I spent most of the week refreshing the Colorado Springs weather page on the NOAA website with fingers crossed that we would have, at worst, bearable weather conditions. Saturday rolled around and the threat of rain never materialized, angry clouds passed overhead but they only brought wind. It was over 50 degrees so the weather really wasn’t too bad.
The threat of weather and a race in Denver conspired to keep our field small. 13 on the line which would mean small group racing and tactics. Despite the small field it was loaded with talent. 2 MTB Pros, my teammate on the Paralympic National Team that is a rouler/TT specialist, a local guy that has finished in the top 10 at his last half-dozen races, and a junior with a huge motor would be the guys to watch during the race.
The race started and settled into a rythme pretty quickly, no one seemed to be in much of a rush to animate things probably because of the small field. Somewhere around lap 3 I was on the front rolling down towards turn 3 which is a fast right hand turn. I pedaled through the corner and looked back to see a 3 bike length gap. I figured I’d see if anyone want to play so I continued to ride at hard tempo and found myself solo off the front out of turn 4. The finishing straight is about 500 meters long and drags uphill so I applied a bit more pressure to establish the break before settling in. I expected the field to give me just enough rope to hang myself with so I rode at a sustainable pace hoping to draw out a few more riders to work in the break. A group of 2 came out a few laps later so I eased up a bit once they had crossed most of the gap. Unfortunately one of the guys had pretty well used himself up while chasing and we didn’t put together a very cohesive effort. The field decided this move was too threatening so they shut us down in about 2 laps. The “field” that caught us was down to 4 leaving 7 in the race. My total time in the first break was about 10 minutes.
2 or 3 laps later I found myself off the front in the exact same fashion as the first time. I didn’t attack, I became off the front. The countdown said 30 minutes and my legs felt good so I rolled with it hoping to draw someone out as the gap was pretty stable. After 8 or 10 minutes the Colombian MTB Pro (Fernando) moved out of the field and made the juncture after 2 or 3 laps. We worked well together but the field sensed the danger and started pulling us back. We decided to sit up once the gap was under 10 seconds and try our luck in the sprint. I ended up spending about 20 minutes in that break and had 10 minutes to recover for the finish.
The front group was down to 6 and had all of the danger men. Fernando attacked hard with one to go and no one wanted to take up the chase. We jockeyed for position into the last corner and I put myself into 3rd wheel, exactly where I wanted to be. The guy in 2nd wheel jumped but I was glued to him, waiting, waiting, trying to be patient. I jumped hard on the left side and into the crosswind now leading the group. I drifted right to close the door on the sheltered side of the road. With 50 meters to go I was fading fast and someone was coming up on the left, but on the crosswind side. 20 meters, I can see the guy is my teammate, Jon. Bike throw and I take the sprint by half a wheel!
So it was a fun race, I spent about 70% of it off the front and recovered enough to sprint for 2nd which really gives me confidence in my fitness and tactical awareness, and even in my sprint. I missed the winning move by being in the wrong spot, but I played the sprint well so it’s a lesson and a positive.
I really don’t want to get into the politics of the double-booked weekend, but both the Crit and RR are on great courses, are well run, and even have great payouts! 1st-3rd covered their entries in Cat3, and 4th covered most of his entry, the P12 race was even better. Boulder and Denver really should consider coming down in the future.