are sometimes smooth and silky, and other times tired and tight.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Race Report: Talking the talk while walking the walk

After a week spent riding in France, followed by a week with next to no riding due to work and weather, I found myself anticipating Saturdays race with a sense of trepidation. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I hadn’t raced in two weeks, or perhaps it was due to the 45 km winds that were blowing.

Waiting for the race to start, I looked around to see who was there. I noticed that my old partner in crime, van der Moser was present, as well as the Sprinter. As usual, I jumped at the gun, to test the legs, although this time I had some company with me. It seems the old adage “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” applies over here as well. After half a lap off the front, I sat up. Today was not going to be my day, or to put it another way: my legs felt as supple as a block of wood.

I quickly made the decision to ride a bit more conservatively than normal, which meant that I’d try and follow breaks, and not try and create one. With that in mind the first twenty minutes of the race passed, with the usual accordion effect of attack, chase, catch, slow down, attack, chase, catch, slow down, etc.

Eventually the peloton grew bored, myself included. Someone rode off, and we let him go. As he dangled, out in the wind, 300 meters off the front, I moved up the field, and nodded hello to the Sprinter. I started some small talk with him, blathering away in my broken Dutch about nothing in particular.

As we chewed the fat, the apathy of the peloton revealed itself, because we found ourselves with a reasonably large gap, closer to the solo break, than to the field. Somehow we had launched a stealth attack. So stealthy, that even we weren’t aware of it. There was only one thing to do, try and exploit it, and with that in mind, we bridged up to the solo-flyer, aided by a wicked tailwind on a long, straight section of the road.

The three of us worked smoothly, sharing the work. I half expected to be caught, and after a few laps we were. I looked back, and there he was, van der Moser dragging a group of 5 riders behind him, the peloton in the distance.

I took a quick survey of whom van der Moser brought up to us: a few I knew, and a few I didn’t. What was clear was that we had a group that could stay away: apart from one or two riders back in the field, the majority of the strongmen were now in the break. There was also another sprinter, the Sprinter’s main threat, who I sometimes call Flick. He’s a nice guy, but has the irritating habit of flicking his elbow, to signal you through for the next pull as soon as he’s starting his.

So, the die was cast, and for the most part everybody committed to their fair share of work. After my experience of a few months ago, this break seemed like child's play. There was no soul searching to be had, nor any distracting motivational songs to sing to myself. No, this was a different kind of break: a few extra wheels to sit on, and unlike the last time, some self-belief was in the mix.

Ironically, or fortuitously, or both, I found myself on van der Moser’s wheel in the rotation. Not a bad place to be, seeing as he’s easily 4 inches taller than me, and because I could better anticipate his accelerations, as he’s want to do when you leas expect it. Twice he tried to pull away, and twice I found myself sucking his wheel, looking over my shoulder, and watching a gap open behind us. I took a half-hearted pull, but knew there was no point: there was no way we were going to be able to ride away from the group.

So once again, apathy set in. While I’m not sure how large of a gap we had, it must have been pretty substantial, because the Mickey-Mouse antics of attack, chase, catch, slow down, attack, chase, catch, slow down went on for the last 20 minutes, and the peloton was not to be seen.

With a lap to go the solo-flyer who started the whole break tried his best to get away, but it was a pointless endeavor. Flick caught him, and glued himself to his wheel. With Two kilometers to go, it was the solo flyer, Flick, then me. Not ideal, but Flick was still a good wheel to be on.

For the next kilometer the solo-flyer swerved, to try and shake Flick, but Flick wasn’t going anywhere. By then solo-flyer understood his lot. With 1 kilometer to go the Sprinter rode alongside me, and I let a gap open for him to grab Flicks wheel., and promptly grabbed his.

With 500 meters to go, as we crested the small “hill” on the course, I spread my elbows, and bent my knees out, to try and dissuade anyone from trying to take the Sprinters wheel from me. A friend from the break rode alongside and said “we can win this”, then moved to the front, and opened up the sprint. We strung out in a line, and with 250 meters to go he faded. I sat on the sprinters wheel, anticipating his jump, as he sat on Flicks wheel, anticipating his jump.

We slowed, momentarily, and that’s when I decided to take matters into my own hands. I jumped, and I jumped hard. 200 meters to the line, and I was clear. 150 meters to the line, and I was clear. 100 meters to the line, and I was clear. 50 meters to the line, and I could see the Sprinter and Flick in my peripheral vision. 20 meters to the line and I watched them pass me, Flick taking the win, followed by the Sprinter, with another rider on his wheel.

So, it was another 4th place for me today.

Lesson learned: the chit-chat attack works well with an apathetic peloton.

1 comment:

Arron said...

elaborate indeed. nice race. later.