4th place at the Cochise County Cycling Classic (long active races make for long race reports)
Today was a good day, I was the most exhausted after the finish that I’ve ever been but I’m very happy with my performance today. Cochise isn’t technically a race, like El Tour de Tucson it is a charity ride that is raced by a select group of people. This makes it kind of like an open category race and you never who’s going to show up. The nice thing about Cochise is that the start is pretty calm since everybody knows that the climb up Mule Pass will do the work of sorting the various groups out.
This year I did a better job of starting the climb in the first 10 or so riders so I would be ready for it and not have to close so many gaps as various rider blew up. As we started back up after the exit to Bisbee the peloton imploded just behind me leaving me as the last rider in the front group with Michael H. and Mike C. just ahead of me. Eventually a small gap opened up between us and the leaders but I figured if we could keep the gap small that we should be able to get back on during the descent. So I took up the chase with Michael and we traded a few pulls going over the top about 30 seconds behind the leading 7 riders.
Michael and I have been practicing descending on our Thursday Mount Lemmon rides getting comfortable going as fast as possible. So I kept the pressure on over the top and as soon as I hit 40 mph I made sure Michael was on my wheel and then tucked, sitting low on the top tube. It took me about 5 minutes to catch the lead guys. At some point I had lost Michael but a minute or so later he was with us making it a group of nine. In the group we had three teams with two people apiece PMR, TriSports (who I ride for), and VeloVie with a total of two Cat 1s and two Cat 2s.
Unfortunately the group never found a rhythm when it came time to work. Once we were off the descent Brian from VeloVie decided to sit in on the back which caused the two PMR riders to sit in while the other 6 of us were rotating. Then both VeloVie guys were sitting in, so with both PMR and VeloVie riders behind me I eased up allowing my teammate Andre and the other 3 riders to open up a gap and I let it grow until they decided to close it down. After that everybody started pulling through but the peace didn’t last long. When we got to the climb before Davis road Brian went off the front later followed by Andre. So Rob from VeloVie and I stopped pulling through since we had teammates up the road. Tempers started to flare between Rob and the PMR guys and they started yelling at each other and brake checking each other. Meanwhile the rest of us just kept going but they would catch back up to us, unfortunately the attacks unhitched Michael and we had reeled back in Andre leaving Brian out there on his own.
At this point Andre tells me that one of us needs to be sitting in so they are fresh and ready to counter Rob since he’s able to sit in with his teammate up the road. I asked him how he was feeling and he said good so I told him to sit in and I’d continue to work on the front (I figured he’d have a better shot at beating VeloVie’s two Cat 1s seeing that he was a Cat 2 himself). PMR sent a rider up the road attempting to bridge across to Brian, so it was down to me and the two lone riders in the group to pull at the front. So I talked to them and told them to just keep it smooth and let those two guys cook out there alone. And that is what we did for the next 15 or so minutes though one of the guys started sitting in mentioning cramping. Eventually the two guys off the front decided they weren’t going anywhere and both sat up waiting for us to catch them after which I went to the back for a few moments to eat and drink a bit.
Not to much later the attacks started again, I can’t remember them all as they start to blur together. At one point I attacked so Andre could sit in and was eventually joined by Robert from PMR but he only pulled through once or twice and kept his pulls rather short. Since I was trying to allow Andre to chill in the group I kept pulling but we were reeled back in after 5 or so minutes. I sat in for a little bit and then Andre asked me to put in a pull so he could attack and when he went off solo I eased up allowing the gap to grow and began sitting in. He was eventually brought back so I started pulling through again and most everybody was for a little while.
With 30 miles to go Andre was one spot ahead of me and as he eased off all of a sudden I heard him say “go, I’ll slow them” so I accelerated a little bit opening a gap and that gap grew really quickly since nobody wanted to come by Andre trying to get someone else to do the work. There were some curves in the road and soon I was out of sight and I knew that in order to do Andre the most good I had to stay out there as long as possible forcing the other guys to work as long as possible. So kept my power in zone 4 where I could keep it up for a while but still making it hard on the other guys trying to pull me back. After about 5 miles I can just make out a couple guys behind me and I’m hoping that Andre is in that group but I just keep plugging along. Eventually I can tell that they are closing the gap and its just Robert from PMR and Brian from VeloVie so I ease up so I’m not gassed when they come by. I have no idea how far back the rest of the group is since I can’t see them and since each team has a rider up the road that only leaves the two unaffilieated riders to try pulling us back.
So I tag onto the back and take in some food knowing I’m going to have to be smart and work with these Cat 1 and Cat 2 riders while trying not get used up in the remaining 25 miles. Thankfully my wife was on the side of the road to hand me a bottle of water which I desperately needed. Unfortunately with only 3 riders there isn’t really anywhere to hide or try to sit out for a few minutes, at best you might be able to skip a single pull and gain an extra 30 seconds or so of rest. With about 20 miles to go I could feel my hamstrings starting to cramp and I could work them out for a little while and knew that if big surges started I’d be in big trouble. So I tried to do my part and pull through to keep them from getting frustrated and wanting to be rid of me. With 10 miles to go I know I’m in big trouble when a small gap opens between me and Robert. Brian is on my wheel so I decide that I’m going to let him close it down, but he doesn’t he just sits on my wheel and the gap continues to grow and grow and grow. At this point I have the feeling that I’ve made a mistake, sure enough Brian explodes off my wheel and I accelerate to try and get in his draft but I just can’t as he closes the gap and the two go off without me. I took a gamble hoping to use Brian to save some energy and he played it perfectly eliminating another competitor.
We hadn’t been able to see behind us since those two joined me due to an official follow car just behind us. Once in a while we’d get a peak around it and there was never anybody within sight so I didn’t really know how far back they were so I settled into zone 3 hoping that would be enough to hold off the chase group.
Eventually I started coming across riders who had done a shorter distance event so when I looked back with only 5 miles to go it didn’t look like there were any groups behind me but unbeknownst to me they weren’t to far away. As I take the final turn my power has fallen to upper zone 2 with 2.5 miles to go and I look back and I see a Johnathan from PMR coming in fast. So I pick up the pace but can’t hold anything more then mid-zone 3 and he’s still closing in quickly. At this point I decide that my only chance is to ease up and then jump on his wheel and try and out sprint him going to the line. He tries to immediately go by me but I’m able to get on his wheel and I sit on it really hard and he doesn’t all he can to sake me off but I hold on. He even hits his brakes rather hard and I almost take myself out on his rear wheel. Eventually he shakes me so I attack but he gets on my wheel, we fool around and then he attacks but I hold on and am still on his wheel. Then he puts in another attack and my legs just don’t have it in them to follow the acceleration. I try to keep my power up hoping to catch back up but I just couldn’t close the gap in the last minute.
The rest of the lead group was probably less than a minute behind me, I don’t really know I was so exhausted as the volunteer was taking my tag that I just laid across my bars and then heard them calling over the PA that a big sprint was coming to the line.
Overall I’m happy with my performance, there are things I could have done better but I had fun, had good decision making (while learning from some of them) and placed well. You can’t ask for much more than that.