The 50+ 4 squad seems to be hitting all cylinders now. After getting our butts kicked all season in road races and crits despite having strong guys and the largest numbers in each race, we decided to do something about it. Lo and behold, we made a race plan and even though the race didn’t go quite as planned, we were more coordinated than in previous races. And, you can’t argue with the results: 1st place – Jeff Kahler, 2nd place – Scott Berg and 3rd place – me 🙂 . And the sweet thing was, all of our teammates played a role in making that happen. Great job guys!
The plan was simple: 1) Two guys attempt a breakaway early in the race. 2) Two other guys get ready to do another break if/when the first two get caught. 3) Whoever is left, get lined up to do a lead out for the strongest sprinter(s) whether we’re racing for 3rd/4th/5th or whatever…or the win if the second breakaway gets caught.
Here’s how it unfolded: Pippo is often an early animator in races making crazy sprints off the front multiple times. Our group generally lets early breakaway attempts go thinking nobody in our group can hold a solo effort for that long. So the thinking was, let Pippo make a signature breakaway attempt, but send someone with him this time. At first glance, the other teams would be thinking, “there goes Pippo again but what’s this, he’s got a teammate with him!” That teammate was me. As predicted, this situation did cause concern within the group and they chased us down immediately. I wasn’t surprised that they would try but we did not go nearly hard enough or long enough to get a gap.
We settled back into the group and kept an eye on things and waited for the right opportunity to counterpunch. While a true counterpunch should come right away, ours took a few laps to develop. Were over 50 years old and things just don’t move as fast at our age. The counterpunch consisted of Scott and D2 making a breakaway attempt at around lap 5 or 6. Their counterpunch was more like a half-hearted sucker punch. It landed on the group without doing much damage but Scott, as Scott is known to do, managed to get a gap by himself. I was looking at him thinking if someone doesn’t bridge up, he’s going to go off solo and burn himself out. So, sitting about 4 wheels back, coming around the turns on the backside of the course where it is slightly downhill, I hit it hard and bridged up to Scott without dragging the group with me. The chase immediately ensued. We lasted about a half a lap before we decided to call it quits and let the pursuing group catch us.
Once again, we settled back into the group in anticipation of a mad sprint finish. The pace stayed high and nobody was taking any chances going off the front. Our next planned counterpunch was to get our remaining teammates together which was everybody who started because we’re just that freaking strong and try to line up for a lead out. Incidentally, there were 15-16 guys who started this race and there were 15 guys who sprinted for the win. Either we were all going really fast together or we were all going really slow together, take your pick. Getting our team to coalesce at the end of a race is a real challenge for us. We talked about this before the race, but saying it and doing it are two very different things. I think we wait too long to organize. Each of us needs to take the initiative and start looking for and moving towards our teammates at 2 laps to go.
On the final lap, coming down the back straight, the entire group starts jockeying for position and generally getting nervous. I notice Scott and Jeff are in front of me and think, “that’s not right, I should lead them out.” So, I give it a hard dig and yell at them to get behind me and jump in front of Jeff as we round the final bend.” I find a wheel of a guy who I’ve earmarked earlier as one of the “fast” guys but he’s holding tight to the inside line. I patiently wait thinking I need this guy to drift just sightly to the left so I can slip by him on the inside or I’ve just boxed us in. Thankfully, he does drift left giving me just enough room to punch it right by him. Now, it’s just a sprint to the line and there’s nobody in front or to the side of me with about 100m to go. The thought enters my mind as it usually does in this situation, “I could win this one.” Sound familiar? I feel someone right on my wheel though but I just go for it hoping that whoever is there, if they pass me, I hope it’s a teammate. The guy on my wheel turns out to be Jeff who handily slips by me with 50m to go. If I’m not going to win, at least I led out a teammate for the win. At 25m, I start to fade and I see Scott to my left, ease by me and another guy gets even with me as we cross the line. I was convinced that he passed me but the official results showed it, Modern Market Racing 1-2-3! We delivered the knockout punch. What a pretty sight.
Good things happen when you race your bike, especially with some forethought.