Why I love bike racing! Rock Hill Bicycle Classic Race Report
I was looking for top ten finishes and a qualifying spot in the Nature Valley NRC Stage Race, but instead I came away 2nd in the Nature Valley competition and two 15th place results instead of top ten’s. Disappointed? Not in the least! 800 miles of driving for a bike race. Are you for real? Totally! The whole story doesn’t always make it into the final results. The highlight for the weekend was catching up and hanging out with my college friends Darol and Donna and their family. Our kids got to meet their kids and have an awesome time playing together on Saturday while Kristine and I were at the road race. When we got back to the house, I played basketball with Jonathan, Elizabeth, and Benjamin (who are amazing at basketball!) who easily defeated me in “Horse”, “Toone” and knock-out. Analise joined in a couple times, too, while Abigail and Josiah played on the backyard playset. The only thing missing from the weekend was that our Sunday race was too early for us to be able to go to church with them and still make it to the race so we had to say goodbye all too soon, and I am sure Analise and Josiah are already looking forward to next year’s race!
Here’s the scoop on how the races went -
Patriot Trail Road Race
The road race consisted of two laps of a 47 mile rolling course through the historic and beautiful York County countryside making for a long 94 mile day in the saddle.
My teammate Wes and I lined up on the front row of a 90+ strong field with 3 pro teams (Kenda, Team Type I, and Mountain Khakis) and several strong amateur teams (Global Bike, Subaru/Gary Fischer, Hincapie Development, and others). Wes rolled off the front a mile or so into the race and got away solo before an attack from another rider in the field brought the whole field along and reeled Wes back in. I went with the next move, but our break lasted only a minute or two before we were caught. Then there was another counter attack and three riders made it into a good looking break — although Team Type I and Global Bike were not represented in the move. The break quickly extended their lead to nearly two minutes ahead of the field by the KOM at mile 24. But the attacks associated with the minor points from the KOM and then the subsequent counter attacks through the hilliest section of the course saw the break’s lead shrink down to below 45 seconds.
It looked like we were sure to catch the break thanks to Global Bike’s steady efforts at the front of the field, but then the break’s lead quickly shot up again. Global Bike felt like they had done enough work, and it was time for other teams to help share the work of closing down the break. Instead, nobody came to help them so our place plummeted again. I expected attacks to try to get across to the break, but only one materialized — a Hincapie Development rider (Michael Stone). He quickly got a good gap on the field since our pace was slow with teams trying to work out who was going to drive the chase. It was at this time I realized that we were quickly approaching the end of the first lap and that I was farther back in the field than I wanted to be. So I was a little bit worried about trying to find Kristine in the feedzone and her being disappointed that I wasn’t in the break — so I found my opportunity, worked my way to the front, and attacked hard to bridge to the Hincapie rider. It worked — the field let me go without chasing, and I made the bridge pretty quickly up to Michael. We had a slim lead of maybe 10 seconds by the time we made it to Kristine in the feed zone a couple miles later at the end of Lap 1.
Kristine did an excellent job screaming encouragement and handing me a water bottle at the same time as Michael and I passed by at nearly 25 mph. Kristine told me later that it was chaos in the feedzone as riders came to nearly a complete stop to make sure they got their bottles since there wouldn’t be another chance to get bottles before the end of the race. Up ahead, we extended our lead so that they pulled an extra pace car ahead to lead us and sent the original pace car back to lead the pack. Michael and I worked well together averaging 26.5 mph for the 10.5 miles that we were away on our break. As it turns out (and unbeknownst to us), we were actually the two leaders on the road for that entire stretch of road. We never saw the original break ahead of us because the police escort in front of them had led them significantly off the course when they missed a turn.
When the pack caught us, they were flying and there were lots of small attacks. Having spent a lot of energy in the break, I was content to sit in the pack and recover and hope that nothing would get away during that time. Fortunately, all the attacks during that time were brought back fairly quickly. As we came into the closing miles, a small break of four got a good gap on the field. I missed that move, and it looked like it might work — but within the last couple miles, Global Cycling finished reeling them back in to set up the finale for their sprinter who took the win. Behind him, the field sprint was rather chaotic with riders bumping into each other and trying to maneuver through riders coming off the leadout train. I managed to stay upright and finish 15th although I could hear at least one or two crashes in the sprint behind me. I was in the top 10 riders at the start of the sprint with 1k to go, but I didn’t realize that we had the whole road from that point on so I got passed by at least 10-15 riders who crossed the yellow line while I stayed in the center of the road. By the time I realized what was going on, I was only able to work my way back up to 15th. C’est la vie!
- Faulty data (error-corrected)
- KOM for Lap 1
- Our 2-man, 10.5 mile, 26.5mph break
- KOM for Lap 2
- Good recovery and low HR before the final sprint
Winthrop Lake Criterium
I can’t say enough about this course. I wish every crit course was like this one. We had another large field — this time with 90 riders and 4 pro teams represented with the addition of Jonathan Clarke from United Healthcare. Yet we were able to safely navigate the course at high speeds — even with several sharp corners a short, steep downhill and a gradual uphill. The key element was smooth consistent roads of about the same width for the entire course. My teammates Stuart and Wes both lined up with me for the start of the race. Stuart launched himself on a prime lap and found himself quickly joined by a small group. They extended a small lead before the field gobbled them up. I went with a counter move that looked pretty good, but we only stayed off the front for a few laps. Wes got caught up behind a nasty crash on the second lap on the uphill and wasn’t able to catch back on. I heard the crash as it wasn’t too far behind me towards the front of the field. It sounded like several riders went down hard. Stuart ended up flatting and unfortunately for him taking my rear wheel from the pit. Let’s just say that the wheel he was using wasn’t adjusted very well for his bike. Works great for me as it’s my daily commute wheel, but he could only get his rear derailleur to stay in place for two gear combos – 53×11 and 53×16 (probably where some extra grease was built up).
At about the halfway point of the race with 17 laps to go (out of 35 laps), a Subaru/Gary Fischer rider (Sam ?) attacked and got a small gap on the field. My legs were still feeling really good so I attacked on the short steep downhill leading into the last corner. The field let me go, and I rode hard for half a lap to bridge up to Sam. By the time I made it up to him, we had a good 5-10 second gap. By the start of the next lap, our gap was up to 15 seconds where it hovered there for about the next 6 or 7 laps. We worked very well together and settled into a rhythm where I would pull the uphill portion of the course through the steep downhill with Sam taking over for the headwind section back into the bottom of the uphill where we would trade places again. After 6 or 7 laps, our gap slowly started to come back down – 10 second lead with 8 laps to go, 8 second lead on the next lap, 5 seconds for the next 3 laps and then finally caught with only 3 laps left to go in the race. Fortunately, I was able to tuck in and get a good recovery (see HR data) and then ramp it up again in the final sprint for 15th place. During our break, Chad (@TotalCyclist) rang the bell for a $40 prime which Sam and I agreed to split.
So 15th isn’t the result I was looking for, but I am not disappointed as we made the race really exciting, and it was a lot of fun to be flying along the course in front of the crowd and getting encouragement from Kristine and people all over the course with the hope that we would be able to stay away to the finish.
- Early attacks and pace changes
- First breakaway group
- Our 2-man, 10.5 mile, 27.1mph break
- Recovery before the finish