Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Race Report | 2/25/2017-2/26/2017 | UNC/Duke

This weekend Ben and I went down to North Carolina to do two races hosted by UNC and Duke.
Saturday's race hosted by the University of North Carolina was a 44mi race along a 7 mile loop with rolling country roads. It was 80 degrees before we even started racing. 10-15mph winds made nerves nervous.
After a short neutral rollout, I found myself at the back of the field and had to move up. By the time I made it to the front, Ben was already chilling in the first five wheels. Then a Navy rider attacked, no one went with. A minute later he was sucked back into the 40 rider peloton (Men's B was racing with Women's A). Again and again, different Navy riders would try their luck with a solo attack with the same results. The pace was relatively chill until the third lap. A rider from Johns Hopkins University sat on the front and delivered a mean tempo.
About halfway through the third lap a rider from William and Mary rolled up beside me and told me we - a group of around 10 of us at the front - had a 40 second gap from the field! Whaaaaaa. That gap soon grew to 1:20. The Johns Hopkins rider was particularly strong (he won the 4/5 race earlier that morning solo...) and he attacked our break of about 8 riders at the time. We all looked at each other and we decided that we'd probably catch him as long as we worked together since there was 8 of us and only 1 of him. That was not the case. There was definite tension between some riders not doing their fair share of the pacemaking and the riders not strong enough to stay with were popped off like corn kernels on a hot cob.
With 5 of us left in the "break" at this point and 1 lap to go, a moto ref let us know we had a 5 minute gap to the main field which was shattered. Ben was running out of water and cramping up so bad that he couldn't ride out of the saddle (even after I gave him one of my bottles). Our plan was to have him keep the pace high until the final 2 minute long hill that the finish line was on - there I'd give whatever I had left.
Half a lap from the finish a JMU rider jumped the group and tried his luck solo. They say hindsight is 20/20... We should have gone with him. He was always on a tight leash, but not tight enough. On the lead-in to the final hill, Ben sat on the front and powered a mean pace that was perfect to lead me into a soul crushing sprint. I finished 3rd, behind the JHU rider who won solo, and the JMU rider who finished about 50 meters ahead of me.
Ben rolled in 5th, beating the last rider in the group.

Sunday's crit was a little cooler at 45 degrees when we raced at 10am. The 25-rider race was a 45 minute criterium around a 1 mile, 8 corner loop around two city blocks in downtown Durham NC. The finish line was on the last section of the uphill half of the course, followed by a fast descent into a chicane to wrap around a city block and then ascend back up to the finish.
About 10 minutes in, Ben was feeling froggy. He tried his luck a handful of times, but no one joined him. About 25 minutes in, the same JHU rider that won yesterday attacked off the front and Ben was quick to join. I quickly moved to the front in an attempt to control the pace and break up any pacelining. We never saw Ben or the JHU rider again. I stayed near the front of what was now a 10 rider group - I assume the rest were popped because of how hot the cob was - and gave the ACCC a lesson on good, fast, and clean cornering.
One lap to go I found myself second wheel in the group behind the JMU rider that beat me yesterday. I had to beat him. With two turns to go I felt the adrenaline build. Still behind the JMU rider, I launched my sprint right after the final turn and crossed the finish in 3rd place.
Oh, did you forget that Ben and JHU were still up the road? Yeah, apparently the rest of the peloton did too. Ben outsprinted JHU for his first collegiate win! He earned that one. Nearly 25 minutes in a 2-man break with a rider that won two races the day prior. Make sure you give him kudos on Strava for that one.

This weekend, a bigger squad is headed down to Williamsburg, VA for some more ACCC racing hosted by the College of William and Mary.