Submitted by Hank Pfeifle.
Yeah baby, we had a good showing at Sunapee. The 2x 23 mile loop around Lake Sunapee is a very fair course as it is testing but it is not stacked in favor of either the climbers or the sprinters. It’s an all-rounder’s course. The back side of the circuit has a series of four Tuesday Night Ride type hills with the front (finishing side) of the course being flat with an excellent road surface. The finish can be tricky as the field is taken through a round-about and deposited onto the Mount Sunapee access road with its “hard to manage” quarter mile big ring climb to the finish.
OA/Cyclemania’s solid showing can be attributed to a number of factors,
a) Strength in numbers – Ron Bourgoin, Jeff Fisher, Eric Larsson, Kevin Hays and me
b) Good distribution of talent types – climbers, sprinters, rolluers
c) Multi-pronged game plan
d) Disciplined compliance to strategy
The plan was for me to do the major damage to the field on the hills, have Jeff shadow me and jump onto counter attacks at the top of hills, keep Ron fresh at all times for the finish, and use Kevin and Eric to patrol things on the flats so Jeff and I could get our legs recovered. On the first lap we hit the hills fairly hard to keep people honest, and Jeff found himself covering a lot of moves. However, one move we all missed was Dmitri Bueben’s jump the first time we came onto the flat side of the course. Before long Dmitri was way down the course, and this is a guy we needed to take seriously as he is a former UCI World Masters TT champion (2009) and a former Olympic Team Pursuit medalist (Russian team, 1980). Kevin was quick to take up the chase. It seems his new found TT prowess (6th overall at LL Bean!) has fueled his passion to dive into the hurt zone. Good for us. Hummm … where was Eric? I found him at the back of the pack and instead of diving into the hurt zone, he was diving into a banana. “Hey, Eric – up front, buddy,” I directed. “Huh, ca I f..ish ma ban..a?” I think he was asking if he could finish his banana, but it was hard to tell with it crammed into both his checks! Whatever the question was, the answer was no and he scurried to the front. Evidently the banana did the trick for him as we were soon rocketing down the road with the pack strung out behind the furiously pedaling OA/CM pair.
As we got to the first hill we could see Dmitri was now easily within striking distance. There was no holding back on the hills as it was now full on “go”. After the first hill the pack was still intact – rats. After the first hill there is a descent that goes down to the lake, across a flat for about a mile and then another good hill. I wanted to make sure I did not get swarmed and trapped in the middle of the pack. I wanted a clean shot at the next hill so I could use every yard to go hard, hard and harder. Couldn’t wait. Like an angel, Kevin came to the front and set a very fast tempo across the flat keeping things strung out. I was on third wheel and Jeff was right behind me. This launched me perfectly onto the hill and I hit it with the perfect gearing. I must say, my acceleration impressed even myself – he, he – this surely would do some damage. And indeed it did as a head count after the hill had only about 25 guys left (of 54 starters). We had one more good hill to deal with, and I thought we were going to get away for sure on that one as about seven of us crested it with a good gap. But we were caught on the flat relief – darn.
Winning teams win because they have planned a number of ways to win. For example, I could have gotten into a break after one of the many hard hill attacks. Or Jeff could have gotten into a break by responding to a counter attack (which was a successful tactic in the 55+ race). Those options did not play out and it was now down to our last card – Ron. You see, the team attitude has to be “we WILL be on the podium” as this gives you a little extra tingle as you come to the finish. Of course we cannot sit back and say, “have at it, Ron”. No, the way to win is by controlling the finish and giving your sprinter the best shot at the line. So, who’s our best lead out guy? Me? Jeff? Not sure but I DO know I am good at it and since there is not much time for discussion on this point I went to the front. It’s also good to know Jeff is a good sprinter and goes absolutely rabid when the finish banner comes into view. Therefore, the best thing for the team is for me to lead out the sprint, rested Ron be the primary sprinter with Jeff ready to clean up should something happen to Ron. And that’s how we did it. I got to the front before the round-about and accelerated down the hill keeping it fast – safer and it takes half the field out of play because they become too far behind. Ron and Jeff made sure to get properly position – not an easy feat as everyone fights for position. Somehow I kept it going onto the short flat just before the last 50 uphill yards to the finish. That’s when the sprint jumps come and Bill Casazza of Duane Skoffield’s team timed it perfectly and was able to hold off Ron at the line. Jeff had a nice 4th place finish and I was more than happy to hold on for 8th.
Selfless commitment to team, multiple options at winning and, yes, solid talent, all added to a very strong and satisfying showing at Sunapee.
Also note that Fred Thomas won a fast closing pack field sprint for 7th in the 1-2 race, and Graydon fought his way to 8th in the 55+ race.