City Title Cycling Team headed to the Austin area for two days of racing at Pace Bend Park. The goal was to build early season race fitness against a high level of competition on the 6 mile, open road rolling circuit.
Ben G. and I raced the 30 mile P/1/2 race on Saturday. Day 1 was forecasted to be rainy but it held off for us and the temperature got close to 80 degrees. The race was short and we kept a low profile early, gambling it would come down to a bunch finish. We missed out on a 10-12 man move that went up the road early. Since Elevate, Elbowz, and CCR were represented, we knew there was little chance it was coming back. Ben and I each got into one or two separate, short-lived breaks at various stages, but the lead break was gone for good.
Ben moved me up a number of spots and left me in a decent position with a little over a mile to go. I ended up following wheels to the other side, having to wait to open up my sprint well after coming out of the last bend. I was able to gain some ground to the front of the bunch but it was only good enough for 3rd out of the field sprint – 15th overall. Day 1 was a good introduction to the course, the competition, and served as a good opener for the legs. We didn’t make the winning move but would have another crack at it the next day.
Distance: 31 miles
Average speed: 26.2 mph
Time: 1h 12m
Average power: 233 w
Normalized Power: 300 w
Andrew and I lined up for the 2nd day of Pace Bend in the P/1 field and Ben G. was the lone CTC rider in the 2 field. The early morning storm had blown through, leaving nice racing conditions we aren’t used to having in Arkansas until late March or April.
The P/1 field was about 65 riders deep with Elevate, Elbowz, and CCR again having the most firepower. The initial plan was to sit in and let the race develop for the first few laps; then we would attempt to mark any moves that had representation from the stronger squads in hopes we could slip into a decisive break.
Attacks started flying soon after the start. Fairly early on there was a group of 10 or 12 that got off the front. We missed that move but alternated following a number of counterattacks from the bunch in hopes of resetting the race.
Andrew made it into a chase of 10 that got clear and I rode a few wheels across the gap, increasing the chase to 15. Andrew and I both contributed to driving the pace over the next 3 laps, with Andrew making a big push on the finishing rise of lap 5 to bring us within sight of the front group at the start of the 6th lap.
The front of the race had stopped working together and were spread across the road when we made the juncture. A few attacks were attempted but the group was too big. Everyone was too fresh for anything to materialize. The group slowed and everything came back together halfway through the race.
Once the rest of the field made contact the attacks increased, leading to a tactical, stop-and-go middle of the race. Each attack would inevitably lose steam as a trickling stream of bridging riders would bring the race back together. Everyone knew the next gap could spell the winning move and no one wanted to miss out.
Andrew got into a promising break with 3 laps to go. As his group was getting close to being out of sight and I started thinking about dropping back to recover for the field sprint, the rest of the pack came to life, bringing the race back together.
With 15 miles to go a small group was allowed to roll off the front without much of a reaction. The mix looked right so I bridged, joining the break of 8 and we were given a decent leash. Over the next lap our lead went up to 1 minute and we gained a few riders that had motored across the gap. We had about a dozen riders in the group. Elevate had 2-3 riders as did Elbowz. Both squads had options back in the field so the pressure to drive the break fell on the solo riders in the group.
We had 45 seconds a mile into the final lap but were rolling down the finishing stretch albeit dysfunctionally as a chasing group came into view from behind. With 1.5 miles to go, Elevate sent a rider on a flyer, causing a flurry of activity. I was close to the front when the move went and had no chance to get on the wheel. My legs started to feel the cumulative fatigue of the jumping I had done throughout the day. I pulled off to the left side of the road, looking to get on the back of the group’s reaction.
I was able to dig in after a few desperate seconds and close the small gap to the riders chasing the flyer. After recovering slightly, I rolled through once before we came to the bottom of the finishing hill. I came into the bottom of the hill near the back of the group and made the final push up to the finish, grabbing 4th place on the line.
Elevate capped off the break with flawless execution, with George Simpson taking first and Nick Torraca third. Tristan Uhl took 2nd for CCR with an explosive sprint and Justin Stanley from Elbowz rounded out the top 5.
Distance: 80 miles
Average speed: 25.9 mph
Time: 3h 6m
Average power: 239 w
Normalized Power: 296 w
I remember being impressed (and slightly dismayed) by how well Elevate executed their team tactics in the final break. They didn’t drive it because they had options for the sprint in the field behind. Instead, they helped just enough to keep everyone from sitting up and throwing in the towel, all while at least one of their riders was sitting on the group ready to capitalize at the end. Elbowz played a similar game, leaving 5 or 6 of us without much of a choice but to take up the work and push on. The more I continued to work I knew would decrease the chances of challenging a sprint, but the other option was to sit on, upsetting the balance of those that were working with me. These scenarios are what make bike racing so interesting.
It was a great weekend on the bike in the warmer weather and the event was very well run. Thanks for all the support from, City Title & Closing, Smithfield, Shoulder Center of Arkansas, The Bike Route, Clif Bar & Custom Electronics who make it possible for our team to travel around the region doing what we love.