This race is another of my favorites (aren’t they all?). The course is in Longmont’s Prospect neighborhood. Longmont is a half hour east of Boulder and is a mid-western style town: flat, boring, an almost-cute but more run down Main Street, a long abandoned sugar beet factory, an empty turkey processing plant… you get the idea.
The Prospect Neighborhood is a major exception. Dense ultra-modern housing is mixed with nice shops and restaurants on the colorful, tree lined streets. I’d love to live there, but I’m sure the median home price is close (or above) to Boulder’s at $540k. The course is very short (only 1/2 mile) and very turney. The longest straight is about 200m long, and the course if flat.
Hopefully you’ve guessed by now that the course is known for tearing apart the peloton. The constant turns are a recipe for splits in the field. Once a few guys drive the pace at the front, the field is single file. When someone tires out or over-brakes, a gap forms and it is tough for the guys behind to pass and close the gap with the constant turns. I actually kind of warmed up for this one, because I knew a split could form early.
I was right. Yannick Eckmann (90% sure, he and his brother are similarly sized and well appointed from their CalGiant team) attacked from the gun. I ended up about 10th wheel, hanging on, thinking “this is really fast”. I saw a few guys I wanted to move past, so I moved up a few places. A couple laps in, I took my turn at the front and drove the pace. When I pulled off I looked back to assess the situation. We had a gap!
Not a big one, but the peloton had already split. We had a strong group including a rider from Team Exergy and one of the Eckmann brothers. Some of us drove the pace, but others didn’t seem as interested. I put in a solid lap at the front and pulled off. I knew the pack would be fresh and a lot of guys would want to bring us back, so I rode as hard as I could. The Exergy rider came through and said with exasperation “Dude… Easy!”
A lap or so later were were caught, never quite establishing a solid gap. I was still at the front and pushed hard again to re-shuffle the deck. This time a new group was established and would stay clear: Myself, Robin Eckmann, Jeff Perrin (Juwi Solar), and Drew Christopher (Primal / 1st Bank). We rode quite hard and our gap remained tenuous at around 10 seconds, and not more than 20.
We’d been riding well when suddenly a rider appeared from behind. Allen Krughoff (Boulder Cycle Sport) had bridged the gap alone over the course of a few laps. I’m sure the effort was herculean, but he realized the nature of our move. These days he focuses on cyclocross and he’s just starting to get some speed in his legs on the road. The five of us continued to pull our lead out to 30 seconds.
At this point, a game of peloton/breakaway cat and mouse began. We gradually rode slower and slower, but our gap held steady at 30 seconds. Keep in mind, this is about half a lap on the short course. I was thinking ahead to the end game (the finish line), but should have realized there would be another plot twist first.
As in previous editions of this race, we would lap the field. This has happened to me before, and I don’t care for it much. If I wanted to duke it out in a field sprint, I wouldn’t go in the break! Sometimes a breakaway emerges from the mixed lap peloton, but usually there are enough fresh guys (especially teammates) in the pack that this can be difficult.
By the time I attacked, the peloton was very close in front of us, but I don’t think anyone else in the break realized it. I was semi-admonished for my early aggression with one rider asking “Is someone coming up from behind or something?”, but then when we saw the peloton right in front of us, they realized what I was doing.
Perhaps I would have been given more leash if I’d have tried earlier. But, there is another saying in bike racing “Attack as late as possible, and never be the first” By attacking first, everyone else was fresh from riding easy. Robin was by far the strongest and quickly reeled me back in. I tried again, but it was all for naught.
We rejoined the group with about 15 minutes remaining. I had a lone teammate in the race but he was cooked after placing second in the previous 35+ championship race. Every other rider except Krughoff had a teammate to help position them for the finale. The Eckmann brothers set to work setting a tempo to discourage attacks. It worked but the pace was slow enough that riders could move up with relative ease. This caused a lot of jostling for position and some sketchy moments.
Starting the last lap, Drew took off with a searing move. I wasn’t positioned as well as I should have been and watched three guys from the break separate themselves from the field. I was left on the front of the peloton and foolishly chased. I gave everyone else a free ride and a bunch of guys came past on the back side of the course. After I’d seen everyone from the break go past, I coasted across the line for 5th.
In case you missed it, I was recently interviewed by Balm Co. One of the questions I put some time into was what I’ve learned about finding the right break. In summary, I said that most often the right break is by the will of the peloton, not the power of the break. After the race, I was reminded of this by Yannick’s post race tweet where he mentioned he’d been covering moves for his brother in the break during the race.
Although his brother Robin would place second, Yannick was confident enough with his team’s chances in the breakaway that he was back in the peloton discouraging chasers and bridge attempts. Robin likely wasn’t the only one with a teammate helping us stay clear.
Yes, we rode hard. I set a few all time power records. But we didn’t stay away due to our horsepower alone.
Over the next month, I’m planning some workouts that will hopefully help me seal the deal after I find myself in the key move. Stay tuned.