You’ve heard the saying, “Always a bridesmaid – never a bride.” Of course, for me it should probably be “Always a groomsman – never a groom.” That doesn’t sound right either… maybe “Always a podium – never the top.” I lived the saying once again at the 2010 Spartanburg Cycling Classic on Friday evening.
Once again I was going to attempt the double. I would be racing the Category 4 race and then pull back up to the line for the Masters 35+ race. It worked last time… this time would be different!
In this race POA Cycling Team would have Billy White, Matt Tebbetts, and myself. I was a little late getting there and only got a lap in before we pulled up to the line. It also meant that the three riders didn’t have the opportunity to talk about what we would do. Turns out, it wasn’t necessary.
Right off the bat, Tyler Crotts attacked and a couple of riders went with him. Then Matt worked his way up there. If I wanted to win, I should have got in that break. However, Matt was there and it was early. Either Matt was going to manage to stay away to win, or he would get pulled back into the group and then I could start to work for the win. Either way POA Cycling Team wins.
At first I was watching closely to see what would happen in the first few laps. It wasn’t that I didn’t think Matt was strong, I just didn’t know who all the players were in that leading group. However, it didn’t take long to realize that the gap could grow if Billy and I could control the pace. So, we adjusted our approach and I began to focus on getting the win for Matt.
When I put winning out of my mind and started to work for Matt, it started to get fun! At first there were a number of attempts to close the gap. With each attempt I would jump up on the wheels of the attackers. It was a constant leap frog. The goal was to stay on the wheels of anyone who was a challenge, but always stay off of the front.
It was working… and Matt was doing his own working! The gap continued to grow. I could sense the riders around me deflating. It was as though they knew Matt was up the road, but they knew if they worked to bring him back they would only be allowing me to rest to come along to finish things off. It was like a one two punch.
However, Matt is the one that made it happen. It wasn’t long before he simply rode the other riders into the ground. Toward the end of the race, the other members in the break dropped off. Matt never let up. He actually increased his lead. Once we got within 10 laps to go, I knew he was going to win it.
Everyone in the main group knew Matt was going to win. The balloon had no air in it. No longer was the field in single or double lines. We were three sometimes four across. I found it hard to stay off the front. So, I began to make my plans for the finish.
This time I had no plans to get caught in a field sprint. Already I had seen a rider go down. Once I bumped the rear of a rider as I overcame him out of turn into the slight climb on the back side. Once again I was reminded of the confidence that comes with experience. A year ago, I might have gone down. This year I simply controlled my bike and kept going.
I waited… and waited… and then we passed the start/finish line with one to go. I moved to the front and entered turn one with one rider. I moved wide around him and passed him in turn two. Now we were entering a slight climb and were also facing the wind. If I could get a good gap here, I could ride away for second place.
I attacked at nearly a sprint pace and then tried to settle into about a 400 – 500 watt average. By the time I reached turn three, I had it. What I didn’t know is that as I was negotiating turns three and four, a big crash happened on the back stretch. I crossed the line with a sizable gap over the main field.
The POA Cycling one-two punch was complete. There could have been a very good chance for a one-two-three knockout only Billy got caught behind the accident. That would have been awesome. Even as it was, I had to celebrate a bit after crossing the line. If I wasn’t going to win, I was extremely happy to see Matt do it.
The above graph tells the story of the Masters 35+ race. We were scheduled to start immediately after the Category 4 race. I rushed over the line and racked up with the others. Then we waited… and waited. They were still cleaning up the wreck on the other side. As we waited, my legs got stiffer and stiffer.
Finally we started off and it was a different ball game from the Category 4 race — or even the first Masters race I participated in. These guys were fast right off the line! I got in behind a Carolina Masters rider. I figured I would just follow him and mark him.
I managed to stay with him for about two laps. Then I got cut off his wheel in a turn. Before long even though I thought I was holding my own in the field, I looked around to find I was on the back! Then the yo-yo effect set in. I was hitting 600 to 800 watts accelerating out of the turns.
It was wearing my legs down. My heart rate was doing okay, but my legs started to get tired. I would work to get on the rear of the field on the straight. I would get there and then have to adjust as we went into the turns. Then it was right back to playing catchup coming out of the next turn onto the straight.
Each time the gap I had to close began to get longer. Finally, I realized that I could stay here, get dropped, and then get in the way the field; or I could get out of the race and cheer on my teammates. That is how my race ended.
I don’t feel disappointed about it. I needed the experience to see what it was like to ride in a field with speeds that rival some of the pro 1/2 races. I’ll take that experience into my next Masters race. I do know that I won’t do the double before the next one.
Thanks to Jimmy Helms for the race photographs.