Tag Archives: David Curran

Now, THAT was a sprint!

When I woke up Saturday morning, I didn’t really have any feelings about the race. The morning blog post pointed out that I was feeling confident – quietly confident. That all changed when I pulled up at Fork Shoals.

Suddenly I started feeling nervous. I won’t belabor it, but the last time I was on this course I was wrecked with 500 meters to go. It wasn’t that I was scared that I might get wrecked again. What I was nervous about was that because of my issues last year, I realized that I really, really wanted to do well.

As you are prone to do, I looked around at all the guys surrounding me. Some had an amount of bravado and other quietly waited for our time to pull up to the line. Everyone looks fast. It is easy to start thinking… “Wow, these guys look like they are ready to go! Wonder if I’ll be able to handle them?”

That is where experience gives confidence. No matter how fast these guys looked, I know that past finishes prove that the majority of them would finish behind me.

We rolled off for three laps. My teammate, Billy, and I started out near the rear. This would be a 40+ mile race and it wouldn’t be won from the start line.

Photo by Jimmy Helms

The course is rolling with a few pretty tough climbs. Each time I might find myself too far back, I would move my way toward the front. I also practiced making my way up through the center of the pack. I was having some success with my attempts, I might add.

At one point a couple of riders got off the front. The field began to stretch out to bring them back and a large pace line started up. I reached the front and backed up. Then I found myself up there again. I could see that the break wouldn’t last. They were riding with no organization.

I stayed on the front for a bit as we were going downhill. However, when we started to climb again, I slowed. I was not going to pull the whole field up to those guys! I just eased up and rode at a reasonable wattage. Still, no one came around. I glanced back and there was no movement. Finally, I slowed to the point where some guys had to come around.

That was right as we were starting our second lap. However, what happened was that one of the Charleston riders had bridged up to the break. His buddies were sitting on the front for a Sunday evening stroll. This could be bad.

In the past, I would have taken matters into my own hands and started moving around them. This time I looked over at the rider beside me. Obviously, he knew I had been on the front for sometime. It was time for someone else to do the work. I said to him, “These two guys have a rider up in the break.” He shifted and went around after them. The field started moving again and I blended in.

We caught them on the back side of the course. When we did, David Curran counterattacked and I went with him. We got a few seconds gap, but it was obvious we would fail. So, we allowed the field to bring us back. That was the last time I was on the front.

From that point forward I tried to stay near the front and exert as little power as possible to maintain that position. I was encouraged looking around to see a lot of riders climbing the hills in bigger rings. Often they were standing pushing up the hill. I don’t think I stood once. I remained seated, got in a comfortable gearing that let me pedal at about 95 rpm, and eased up the hills. Even if I backed up a bit, that was okay. I knew I could make it up later.

Finally we were going into the last lap. I was starting to get excited. On the last climb up to the start finish line I felt really good! I could also tell some of the riders around me were starting to show signs of exertion. I continued to stay in the mid-to-front portion of the pack. Billy pulled up beside me. “All you have to do now,” he said, “is to match any moves.” That is how things unfolded until we reached Dunklin Bridge Road.

Here I got on Billy’s wheel. I knew he would turn himself inside out to get me in the best position. There were only two of us, but Billy is an experienced rider and I knew he could lead me to where I needed to be.

Then the Globalbike boys started organizing to our right. Billy and I were boxed in as they began to move. This was the beginning of the end. Curran was on the front starting to stretch things out and it was obvious he was setting up something for this Globalbike teammates.

The field began to stretch out and Billy made a move. Unfortunately, a big guy who had been crowding me for the last half mile bumped me and physically moved me off the line. I got moved into a box of slower riders and suddenly found myself about 20 riders back with the front of the field way up there!

I started to panic. At first I wanted to just put the pedal down and push my way into contention. Then I looked ahead and saw that the break had been reeled in and that really the entire field was together, we were just stretched out. Soon we would have to turn and – at least in this cat 4 race – the field would bunch up again.

I slowly began to work my way toward the front. Curran had tired and no one was really wanting to force the issue. By the time we reached the turn, I was in fifteenth. Better yet, I was feeling pretty fresh and there was no doubt in my mind that I could pass at least ten of these guys on the final climb.

Turns out, I didn’t need to. The rolling nature of that section started popping riders. By the time we turned onto the final stretch, I was in about eighth place. In the turn I passed another three and about 200 meters in, there were only three riders ahead of me.

The lead riders had a good sized gap since they had started a break away after we turned off of Dunklin. I knew immediately I would catch them. Without too much effort I was closing the gap and there were no riders immediately around me. I passed the one rider between us and now they were my final carrots.

At 300 meters to go, I knew it was time to move. I didn’t go into a full sprint, but I stood and started around them. It felt good to make the move and literally hear the air go out of them as I passed. They couldn’t counter.

