Submitted by Jeff Fisher.
This year at Concord was the great chess match; the battle between breakaways and the pack.
Graydon, Hank, Ron, and I did the 45+ race. Graydon and Hank had already put in huge efforts in the 55+ race so they were going to do the work for Ron and me in the 45+ race. Ron and I had a brief discussion about tactics before the race and we figured that no break would go away since it sees like it never does. Hank told Ron and me that he would do all the chasing so just sit in. Ok, that sounded like a good plan. We took off and the first lap was semi casual; got to love the old guys. The next lap we were racing and the field was getting strung out. Ron and I were up near the front where it was safe and could keep a watch for any serious attacks.
The primes started coming quick and often. After about three of them a pattern started to emerge. We would go hard for the prime, some guys would drift off the front and then we would reel them back in. Each time it would take a little longer to bring them back. It was decision time, go with an attack or save the legs for the sprint. I told myself that with 10 to go, I’d go with the attack if there was one, because I thought it would be too early otherwise. At 12 to go after the prime, the attack went and this time we weren’t bringing them back. One lap later the gap had gotten bigger and I was starting to fear we missed it. Four or five guys up the road and a pack not interested in chasing was bad for O/A.
At the top of the hill I was riding next to Ron and asked him if he’d seen Hank because he was going to chase. It must be an O/A thing because five seconds later Hank was on the front driving the pace and pulling the break back. After a lap Hank had cut the distance in half and I knew now was the time to go. Just after top of the hill I attacked. After a quick look back I saw I was clear and went full after burner to get to the break. Yep, that hurt. I got on just before the “S” turns. Ron had the same idea and made it on not too long after me. That was it. We now had 10 guys off the front and the group behind gave up, especially since half the teams in the race had someone in the break.
We rolled through steady but not everyone was working; the break was too big. With a little under three to go Gary Jasdzewski took off. I thought I should go with that but I was feeling tired and didn’t have the confidence in my legs. Plus I thought there was no way he’d stay out by himself with nine of us chasing. The problem was that there weren’t nine of us chasing. Almost none of us were chasing. With one lap to go, Gary had 15 seconds or so and the rest of us were trying to figure out where to be for the final run in. I knew Ron would be a great lead out so I made sure I was tucked on his wheel and I knew someone would attack on the last little pitch after the round-about.
Sure enough, that’s what happened and it was Ron in second wheel and me in third wheel. We flew down the back stretch, flew through the “S” curves where I carried too much speed and ended up side by side with Ron instead of behind him. Gary was just up the road though so this was going to be close. Ron opened the sprint I think and I went to the other side and got blocked a little. Bad move on my part. After that it was a full on drag race between four of us. With about 50 meters to go, Ron seemed to have one more gear than everyone else and pulled a bike length ahead while I faded just little (not a pure sprinter). All that speed at the end nearly brought Gary back. Another 50 meters and that would have been it.
Great teamwork by Hank and Graydon and a near perfect sprint by Ron.
Ron decided to call it a day and head home to rest up for the TTT so that left me as the sole O/A rider in this race. By now the temperature was in the low 90s so this race was going to be a suffer fest. I barely warmed up, got to the start and we took off like we were shot out of a cannon. The start of this race and the 45+ race couldn’t have been more different. The first time up the hill I was already 10 meters off the back and when we went through the round-about I was the last guy and digging to stay on. Luckily for me after having already gone through the “S” turns 20 times I had it dialed in and made up 10 places through the corners without even trying.
After three laps the legs were coming back. There were a number of attacks but nothing was sticking, but just like the previous race you could see the effort taking its toll. With about 12 to go, I put in an attack up the hill and took Tobi S, Bill Y, and someone else with me. I thought we had the juice but we were too dangerous and we got caught at the top of the climb. That’s when the counter attack went and I saw Bill go with it. I KNEW I should go, but once again a doubted myself and was prepared mentally to go again. That was a mistake because that was the winning break.
As the race progressed I noticed that the pack was sitting up more and more and going slower on the back side each lap. At one point we were tooling along at 17mph on the climb. Ok, time for chess game number two. I did a quick appraisal of how my legs felt, how far I thought I could time trial on my own and how fast that would have to be. I decided that if there was a prime with five to go then I would attack right after the sprint. I thought I could hold out for four laps if the pack was lethargic.
Sure enough, there was a prime with five to go and I attacked right after the prime. I went up the hill as fast as I could go, rounded the corner and looked back. I had a lone CCB guy chasing me so I eased up just a little and to let him on and then it was into the hurt locker. We came through with three to go and we still had good gap. I was doing about 60% of the work, but I was feeling OK. We came through with two to go and I was pulling through the finishing straight keeping 27mph. Around the corner and up the hill and a quick look back and we still had a good gap. However, I was now starting to really feel the two races and our speed started to come down some. Ok, just hold it together for 1.5 laps. We came through with one to go but now my speed was down to 25mph, that wasn’t. Just before the top of the hill I could see the pack had already rounded the corner and was totally strung out behind us. Oh man, this was going to be close.
We were giving everything we had and I thought if we could just make it to the last corner we’d have a shot. Just before the “S” turn one person came around us and we followed him through to the final corner. The sprint from the final corner was forever. I took off and passed the two guys in front and was going as hard as I could. 150 meters to go and I was still clear. 100 meters to go and my world was becoming a tunnel with darkness creeping in. 50 meters to go and I couldn’t feel my arms anymore and I thought I just might make it. 49 meters to go and the first guy came past followed by four more until I got to the line.
So close… I ended up finishing 8th.
That’s the great thing about bike racing. There are so many different strategies and sometimes you just have to believe in yourself.
See you on the road.