Submitted by Aron Buterbaugh.
Steven Edwards, John Meerse and I discussed the strategy of sticking with any break as the field has some strong riders from teams like Strava and Fuji (Mark McCormick). The first 1/2 of the first lap, was dreadfully slow. For a moment I thought we were going to pass the first lap with an 18 mph average or slower. As we came into the backside hill area, attacks starting to occur, but they were mostly by the domestiques who were antsy to showcase their strength…albeit 10 seconds of fame. The meantime, the strong riders sat in. Meerse, Edwards and I were well positioned for all attacks and jumped on multiple times not working hard, but judging just in case.
As was so often the case in this race, two riders would go hard, then get caught by 6-8 strong riders, then all of them would pull to the side and look around for others to start working. It’s the sort of dancing you see in crits all of the time. Bottom line was that there wasn’t a strong contingency of riders on the attack and the sole strong rider never took a chance to drill it because he knew 6-8 others were right on his tail, many times with an OA jersey. We took our turns attacking as well, and the last half of the first lap was extremely fast. Things settled down once we reached the start of the second lap and the feeling set in that this race was going to be won on the last half of the second lap by attacking the hills. I patiently sat in and conserved leg energy to be ready for the hill attacks and to make a few of my own. John stayed near the front the entire time. At one point early into the second lap, Paul Richards (CCB) attacked with Max (Subaru) and another rider we couldn’t make out. It seemed to be yet another “false” attack which would sputter out just like the rest. However, this time the pack was in conserve mode waiting for the second half of the final lap. So, our speed was slower which allowed the three man group to slip further away. Within five minutes, they had a 30 second gap (my personal counting in my head as I marked where I saw them then counted seconds until we reached the same point). Soon, it was a minute. It would have been easy for any three man group to spin off if they were working even a little bit together, which when the three of them slipped off, they were not doing.
Attacks did happen and OA led a few of them up several climbs. So where is Mark McCormick and what the heck is he doing in the back? Is he planning a huge surge at the 5 mile mark or what? This was my thought process. Unfortunately, he did nothing. It was a mistake to be distracted by the thought.
Coming into the last couple km before the rotary, we had shed quite a few from the race, but still hadn’t closed in on the three man break. Two more attacked and actually ended up catching the three man break. As we approached the rotary, I moved the front and drilled it into the rotary which I was hoping would string it out and maybe gain some seconds on the pack sprint thus giving better postion for myself and making it a safer sprint for John. Well, the latter worked out as John went by me with four others at the flat section of the sprint. Steven also had a kick and as we climbed we all trickled in together.
To say it was a frustrating day would be an understatement. Lessons learned might include, 1) On slows days, being aggresive can pay off even if the race is not suited to your strengths (e.g. Paul Richards = crit rider), 2) having a counterattack plan with teammates ready for when the first breakaway falls apart and everyone finds themselves looking around, 3) race your own race and forget about those big names in the group (e.g. Mark McCormick) because somedays they just don’t ride hard.