Tuesday, March 18, 2008

An Army of One: A UM Pres Crit Recap

Leading up to the U Md Pres Cup race, I was a bit nervous about the weather forecast. All week the stupid weather folks were saying how stormy and rainy Saturday was going to be. I had visions of racing in a complete downpour and I was dreading the fast right hand turn before the finish. I kept envisioning riders sliding on their sides through that turn.

I checked the forecast Friday night and our accurate forecasters were now calling for a beautiful sunny Saturday. No longer would I have to worry about sliding on my ass through that turn.

Let's cut to the chase: I WON the Cat4 race. I was totally psyched that all my hard winter training paid off. What a great way to start the 2008 season.

Before going on, I need to offer thanks to the following people:

  • All those that do the Thrasher Daily Race Ride (Ad, Paul, Randy, Jay, Bill, Steve, Simon, JamesW) for the hard rides that have gotten me into shape.
  • The entire 12 man Rt1 Velo squad for wearing ear plugs during the race and totally ignoring Mike Esmonde's frantic commands to get off the front and quick pulling everyone around.
  • My Mom and Dad for giving me the genetics to have an incredibly powerful sprint (sic) (insider note: my sprint really sucks, but don't tell anyone)
  • BJ Basham's words of wisdom for the race.
  • and to me for not listening to the little gremlins in my head that wanted me to attack on every lap and every time the pace slowed up.
In all honesty, this race was a lot of fun and I really hope the rest of the races this season are this much fun regardless of how I finish. Of course, I'd like to do as well for every race, but I'm realistic.

really love this course; its very challenging with the short steep climb, the technical chicane and the fast run up to the finish. I like the fact that the race usually breaks up within the first couple of laps and that only strong riders survive. There really is no place to hide. My only concern, as I believe is everyone's, is the first half of the first lap. For the past couple of years, the very first turn has been the scene of crashes and I didn't want to become part of that scene this year. My plan was to get a good starting position and gun it from the start, get through the first turn in the front quarter of the pack, and remain up front, ready to counter any jumps. I wanted to be in position to be able to stay with the front group and not get caught out of position like I did last year. I just remember suffering the entire race last year in the first chase group with BryanV, ShannonM and 3 others.

My plan worked well. I stayed on the tail end of the front group and bridged up when ever my spidey sense alerted me to someone about to drop off the pace. I jumped around a bunch of riders at different times in order to remain in contact. I sat on wheels and stayed out of the wind as best I could in order to conserve energy. I really didn't see a need to blast up to the front 5 positions since I really didn't want to do too much work in the early part of the race. This is a pretty long race, and I knew folks would start to suffer towards the end of the race. Plus, my legs were feeling really good and if I had to do a big bridge up, I had the power to do it.

For the first 20 minutes the pace was pretty fast and there were only 13 of us remaining after dropping 2/3 of the field. Our group consisted of 6 Rt1 riders, 2 from UMd, 2 from a team with black/ yellow/red, 2 from All American and ME. Sometime during the race, a UMd guy and an All American guy were off the front about 15 secs. I was tempted to bridge up to them but really didn't think they'd be able to stay up there for another 30 minutes, plus Rt1 had 6 riders and I certainly wasn't going to help them bring the attackers in. In all honesty, I wanted those two to ride solo for many laps so they'd have no energy for the finish. I'm not sure who did the work to pull them back in but we eventually did. Mostly like it was Rt 1, kudos to them.

The main thing I remember about mid point in the race, was the Rt1 guys sitting on the front, pulling everyone around at a constant tempo and Mike Esmonde frantically screaming at them to get off the front and stop pulling. On one lap I remember coming up the hill, seeing a bunch of lapped riders ahead, and hearing Mike instruct the two Rt1 guys on the front to gun it and the Rt 1 guys behind them to sit up. I thought this was a good tactic but very cheeky. Fortunately, none of the Rt1 guys listened to Mike.

Coming past the start/finish line I saw that we had about 13 or 14 laps to go, and the pace was starting to slow up. I really wanted to go hard but kept myself in check. With 10 to go, the pace was still slow and riders in the front were really getting edging looking over their shoulders waiting for attacks. I really wanted to go but kept myself in check. So it went for the next couple of laps: slow pace, everyone waiting for attacks. I finally couldn't take it anymore and with about 8 laps to go, I went as hard as I could down the start/finish stretch and continued pulling hard for about two laps. Not wanting to completely kill myself and have nothing for the finish, I started looking over my shoulder for the next guy to pull through. He never did, so I just sat up, pulled to the far side and let everyone go through. I jumped back in line for the next couple of laps and got ready for the finish.

On the bell lap, one of the Rt1 guys (Charles) went hard through the tricky turns after the start/finish and I got on his wheel. We got up to the front and I sat on his wheel through the gradual right hand bend before the hill. Just before the base of the climb I attacked and went as hard as I could. I continued to accelerate through the climb and even harder through the chicane and the downhill section. For once I took the right hand turn real tight and exploded on the exit. I sprinted with all I had towards the finish. I kept hearing gremlins in my head saying "ride like you stole it". About midway to the finish line, I couldn't get into the right gear and thought I'd blown it, but I kept going. My head was down and my legs were pumping with everything I had left. I looked up and saw the finish line. I crossed it about a wheel length ahead of a Rt1 guy (Bringham). Since I wasn't sure if I'd won, and I was so tired, I didn't even raise my arms in the triumphant winners pose. I just coasted down the street trying to catch my breath.

Even if I'd not won, this was a really fun race. Not the usually bullshit so typical of Cat 4 races. All the riders, respected each other, and no one did anything stupid.

Again, kudos to the Rt1 team for having 6 guys in the final selection. I look forward to many more races with you guys this season.

Photos courtesy of the Kyle Jones Collection.


Kyle Jones said...

I have a video of your win but it will not load up to the blogger. I might try youtube. I will post it when I get a chance.

Gregoire said...

Excellent race report. Looking forward to racing against you this season.

Pete said...

Congrats Ray!

I remember I was in that chase group with you last year; the field got broken up VERY early and we were doomed to begin with. It was definitely miserable; I'm glad you've come back with a Belgian-style win!

RayMan said...

Thanks Kyle, I'd really like to see the video.

Anyway we can splice in the couple of scenes with me raising my arms in a triumphant winners pose?

RayMan said...

Sorry, I forgot you were with us in the second group last year. I just couldn't remember who was in it. I did remember that F-in Shannon wouldn't take any pulls because Nick was in the front group. That race really hurt last year.

Kari & Jesse said...

Well done Ray...although hopefully it won't be that easy for you next time (gotta get those R1V boys to listen better...) ;)

Anonymous said...

all those in favor of tapering say aye. AYE!

RayMan said...

Thanks Anon,
So maybe tapering wasn't the correct term to use in my earlier posting since, tapering, I believe, involves longer periods of reduced training intensity before a big event.

What I really should have said was "I'm going to take a couple of easy days before the race".

Joe Mazza said...

Way to go Ray!! Glad to see all that winter work paying off. Looking forward to seeing you in the peleton. Let's do some 40+ races this year!

DaedalusVelo said...

Congrats Rayman. There's nothing like winning...and racing, and having fun on a cycle.

Haven't seen you in a while...maybe soon at Hains Point. Take care. Sean

Kyle Jones said...

Do you know what I realized today. Is that both you and jesse broke your bones during the year and you guys won UMD. I think there might be a UMD curse.