Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Victory in New York

The course
Unionvale is in the Hudson Valley area of New York State, which is quite a hilly area. We did 5 laps, each with 3 climbs, each one more difficult than the previous. There were also a series of descents after these climbs, some sections fairly technical. After the fifth and final lap we turned off course and up a 1.5 mile climb to the finish. The finishing climb is steepest toward the bottom maintains a fairly constant gradient until the last half mile where it flattens out considerably allowing for a big-ring finishing effort.

In past years, the finish has come down to a select group sprinting for placing at the top of the climb.

How it played out
Our field was relatively small - about 40 starters in the Pro/1/2/3 field. Some very good riders were in attendance, though, including Cameron Cogburn of the Chris' Cookies team out of Ithaca, Matt Purdy from Kenda/Spooky and some very fast riders from the Jonathan Adler, Team Metra/Wendy's and Anthem Sports.

We showed up to race with Peter Bradshaw, Cory Burns and me. This was Cory's first road race since Battenkill - he'd had a bad crash in a crit earlier in the season and has been nursing himself back to form since, as well as slaying a few time trials in his homeland of upstate New York. Cory proved himself back in shape when he attacked only a few miles into the first lap, bringing three other riders with him and hanging out in front of the field for two laps. This perfectly executed move allowed Bradshaw and me to sit in, save our energy and let other teams do the chase work.

Toward the middle of lap 3 the field made contact with the breakaway. Bradshaw decided to preempt the inevitable attack that would follow the catch and launched off the front of the field on one of the course's flatter sections. The field stretched out to single file as racers immediately responded to Bradshaw's attack. There followed a series of attacks and counter attacks through the flat section of the course and through the feed zone climb. While not steep, the feed zone climb was a somewhat long drag with a number of turns. The constant attacks and changes of pace lead to a fracturing of the field into several smaller groups. This breakup continued throughout the small downhill after the feed zone and into the next climb, which was another longish grind. Bradshaw was at the front setting a hard pace while I sat toward the front of the group read to respond to any attacks. When we crested this hill I realized how much the pace and series of attacks had affected the riders around me - many were hurting. Shortly after this crest, there started a fairly significant downhill section with some sharp turns toward the bottom. I thought I would try attacking on the downhill, figuring most of the field would use the moment to rest and recover from the previous climbs.

This moment proved perfect for an attack. After the steepest part of the descent I peeked under my arm and saw I had opened a gap from the field. I pressed on, moving through a slight riser, around a sharp turn and into another downhill as hard as I could. A few minutes later I looked behind me again and saw nothing but open road. This was a pretty shocking experience for me. Like many racers who specialize in hill climbing I'm not the best at time trialing or riding consistently fast with my face in the wind.

I rode solo for half a lap until 3 riders bridged up to me. I'm much better in a small group than on my own so I was most happy to see them approach me and I eagerly jumped on the back of their little group as they came past me. Our group of 4 quickly turned to a group of 3 as one of the riders fell off on the feed zone climb. We set hard tempo for the next lap, working well together. Our lead car fell back several times to give us time splits, which were all in the low two minute range. Our steady pace up the hills finally took its toll on another breakaway companion, who fell back on the final hill of the course. Our break was now two: me and Jeff Zygo from the MVP Health Care team, who had been riding solidly and setting good pace up the hills. We approached the final climb together and hit the lower slopes of the 1.5 mile drag up to the finish side by side. Our pace was moderate for the first half mile until I decided to lift the pace slightly. I was surprised when I turned around to see that I had opened a gap to Jeff. I lifted the pace a little bit more and settled into a rhythm that I felt I could maintain for the duration of the climb without wasting the energy I might need to sprint at the top.

The climb began to mellow out toward the top and I caught sight of the 200m notice coming up in the distance. I looked behind me again and saw no sign of any other riders approaching me.
It's the way I've always wanted to win a bike race - off the front of the group with nobody in sight behind.

The course suited me well and I felt great that day, but the credit still has to go to my teammates, who played their parts perfectly. While I was in the break, Bradshaw was doing his best to control things in the group. He got into a chase group for a time and was able to finish in a more than respectable 9th place in the group surge to the line. Cory dropped out with some technical issues but not before he had done more than his fair share of work.

Up Next
This weekend the team will be traveling to Maine to participate in the Clam Festival circuit race in Yarmouth. Should be a good time and with most of the team in attendance we think we can do pretty well.

Thanks for reading.



Blogger cutty said...

great ride, james

July 16, 2009 at 8:25 AM  
Blogger dalechampagne said...

domination acquired

July 16, 2009 at 5:50 PM  

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