple hard criteriums with better fields and much harder and faster racing.  Hopefully, the rain holds off a few days so I don’t lose all this fitness due to Mother Nature.

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