In bike races sometimes you see the guy who nearly makes it after a long breakaway, but gets caught in the last 500m or so. Tony Martin had this happen to him in the worst way possible, riding solo for 160km off the front and caught in the 25m before the line. So how much does it suck, I found out today: it really really blows. On one hand you know you road really well and on the other you look back over the entire day and think of all the little things, little places where maybe if you had pushed a little harder or held back a little. Anyways onto the report.
Chappell Hill RR, is a lollipop style race, 13 miles out, then 4 loops of about 12 miles then 13 miles back into town where the race finishes up on a little hill. 500m to 200m is fairly steep and it shallows out from there. Race started with a one mile neutral roll out, our lead car was dumb and motor paced a guy 100m off the front of the rest of the neutral group. Fortunately an official fixed that and then we were off to the races.
In the initial 13 miles loop one guy raced off the front got a little bit of a gap and the whole group just kinda sat up and let him go. I thought this could be promising if I got up to him without pulling the group with me. I slow rolled off the front with one other and once I could see the group had given us a gap hit the gas a bit. The guy who came with me apparently was just marking me, he refused to pull through. I got about 3/4 of the way across and was easing up because I was just pulling deadweight, then Derek Alvorado of Comanche came up to us and we worked together connected with the guy up front but were shortly pulled in by the group. At this point I road near the front, but did no work. Staying out of trouble, watching for dangerous moves and trying to ride smart. For the last couple weeks I've been doing one of two things, dumbly attacking, or idiotically being a non-factor in the race. My goal today was to wait for the right moment and then attack.
AustinBikes was controlling the front and letting no one go off. I quite frankly found this dumb: why were they wasting energy chasing down everything when they had no one up the road? I was assuming they wanted a field sprint, but eventually one of their guys DID go up the road. That was a problem, 4 guys covering the front covering every attack and riding second wheel so if you pulled off they soft pedalled. After about a lap of this and trying to motivate people with teams to do something about it, the gap was about a minute. Something had to be done... so I went up front and rode threshold. I was slowly pulling the group back. Eventually two other guys came up and gave pulls, as they dropped back I told them to make sure they took Austin bikes spot on my wheel. In total I spent about 15 minutes up front at 235w, and pulled the gap back from about a minute to about 15 seconds. At this point I moved back to rest a bit, didn't want to do much more work than that at least not by myself. A half lap later we caught the group and Nate Sheetz countered. This was bad. I expressed to the group that if they let Nate ride away they would never see him again. People who knew Nate went up front and started trying to bridge. Now there were only two guys covering attacks and it was clear they were starting to tire. I was going to try to make the bridge when the opportuninty presented itself.
Shiva was the first guy to get away, he was joined by one other and they were somewhere between 1/3 and halfway across. At this point I would up about 5 bike lengths behind the Austin Bikes guys to make sure they couldn't easily grap onto my wheel. I jumped across to Shiva pretty quick, I was originally planning on working with them to make it a larger group up the road, however when I got there it was clear that they weren't moving at a clip adequete to catch Nate. I went straight past them and set my sights on Nate, as I found my "tempo" (tempo was low-moderate L5). 7 minutes later I joined Nate. I pulled up the climbs at a good clip and he pulled on the downhills, we traded on the flats but quite frankly Nate is a machine... I had a hard time holding pace on the flats and downhills. That said he was definately working harder than me on the uphills. It was a good tandem. About a lap in I was hurting pretty bad, but we were out of sight. Hopefully out of mind with Austin Bikes still blocking the front?
Earlier on in the race and before I had made a poor decision. The line for the bathroom had been fairly lengthy and I had foregone a bathroom pitstop pre-race. From the moment we started rolling I needed to pee, and because of this I didn't drink. Why was this such a bad idea? I carry all my nutrition in my bottles I was drinking very little for the first hour to hour and a half. After I got up to Nate I started drinking as I normally would/should.... but it was too little too late. I started trying to make up for lost time and thought for a while I was feeling better, but I really think the pace was just slowing up a bit. At one point we looked over: no longer out of sight. It looked like we might be caught, Nate threw it down on the flats and I started picking it up again on the hills. When we hit the feed zone again we were back out of sight, about a one minute gap from what I heard. 13 miles to go.
At this point I was clinging onto hope that I could find some magic. I was fading fast, I couldn't punch the hills the same anymore and finally at about 5 miles to go when nate waved me through to pull I quite simply couldn't get my legs to do it. I told Nate "Get me to the finish line and the win is all yours." I didn't think I would make it on my own, but simply could not give anymore. At somewhere between 3 and 5k to go, Nate stood up on a hill and I couldn't respond. I went harder but not hard enough. He pulled away from me. I kick myself now, maybe if I had tried to get out of the sadddle and followed I could have made it? Gotten second, but at the time it certainly felt like I was giving everything. As he pulled away I settled into doing what I could do: maybe we had pulled out enough that I could make it in. I wasn't actually even sure how much farther I had to go. Each corner I was looking: is that the finishing climb... nope. I kept looking over my shoulder and saw nothing... kept pushing.
Finally I saw the 1k to go banner and looked over my shoulder and.... SHITTTTTT charging field. I put everything I had in at that point. Of course now I question: was it really? Did I have more? Could I have done more. I made it over the steepest section of the climb, and then just as it levelled out the pack finish leader swept past: maybe he has a gap... keep pushing. Woosh at 200m the rest of the field past me. Absolutely heart broken. I lost a couple of tears as I soft pedalled across the finish line. After I got passed I found Nate and said congrats. I got off the bike and it was clear something wasn't right.
It feels like sitting in the drops, I cut into my thigh with a saddle that was too wide or something. I'm going to swap back to the Selle SMP which I had moved away from due to shorts wear because... this isn't acceptable, and it has happened with this saddle once before One specific small part of my my glutes just throbs a sharp pain. As I was riding back it had seized up, I could barely turn the pedals over. On one of the hills up I nearly got off and walked but I saw Paul Carty ride by and asked for a push. Thank goodness Paul is stupid nice. He pushed me till I could coast into the parking lot.
Now I'm left with questions: if I had eaten more earlier could I have made it? what if I had worked less earlier? What if I hadn't had aforementioned saddle issues? Maybe I just needed to push further mentally (I was cramping a bit but had been handling it... maybe I could have pushed a bit more?)? It is really dissapointing cause I put so much effort out and came so close to making it. I raced smart, I went with the right move and I just barely couldn't close it. I can't help but second guess everything, especially the mentally pushing part.
Some race numbers: average power for the race (3hr 3min) was 184w, 3.55w/kg. NP for the race was 209w, 4.0w/kg, average speed 38kmh. Average power for the whole time off the front (1hr 33min) was 3.84w/kg, NP 4.2w/kg, average speed 37.8kmh. Time on the front early on was 15 minutes, 235w AP, 250w NP, average speed 38.5kmh. Time spent bridging was 8 min, AP 5.2w/kg, NP 5.5w/kg, average speed 39.5kmh.
Now my legs just hurt, a lot. They ache just laying down here typing this, climbing up and down stairs is brutal. Unfortunately in the end, no matter how hard I rode, all I REALLY got was a good workout. I didn't even get a placing. Officials missed me and since they were a ways away protests had to be done via proxy of race staff, who told me that since I wasn't in the top 20 they didn't really care about my result. I suppose it doesn't really matter, but I did finish that darn race, if this was horse shoes or hand grenades I would have done pretty well too.