Teamwork by PV racers paid off handsomely at the Central Coast circuit race on August 2. Seven PV racers competed in the combined 35+ cat 3/4 and 45+ cat 3/4 races and with a smart race plan and solid teamwork, PV came away with wins in both categories. Enjoy this slide show of photos by Jeff Vander Stucken and read Menko Johnson’s race report below!
Race Report by Menko Johnson
After a great time getting back to racing last weekend, I was eager to give it another try so I signed up for the 35+ cat 3/4 race at CCCX Seaside. The course is a 2.5 mi out and back that has a few small rollers with wind blowing in your face one direction, and at your back in the other. The finish line is on the uphill section into the wind, making it quite a challenge. As we lined up, I saw many sets of calves bigger than my head, and knew I would have no chance at all if we left it to a sprint.
Strategy for these combined category and age group races is really intriguing. Because the 35s and 45s race together but are picked separately, it adds some complexity to breakaway situations because its difficult to know what categories are up the road, and cooperation can be impacted by that composition. One group may be hanging back for a sprint and won’t contribute to a chase, while the other may have a break up the road and have to chase. Before the race, Erik said that in the previous race a solo attack from a 55 rider prompted a 45 rider to bridge, and they rode away together and stayed away. I felt this would be the best chance for me as well and figured I’d wait until 3 to go and make an a go.
PV had a large contingent in both races with Lenny, Phil and myself in 35s, and Erik, Tom, Steve and Markus in the 45s. This was ideal because then we effectively had two teams working together and I simply talked with Phil and Lenny quickly to keep it simple—“nothing with any 35 gets away without 1 of us in it.” With such a non-technical course, it was very easy for people to sit in and save energy while those out in the wind worked hard. The first 2 laps there were some half-hearted breakaway attempts but they always came back. PV was very active with Tom, Erik and Phil each putting in efforts to stretch things out and test the waters. I sat back and watched to see who reacted, and started memorizing who might be my biggest threat while watching how things happened on the headwind and tailwind. Making sure nobody took me out in the corners was about as exciting as things got.
The race was pretty uneventful until Markus decided he’d had enough of this and literally just accelerated away from the field. (VIDEO 1 at 15:30) This was the key move of the race, because it allowed all of us to sit in and do zero work at the front, and reveal who cared enough to try and chase. As it turns out, Markus was away for a good 15 minutes solo as we would close but never close and then it would open again. Eventually Erik also went and was able to successfully bridge to Markus. Now PV had 2 guys in the 45s off the front.
Phil rolled up to me with about 25 minutes left and I told him to cover anything that comes up his side, and I would do the same on mine. The group at the front was slowing, and you could hear the gears clicking behind and riders prepared to make a jump. A blur up the left side was all I saw and Phil was like a racehorse bounding out of the gates, immediately gluing himself to the rider trying to get away. I am also accelerating as fast as I can, but waiting for just a moment to have someone come around me to pull me up. Big calves responds, and I glue on and don’t pull at all. We herd into the corner and so starts the 2nd half of the race.
I hear some tanging of equipment and screeching behind me, and I make a split second decision to try and bridge up to the break. Luckily Tom was just in front of me, so as I attack he latches on while successfully preventing anyone else from getting onto his wheel (VIDEO 2 – 00:12). I put my head down for 30 seconds and give an all out effort that spikes my HR up to 193 bpm before we hit the top of the roller. I look back and see Tom and Markus on, and I desperately beg for help. Poor Markus, spent from his efforts, pulls through and falls off the back as I do 400 watts in Tom’s draft to hold on.
As we’re heading downhill I can feel we can’t go as fast as the chasers, and wonder if this was a bad idea as we’re still going to see 3 laps to go and only have a few seconds gap at the turn around. But Tom is strong and I figure we have to put in two hard laps and keep our gap before they give up. With Tom next to me, I try and just push as hard as I can on the hill sections, and let him pull on the flatter sections where he is faster. One lap goes by and the gap is still probably only 5-10 seconds. As we make the turn around, I accidentally put a few bike lengths on Tom and he mentions that perhaps I would be faster by myself. “Hell NO!” and I just tell him to hang on. My mind wanders as my body screams at me and I’ve never been happier to have a teammate there to keep me going. We keep going and finally the elastic stretches, and then breaks. The chase loses a rider and drops to 3, and we can see the gap opening. At 18 minutes in, we’ve got the race-winning gap and just have to keep the gas on until the top of the hill to make sure we don’t give it up. We come through the last corner to cheers all around from our PV cheering section, and Tom and I finish side-by-side with the biggest smiles we could muster while trying to recover our breath! It was one of the most satisfying days of racing I’ve had in a long time, and it was just like we were back at training camp in January pushing each other, but this time the reward was much sweeter!