Sunday, February 21, 2010

No guts, no glory - Day 2 of the Greenville Spring Series - BMW

Day 2 of the Greenville spring road racing training series is wrapping up as I sit here in front of my computer to write this. It was a great day for racing, and the Spinners had some great efforts and results.

News as I know it for the different classes today:

Cat 5, 34-: Robert Donavan turns in a strong performance to take the sprint and win the top spot on the podium. A big crash in the 3rd or so lap from the finish of this race took out about 8 riders. One of the riders is the son of a former Spinners Race team member. Taylor is Perry Lyles son. He was injured pretty badly and had to be helped back to the Metro tent. After a trip to the hospital, it turns out that his left hip has some pretty serious bruising, but thankfully no breaks. He hopes to be riding next week.

Cat4: Spinners gave a great showing with Robert lining up for his second race of the day. Early in the race, he found himself on a solo breakaway that lasted about a lap before being reabsorbed into the peloton. Randy gave a great show by getting up front towards the end of the race in an effort to reel in a breakaway. I was not able to stick around to get the final results.

That's really the news as I know it, of course except for the Cat 5, 35+ race in which I participated. There were 3 spinners lined up for the start. Prior to the race start, Abhay, John Hudson and I had collaborated with John Frame (Team Metro who was out there by himself again). We planned to initiate a breakaway at about 20 minutes into the 30 minute (plus 2 laps) race. You'll see how this turned out.

In the aftermath of the crash that took Taylor out, I approached the line with more nervous energy than I had yesterday. I think this was partly because although I didn't see the crash, I did see the aftermath and the pain in Taylor's face. This is a bit sobering after the discussions Hudson, Abhay, Frame and I had. We were so confident that we could make a breakaway stick. Well, we had to survive in order to do anything.

Hudson, Frame and I were lined up on the front while Abhay was on the second row directly behind us. When the flag dropped, I was surprised to see Mike (a les amis guy) go out and set a strong pace. I pulled in second position behind him, and as I was working to get up there, I heard Frame say 'Not yet'. He was really pushing, and I was torn between holding his wheel, and letting him go. The answer came to me with a couple of guys coming up on my right. I grabbed their wheels and the peloton started to take shape.

It's difficult to keep track of one's teammates out on the track. I was doing the same thing today as I did yesterday - staying near the front and trying to stay out of the wind. Hudson was up there with me, so I knew where he was. I caught occasional glimpses of Abhay and Frame as we rolled through the laps.

There were a lot of attacks in the early stages of the race. It kept the pace high and every attack was answered. Bobby, the les amis guy who I mentioned yesterday, was doing the same thing today as he did yesterday. At one point, someone yelled up to him something about doing his share of pulling. Today he did get out and pull for a while.

Quite early in the race, Hudson got out front and gave a strong pull. A full lap I think he stayed out there. When he finally came off the front, he and I chatted a little, and neither of us thought a breakaway was going to be possible. At one point, Frame was near the front. I called out to him "I don't think so". I don't know if he got the message or not, but he wasn't in serious attack mode.

The race today was much more sketchy than yesterday. The wind was a factor in this. Each time we came out of a head (or tail) wind and into a crosswind, people would have to make adjustments. Usually, this meant getting squirrely for a moment. There was a few guys who were much worse than others. One particular guy was a strong rider, but I would say he is an accident waiting to happen. I do not know the guy, and I don't know where he comes from. However, I do know his number, so if I can figure out what his name is, I'll know to watch out for him in the future. He spent a fair amount of time in the top 5, and had a few attacks that didn't stick.

As the race began to wind down, I was trying to figure out a new strategy since our breakaway dreams were not being realized. Hudson and I rode side by side for part of a lap. I offered to give him a leadout if he felt up to the sprint. Unfortunately, he said he wasn't feeling it, so it was back to the drawing board as far as strategy goes.

With just over 2 laps to go, Abhay launched an attack. Not just an attack, but perhaps the strongest attack of the day. Three or four others grabbed his wheel and I snagged the tail end of it. It was so strong, that our little group had started to pull a very small gap. I yelled 'ROTATE' and Abhay gave up his lead position to be taken by another. I yelled 'ROTATE' again and we repeated this. Each of the 5 or 6 riders in this little breakaway did a very short pull before being replaced by another. As we approached the start / finish line (to mark 2 laps to go), we had pulled maybe 2-3 bike lengths. We had it! This breakaway could work if we could just stay organized!