However, I could sense there was traffic coming up behind. At 200 meters, I went into a full sprint and was actually starting to believe that I was going to get it! I knew I couldn’t let up. There was someone starting to inch up to the right of me.

Closer and closer we got to the line. I was digging out of the saddle with my hands in the drops. Still the rider kept inching up beside me. It was like we were in slow motion.

About five feet from the line I knew I was going to be second. Jonathan Leifer moved past me and I could not get more speed. We passed the line with the front of my tire right behind his front skewer. I was the first loser.

I didn’t even think about being disappointed. I had beat Fork Shoals! The last time I was there I limped around the line in 37th on a busted bike and bruised body. For me, the demon had been exorcised!

Icing on the cake? Afterward while I was talking to my teammates, Steve Sperry came over. He grabbed my hand with what appeared to be a bit of excitement and said, “Now, THAT was a sprint!”

I’ll go to bed happy!

A fun way to learn a lesson

Sometimes when you lest expect it things come together. On Saturday I really thought I would have a great day. I drove home a little disappointed with a 35th finish. That road race was the best opportunity, I thought, for a solid finish. The Sunday afternoon race… a criterium style race… has never been my strength.

I started out on the front, but once things settled down I slid to the back of the field. One of my errors from Saturday was that I kept up a steady effort moving from one surging pack to another. This showed on my Cadence Distribution graph. I was pedaling over 95% of the time. In a race, you should try to hide and work as little as possible — until you need to. I didn’t want to make that mistake again.

There I am toward the back near the inside

I was feeling pretty good about myself. Better yet, I was feeling good. My legs were giving me messages that this race might have a better outcome than I originally anticipated. The question remained… would I be smart enough to close the deal?

There were only a couple of close calls. Once a rider’s foot came off his pedal and some bumping ensued several riders ahead of me. Thankfully, no one went down — though it was a close call. Only one other time around me was there any bumping. That one resulted more in words than wounds.

At about 26 minutes into the 40+ minute race, I was watching two riders off the front. There was a surge on the front straightaway and I followed it. However, when the surge began to slow, I kept moving. Something inside of me said that it was time to try a break.

In the final break

The three of us were not able to hold off all the chasers and some other riders made it across to form what was barely the winning breakaway. Me? I was hurting! When I first made it to the break, I told the guys to let me catch my breath and then I would pull through.

They didn’t like that and rather than fall back into the clutches of the field I moved up to take a turn on the front. However, that did not give me much time to recover at all.  Thankfully, it wasn’t much longer before the chase group joined us and the break had more riders to work with.

Another thing I was thankful for was my teammates. Blair and Matt were back there holding a steady — but slow — pace on the front of the field. It was a wide road and anyone could have come around them to take control, but they preferred to complain. Of course, with POA and Globalbike having riders in the break, those teams weren’t going to be working to bring them back.

Still, with three laps to go, I was at my limit. Coming down the backstretch I nearly pulled the chute. However, I remembered all those times when I have been able to ride beyond that pain. “I will not willingly drop,” I told myself and just concentrated on holding on to the wheel in front.

Catching back on for dear life!

Heading into the second lap I was just about to get dropped. I could hear people calling my name telling me to “dig, dig, dig!” I gave one more effort to catch back on. Thankfully, the break slowed at that point.

Had they kept the hammer down, I think I would have exploded. However, I think everyone was starting to tire and they thought maybe we had it sewed up if we just maintained a pace. David Curran was urging everyone on because he knew better. Me? I was at the mercy of the break!

We entered turns three and four still with the lead. However, the field was gaining fast. I knew they were coming, but I just didn’t think I had the juice left to attack the break. I just put my head down and hoped that we could out sprint the fast gaining field.

Trying to hold on from the break

I actually advanced past a couple of my break mates, but I could sense that there was a rider from the field coming fast to my right. I threw my bike at the line and (I’m not exaggerating) I beat him by the width of a tire. In the picture above, he is the Greenville Spinners rider to my left.

I got fifth! It was so unexpected that I felt like I had won! To make it into a break and then to hang on to a points position in a field sprint was just incredible.

Afterward, I was brought back to earth. Steve Sperry congratulated me and then asked… “In the sprint, did you come out of your saddle?” I answered, “Nooo…” I knew where this was going! “Did you have your hands in the drops?” he continued. “Nooo….” “Did you work your bike to get everything out of it at the end?” “Nooo…” He gave me a knowing look, “I think you could have done even better had you done those simple things.”

Yes, I still have things to learn. Once again, I am thankful to all the people teaching me by instruction and example. Getting a fifth place finish on a day not expected… that is a fun way to learn a lesson!

A special thanks to Jimmy Helms for allowing me to use his pictures from the race.