Been pretty busy, so I'm behind in posting this report.
Valley City is my teams race, so I'm obliged to volunteer to marshal. It's a pretty labor intensive course, since there are so many intersections, but it's super fun to race, and Linda does a great job coordinating everyone to ensure a safe fun event.
Every year it seems to be questionable if any of the volunteers can get coverage for their posts so they can jump in and race. I personally think it's nice to have the sponsoring team jersey in the fields. This year, I think we covered everything except the women's race. One racer in each field was about the best we could do though.
I raced in the Master's 45+ with the rest of the 19 strong field. The only numbers there were 3 MVC, 3 Echelon and 2 Pista Elite . Everyone else was racing alone.
Lap 1: Echelon sets the pace. Interesting tactics... we were not going super hard, but one of the Pista guys wanted to lead through every corner. He'd race up from the back to be on the front, then fall back once we were through. There was one move where Echelon released a guy off the front, and one unattached rider jumped over to him. I was just starting to think about doing something, when Rudy from Lake Effect came to the front and pulled that back.
Lap 2: There are three hills on the course right before the start/finish. The most significant is a steep little rise that ends at 500m to the line. Then we hit the rising, windy part of the course. As we came through here, Rudy and Sal from MVC got off the front with 2 other guys. The rest of the field was sitting at about 100m, and I'm thinking "there goes the race", when Dick from RGF says it outloud. No one moves, so he decides to bridge... I'm on his wheel when he ramps up, so I go with that. We make it across partly because of our effort, and mostly because the other 2 guys with Rudy and Sal don't want to work. I got to the group and went straight to the front to try to work... that was the intent. Instead I ended up behind Sal and Rudy as they were getting organized.
It's interesting how Master's racing works. Sal pulled off, Rudy pulled off, I pulled through.... and then nothing. Everyone is hiding. Sal decided to take off, and he goes alone. Rudy ends up pulling in an attempt to being him back, I pull through... and then Rudy has to work again. No one else is interested. Sal gets at least 500m, and MVC is working to interupt any chase effort. We may get 3 guys pulling through, but they always let and MVC into the line, which effectively breaks up the chase.
Lap 3: nothing much new here until we're on the down hill side of the course, and Rudy gets a gap with the remaining 2 MVC guys. Rudy is doing the work... and I'm behind 3 guys... and the second wheel is sitting in not working. So, I yell "pull through", the guy does nothing... and I again yell (with feeling) "PULL THROUGH". Still nothing, so I jump and say... "if you guys are not going to work, this race will be over." and I work to bring the three back. I like to think my eloquence convinced them to work, because we did get some pulls and bring them back. I do know the truth is that even though Sal had gotten out of sight (probably had at least 2 minutes for that to be true), the 2 MVC would not work with Rudy. They could have sown up the net three spots by working, but they weren't interested in that.
On return, the field of 10 to 12 remaining returned to soft pulls. We still had the three echelon, but they weren't very interested in working.... or were totally gased. I'm not sure which. It was getting me more and more frustrated.
Lap 4: No change really, Sal was long gone, and I was watching my heart rate sit in the Saturday morning group ride range. As we made the turn toward the back side, I decided I had enough, and tried an attack. Well, it may not have been the best place to do it, I probably should have been attacking much earlier so I would have had a chance to get away. Either way, I enlisted Rudy's help in this one, and tried to get us both away. We had a bit of a gap, but everyone was still to fresh, and this was the easier part of the course... and I was dying sitting on Rudy's wheel. First one guy got across, then the field caught us. I went straight to the back and almost off, as others continued to try to get away. Fortunately, I was able to limit the damage... with a little help from Dick, I was still in.
At some point, while I was still recovering, one of the Echalon guys got a gap... that seemed to stick. We were putzing again, so the gap grew. With 2 turns to go, Rudy jumps, I decided I'm not in any shape to chase... so if no one else does, I won't either. He managed to catch the Echalon and get hime for 2nd.
Now the field is riding for fourth. We make the base of the last climb together, and we race. I crest 4th in the field and am killing it to catch the front three. Nothing doing. This last 500 is a brutal false flat after a nasty steep climb, and my HR is hitting my max.... I'm seeing stars. Then I see the 200m to go sign... and I give up.
My brain totally screwed me. My thinking went something like this.
"No way am I going to close that gap... it's getting bigger."
"I've got a pretty big gap behind me, I'll just take 7th."
"I've worked hard enough this race already."
Then I got passed.... NOW my legs are already convinced they are done.... and I'm screaming at my brain for shutting everything down 200m to early... and I got passed by 2 more. So, I ended up 10th.
I love this course, I love the way it's run (aside from my own bias, I mean). I am becoming less than thrilled with master's racing, but I have all winter to forget about that part, and just race cross.
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