On Sunday, June 21st I will be racing the Rose Festival Road Race. This is my second “A” race for the season (the first being the Grinnell Crit, where I got 4th). In order to be as prepared as possible I’m going to lay out my strategy. This will be published after the road race happens, but I’m writing it in the week before the race.
Course: A country road rectangle, ran counter-clockwise. Each lap is 20 miles and we’ll be doing two laps. The elevation chart makes it look quite lumpy, but there really is not much elevation change. The maximum gradient is less than 5%, and in general it looks to be more like 2% to 3%. I’ve never ridden the course so I can’t talk about it too precisely. In addition, the Strava segment seems to be a little misleading, because I believe that the race actually ends before the segment does. Here’s the segment for the final hill leading to the finish line:
Based on my strengths, this is where I’ll need to attack. Looking at last years Cat 4 race, the second place finisher (who I follow on Strava) did this hill in 56 seconds. My one minute power/weight ratio is actually my worst, so on the one hand I should consider waiting to go all-out until the second half of the hill. On the other hand the first half of the hill is the steeper part (5%-6%), whereas the second half flattens out a bit (2%-3%). I think I’ll need to see what the hill is actually like before I make a decision on how exactly to act. If the peloton takes it slow (unlikely) then it’s probably a good idea to attack early. But if they push hard then I need to sit a couple wheels back for the first half, then unleash an uphill sprint.
Weather: Predictions say light winds from the NW, with temps in the low 80s. We haven’t had many 80+ degree days around here, so that temperature might be a little uncomfortable for me.
Competitors: Right now there are only seven people preregistered, however last year there were 16 starters, and the race was won by a sprinter who I regularly do group rides with. He’s very strong and very good at sitting in. If he has teammates he’ll be hard to beat, and will almost certainly be my main rival. In addition there are at least two others who are quite strong and have won hard races. Despite this being a small race, the field seems to be quite strong.
Strategy: In my race report from Grinnell I talked about how I need to set up “trigger points” for a race. My trigger point for this race is as follows: if a team has at least three riders and one of those riders goes up the road, go with them. Second, if a New Pi rider (a local team with a strong sprinter) goes up the road, go with them. Third, if one of the three strong riders I know go up the road, go with them. Basically I want to be sure to be in moves with the strong riders.
Besides this, my basic strategy will be to sit in. I don’t yet know how steep some of the hills are on this course. If they’re steep enough that eating wind isn’t a big issue then I may choose to push a bit. I don’t want to be off the front solo, because I just don’t have the strength to maintain that. But if I can turn the screws a bit and cause a few people to drop off, or at least be forced to chase back, then that energy will be well spent.
I think however that the most likely outcome is a bunch sprint, with a partially reduced peloton. The last straight leading in to the finish line is roughly 6.5 miles. If we get to that straight and we’re all together then I’m just going into energy saving mode. About a mile or so before the finish line I’ll be sure to line up behind the sprinter I talked about in the competitors section above. In my second race of the season I did the same thing. I ended up getting second, but I still lost to him. The issue was that I waited for him to do something before I reacted. Thus by the time I reacted to him shifting and getting out of the saddle, he already had a gap on me. In this road race I’ll need to be more proactive by anticipating his actions, rather than responding to them.
Finally, I assume that someone will go early for the finish line since it’s an uphill finish. The finishing hill is almost half a mile, starts out in the 5%-6% range, and eventually flattens out (and even dips downward slightly) at the finish. Thus going too early here is a recipe for disaster. I don’t want to be the one who chases down this person, because I assume they’ll burn out. So being third wheel in this situation would be about perfect, so I think this will be a case of holding back. The downside to holding back is that you have less time to get around the guy in front. So I’ll need to be ultra-alert. Wish me luck!