There are times when people say, “I’m right, but I’m not happy about it.” In these cases, they have pointed out exactly what was going to happen, even though it was not beneficial to the party at hand. Think Ian Malcolm in “Jurassic Park.”
Well, in regards to my Tour de L’Anse Analysis, I was right, but I’m not happy about it.
I’m not sure why they told us to show up by 4:30, indicating the race was going to start in waves at 5 and then sent the kids off first. Don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge supporter of kid’s racing. I organized the kid’s race at the Miner’s Revenge a couple years back and my son has ridden in numerous kid’s races on his own volition. But the organizers sent the kids off and made us wait until the kids got back. Given that we were going to be out for a solid hour and the kids were only out for 30 minutes (at most), I’m not sure why they didn’t do the kid’s race while we were out.
Anyways, the race.
You hear commentators on road cycling emphasizing just how much of a team sport it is. I had never really experienced that until Friday. There had just never been a road race I’d done where I had any teammates. Really, nobody else did either. So it was like a time trial or mountain bike race on the road — every man for himself. You also hear commentators talking about a “rolling chess match,” which I also never really experienced until Friday. Here’s how it all went down, from my perspective.
At the start, they led us out of town at a casual 15 mph pace and we all rolled along in one big pack. A few guys from the Chocolay Ace Cycling Team (Marquette, MI) were hanging out near the front, along with an unattached rider. Even after the motorcycle lead-out turned off, we maintained a pretty easy pace for another couple of miles. It was really hard to just look around, knowing I could go faster than we were riding. I knew I needed to save my energy though, so I was just sitting in the group. Just after I made a comment to one of the Ace riders that it was perfectly fine with me if the guys at the front wanted to keep doing all the work, he started working his way up towards the front. I jumped on his wheel. As he got near the front, the pace picked up a bit. Not too fast yet, but a little more effort. A lot of us started jockeying for position. The Ace guys were clearly in charge. A Culver’s Cycling Team rider was in there too, taking up a spot in the Ace train, a Sisu Cycles rider was doing a lot of work to stay ahead of me (and being pretty aggressive about it) and I had a few teammates who were hanging on to the pace. A couple of unattached riders were still doing a lot of work at the front.
My only mistake in the analysis of the course was that I laid it out backwards. The initial climb came a few miles sooner than I had expected, but that didn’t change its role in the race.
As we approached the hill, one of the unattached riders attacked. The Ace and Culver’s guys followed quickly, but I was about 10 riders back and was late in my acceleration. Around the corner, up the hill and people started going backwards around me. I was chasing for all I was worth after the lead pack, but didn’t have nearly enough in the tank to get there. Part of that is spending half of my training time in a pool or with running shoes on. Part of that is the Ace guys are really strong. I labored up the hill trying desperately to catch the lead pack and wasn’t making up much ground. One unattached rider caught up to me and told me his son was in the front group and would try to slow them down so we could catch up. That was around mile 7. For the next 14 miles, we traded pulls trying to catch them. We never did. We would get close and then someone from the front would look back and ramp up the pace. They eventually finished 50 seconds ahead of us.
As my partner and I went into the last hundred meters, we both opened up our sprint. I was trying to grab some extra gears and my brand-new drivetrain didn’t want to give them to me at first. After a big “ka-chunk”, it shifted and I thought I had it, so I settled back into the saddle. Then he crossed the finish line 0.2 seconds ahead of me. Oops.
If you look at the trace from my Garmin on Strava, you’ll see that from the climb onwards, my heart rate was averaging 170+ bpm, which is more like a cyclocross race than a traditional road race.
I had fun though. It was good to get out and ride hard. It was nice to ride in the new team kit. The temporary alliances between teams during a road race is fun too. If I could make a suggestion to the organizers, I think they would get a few more takers for the race if they sent us up the climb at least twice. Three times would probably be perfect. 30-ish miles with about 1500 feet of climbing sounds like a nice day in the saddle for me. It’s still pretty short as road races go, but still a fun atmosphere and scenic roads.
So I was right. The hill was the separator for the race. I just didn’t have the legs to make any kind of attack and make it stick. Major kudos to the strong Ace riders for their excellent rides.
Next up: The 16-mile Keweenaw Chain Drive mountain bike race on Saturday and the Yooper Sprint Triathlon on Sunday. (Back to back races? Am I nuts or what?)