Race Recap Land Ronde
This past weekend, Ben Gramling, Adam Barnes, and I loaded up The Bike Route van and headed over to Oklahoma City for two days of racing put on by students on the OU cycling team. The weekend started with a road race on Saturday and concluded with a criterium on Sunday afternoon.
The road race was five laps of a 13-mile loop around Lake Stanley Draper, There were a few small hills, but the biggest factor in the race was the steady 25 mph cross-headwind starting about halfway around the loop at the dam and continuing until a turn to tailwind a mile from the finish line.
It didn’t take long for the breakaway to establish, as Rob Bell, Chad Hodges (DNA), and Cailean Carlberg (Soundpony) rolled off the front about halfway through the first lap. Ben Gramling did some work early to keep the breakaway close, and they eventually kept a steady gap of about 60-90 seconds ahead of the peloton, which was whittled down from 25 riders to about 8 after two times through the crosswind section of the course. With a lot of individual riders in the race and the lack of a large, strong team, the breakaway stood a decent chance of surviving to the end. In the second group on the road, we would work well together for a few minutes before the organization would start to fall apart. This continued until early in the third lap, when Jordan Miller (Olathe Subaru) sneaked off the front of our group. Since he was one of the riders most dedicated to working in the chase I knew I had to follow him, so I bridged across with Andy Chasteen (DNA) sitting on my wheel. Jordan and I shared pulls at the front while Andy sat on – he had a teammate in the group we were trying to catch and the group that was trying to catch us. As we neared the end of the cross winds on the third lap we had closed the gap to just 20 seconds behind the leaders. I didn’t want to bring another teammate to one of the breakaway riders, so I attacked over a small rise just before the road turned and we got the tailwind. I was able to ride across to the front three riders without bringing anyone else with me.
The Soundpony rider got dropped almost as soon as I joined the front group, and it was once again a three man lead pack. At first, only Rob and I were working, as Chad had teammates chasing. Eventually our lead grew to over two minutes and it became clear that the race was down to just the three of us. We shared the work through most of the final lap, as I tried to figure out how to leave them behind and go solo to the line. Eventually I decided on using a small hill with three miles to go to launch my attack. There was no initial reaction when I went and the gap grew quickly. They tried to chase me down in the cross-headwind, but by the time I made the turn with a mile to go I had 30 seconds on them and the race was over. I made it to the finish with a comfortable margin.
The 70-minute crit was on a go-kart track with a few tight corners. After the warm, sunny day on Saturday, unpleasant weather returned with cooler temperatures and the threat of rain throughout the race. The race started fast and I was at the front for the first lap but quickly found myself shuffled toward the back. A few riders got off the front and I had to work for several laps to regain contact with the front of the race. The front group eventually slowed and I rejoined them just before the first prime was announced. Fabio Calabria (Novo Nordisk) sprinted for the prime and nobody followed. When he realized the gap he had he just kept going. I formed a chase group with Jordan Miller and Stephan Hirsch (DNA), but we were unable to close the gap. The rain started to pick up and the track became slippery. After riders had crashed just in front of and just behind me in corners, I decided I’d rather navigate the course solo. I was able to open up about a ten second gap, and for the last 25 minutes of the race I stayed alone in second place, about 30 seconds behind the winner. Over the last few laps, I kept enough of a lead that I was able to cruise in comfortably for second and avoid taking any risks in the corners.
[Photos | Biff Stephens]
The University of Oklahoma Cycling Club put on a great weekend of racing on some fun courses. It is always an awesome feeling to get the first win of the season under your belt, and hopefully I can continue this form to the upcoming races. As always, a big thanks to our sponsors: City Title & Closing, Smithfield, Shoulder Center of Arkansas, CLIF Bar, Custom Electronics, and The Bike Route, who provided the van for our transportation to the race.