Monday, July 16, 2007

Rome Georgia Cup Race Report

What a great race! The MAX Racing Team was born in Rome this weekend, and I hope we can keep it rolling. There is so much to report about Rome that it's impossible for me to give a complete report. This is not intended to reflect everything that happened -- I'm sure there's lots of stuff that I missed and it's probably unintentionally biased, but here's some of it from my perspective:

Racing for MAX in Rome:
Drew Slocum
Todd Wilson
Trey Gavin
Jake Andrews
Jeff Clayton
Doug Ott
Robert Jordan
(Chad Madan also raced for Pacesetter)

TTT - Great conditions, relatively flat 14-mile course with some rollers and false flats, four U-turns, and one 90d turn. We started well with 30-second pulls in a single paceline. After the first turn I still felt good. We shortened pulls to about 15 seconds and I was starting to struggle somewhat when pulling around Jake at the front. Jeff instructed us to move it 'up' to about 90% effort. The problem was that I was already way above that. At the 6 mile point I knew I was weakening and would not be able to hold out until the end, so I decided to do three more pulls as strong as I could, then get out of the way. I did that and peeled off at about mile 8 or 9 because I felt that I had started to slow the team down. I kept up a steady pace and eventually joined Trey and Todd, who did their work and peeled off later as well. Doug, Jeff, Drew, and Jake drove the train for the last few miles with Drew then Jeff peeling off nearer the finish. Jake and Doug drove the train into the station with Doug nipping Jake at the line. Average speed was around 26.1 mph. We later learned that we finished 3rd. We hoped for a win, but it was a strong first-time performance.

Crit - Downtown Rome, long, rectangular crit course with a significant little bump after turn 2. The field included about 70 riders. The race started very fast, as usual. Four of our 7 riders had never raced a crit, which put them at a big disadvantage from the start. Todd and I ended up starting at the back of the pack because of our late team podium presentation, so that made it even tougher to get started. I struggled in the first few laps, but finally clawed my way up into a more comfortable spot in the peloton where the yo-yo action was a little less severe. I could see Doug and Jeff constantly at the front attacking and bridging to other attacks. The PA announcer was constantly talking about the MAX attacks and tactics. Jeff and Doug even tried once to bridge together, which the announcer called a 'very rare move' I think. Being new to crits and getting caught behind crashes (and in Drew's case, in a crash) eventually caused Todd, Jake, and Drew to lose contact with the peloton. Jake made a valiant solo chase to no avail. Trey and I did some blocking in front a couple of times as Doug and Jeff set off the fireworks at the front, but it was a pretty uneventful race for me. Jeff got caught up in a crash with two laps to go. He got back going, but lost 1 minute to the field. I finished last in the peloton sprint (26th) as Trey sprinted around me for 24nd place. I don't know Jeff's and Drew's finish places, but they didn't podium. Of the four of us, only Jeff lost any time in GC. That was my crit goal, so I was satisfied. Doug, Trey, me, and Jeff sat at 5th, 6th, 7th, and 11th in GC, respectively after the crit thanks to the strong TTT.

Road Race - The 70-rider field started rather calmly over 5-8 miles of rollers with a couple of breaks that went nowhere. All 6 MAX riders sat in the top 25 spots, but did little work except for Jeff doing some. After a 1K climb that got everyone's heart pumping, we started a long false flat, then a long (5 mi) very gradual downhill run to the base of Horne Mountain (a 3K 6% climb that took about 13 minutes). During the 10-mile run-in to the mountain, Drew and Jake did lots of hard work and drove the MAX train in the front and completely controlled the race, not allowing anyone to think about getting a break before the climb. Doug sat out of the wind in 3rd acting as gatekeeper so Jake and Drew could roll unimpeded. As we reached the climb, the pace was very strong and all 6 MAX riders were near the front. I was amazed at how hard some of the riders started the climb. Did they not realize that it would last 13 minutes? The peloton quickly ceased to exist. A long string of riders intermittently topped the mountain, with Doug and Jeff getting KOM points and time bonuses. I'd guess I went over in about 20th place. I worked very hard on the descent and eventually gelled with 8 other riders to form a chase group behind a lead group of 7, which contained Doug and Jeff. We passed the feed station with a 30-second deficit to the 7-man break. It took my chase partners a few minutes to figure out that I had two teammates in the break and was more than a little unmotivated to chase. I gummed up the works as best I could for 5 or 10 minutes as about 10 to 15 more riders bridged to us. After the 1K climb, I was pleased to hear that the lead group had expanded it's lead to 1:10. I sat on the back and had an easy next 8 miles. The next time check was 2:20 to the lead group, so I knew Jeff and Doug's group would not be caught. About that time, Jake pulled his group of about 8 (I think he did most of the work) into our chase group. He had been working very hard to rejoin. We hit the base of Horne Mt. for the final ascent with about 30 riders. I got in a groove and was doing well -- sitting about 4th in a long string of 30 from the chase peloton. About 200m from the finish I stood up to 'sprint.' I think fast-twitch muscles do not exist in my body anyway, and any that I had at the start of the day were dead. A couple of riders passed me within about 25 feet of the line and one guy went around me on the finish by half a wheel - I finished 14th. Doug finished 2nd and Jeff finished 3rd for the stage. Drew flatted on the 1st climb, but restarted and passed lots of folks before the finish. Jake and Trey finished well also on the tough climbs.

The GC finish order was not posted when we left due to a scoring problem, but I think Doug might have won the GC! Jeff was probably top 5, and I might have squeaked into a top 10 GC.

It was a super successful first-time team effort for MAX. And we probably had as much fun away from the races as in the races. I'll update with more info as I have it.