I have my second race of the season today, April 15th. This race is only a training race, as is emphasized by the fact that there are only two categories! Men and women simply self-select into Men’s A or B, and Women’s A or B. While the Men’s A race would undoubtedly be better physical training, I am going to race in the Men’s B category (1 loop, 13 miles). I’m doing this because I feel like finding hard, race-intensity riding is quite easy. There are group rides several times a week which push the pace extremely hard. However, finding places to really work on race tactics is rare. For the Men’s A category I would simply be trying to hang on, and thus I don’t feel like I would learn much tactically.
So, here is my plan for tonight: I want to initiate a breakaway. I’ve never attempted that before, since I feel like my FTP is not terribly high. However, I feel like it would be a good learning experience, and this race seems like a great opportunity to try it.
There will be wind from the east at 10-15mph. That means we’ll have a tailwind once we turn onto that back “straight”, which is about 5.5 miles long. For the first half of the race we’ll mostly be riding into a headwind, so I expect very little activity. I’m going to watch for moves at the very start, because normally one particular team is well-represented, and they like to send out flyers at the start. If I can get with one of those and they stick, that would be great. However I’m going to assume that fresh legs will mean that nothing early will stick.
So suppose we get up to that eastward “tip” of the course and (at around the 7 mile mark) we’re still together. Once we make that right turn we will be riding with a crosswind. Then we’ll make another right turn and travel mostly westward for the last 5.5 miles (on the elevation chart the turn to head west is that hill at about mile 7). There is a long-ish and steep-ish hill once you turn right. My plan is to carry a lot of speed through the corner leading up to the hill. I feel fairly comfortable cornering at high speed, so I’m hoping that I’ll open up a small gap just from cornering speed. Then I will punch it up the hill. I’m light and climb well, so that combined with the tailwind means that I should be able to get a decent gap. I plan to push hard enough to get a gap, but no so hard as to explode. If, after getting near the top of the hill I’m all alone, then I’ll assess how much of a gap I have. If it looks reasonable (whatever that means) I’ll simply try to go alone. If I have less than four people with me then I’ll get someone else to pull through and hope that our little breakaway sticks. If I’m unable to drop many people on that hill then I’ll to simply sit in and plan for a bunch sprint at the end.
I would love to try to stay away solo on the back straight, but I know that time-trialing is not my strong suit. I’m a small guy (~135 lbs) which means I don’t have the “diesel engine” needed to stay away. However, the tail wind means that a chasing group has less of an advantage than they normally would. In addition there’s another long (though not steep) hill about two miles from the finish. This means that even if I don’t achieve a huge gap by then, I still may be able to open it up a bit on the hill.
If we end up in a bunch sprint then that is fine as well. I sprint pretty well and really enjoy it, but this is an uphill sprint, which I don’t feel as comfortable with.
I’ll be back tomorrow to tell how it went! Wish me luck!