Unfortunately, the rotation broke down. Abhay found himself out front and the rider behind him couldn't or wouldn't pull through. Suddenly, from my right, I saw a rider from the pack making another attack.

His attack was strong, but when he was past Abhay (who was still rocking it!), he pulled up . (it is important to note that I think his actions were safe, he didn't jam on the brakes or anything, I could just see that he let off the gas) I saw this as an attempt to arrest this breakaway, so I attacked. This was just as we entered the chicane past the start / finish line. I was really hoping someone would come with me. In fact, I expected to see the les amis guy Bobby on my wheel. By the time I looked back, I had pulled almost a dozen bike lengths! I was dissappointed to see that I was out there by myself.

I now had a decision to make - with less than 2 laps to go, do I keep on the gas and see if I can make it stick, or do I let off and save myself for the finish?

How do you make this kind of decision? I mean, this is my second road race ever. I don't have any experience in this kind of situation. I didn't have a lot of time to think about it really, a dozen or so bike lengths isn't that much.

Here's the real facts. We were in the closing laps of the race, I was out front on a solo breakaway and I had two teammates and a 'friendly' in the pack behind me. I know can lay down some power over the course of a long burn. I was in my best aero position and I was feeling pretty good. If you can tell anything from the title of this blog, you'll know what I did (or if you were there watching the race ;).

I went for it. I put it all on the line with about 1 and 3/4 laps to go, I picked up my biggest hammer and started swinging. I tried not to think about the peloton behind me. I knew they were back there and I knew there would be peeps trying to counter my attack. I had no clue how long I could hold them off, but as the title says, no guts, no glory. I was going for it.

As I came around to the entrance of the back straight, It seemed like I was increasing the gap. I'm sure there was some jockeying in the peloton as they tried to get organized, but I was pulling hard and felt pretty confident.

The wind along the back straight was coming from my left and there was nothing I could do about it except keep my best aero position. As I neared the turn on the opposite end of the track (which is the last turn before the start / finish), I kept to the very inside of the track to minimize the distance I would have to travel. I was looking for any advantage I could think of.

Coming through that turn you are heading directly into the wind. I still felt pretty good, and when I looked back, maybe I had pulled perhaps as much as 200 meters (it was somewhere between 100 and 200 meters for sure) but when you're swinging your biggest hammer calculating distances is not the top priority!

I crossed the start / finish with a big gap and one lap to go. As I approached the point where I made my attack (the chicane), I looked back and realized that they were gaining ground. I was also starting to feel the effects of my efforts. How I wished that someone (a strong someone) would have come with me when I attacked.

As I entered the back straight, I could hear the peloton behind me. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold the break. I kept pushing as hard as I could, but I had put myself on the inside of the track. About half way along the back straight, I was caught.

I did my best to hold pace with the peloton, but without that advantage of catching someone’s draft, I just didn’t have the power. My candle was flickering badly and as we entered the final turn, I found myself at the back. I also found myself in the wind with no chance of taking advantage of the peloton’s draft.

Having a bit of pride that wouldn’t accept last place, I pushed hard to re-take as many positions as I could. I managed to pass 3 or 4 others to give me a final finish of 24th out of a field of 28 or 29.

I am quite certain that had someone else followed me when I attacked, we could have made that break stick. We had the break with the 5 or 6 guys when Abhay attacked, unfortunately, for whatever reason there was no teamwork to make that one stick.

All in all, it was a great weekend of racing. To say I’m hooked would be an understatement. I’ll be back next weekend and for the River falls race. The biggest thing we need to do as a team is continue to work together. By doing this, we’ll better understand each other’s strengths. Once we find that understanding, we’ll be putting the Spinners on the podium in the cat5, 35+ group.


  1. what a great re-cap!! I will miss next weekends races but I will look for your to post some awesome results!!!

  2. Thanks Robin! After looking at the official results, I placed 21 out of 25 riders. Something I've been thinking about - I'm not sure I pushed as hard as I could. I'll have to remember that next weekend.


  3. Great recap JD. Sorry I missed it live! See you on the courses this weekend!!


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