In a cycling road race, the name of the game is Drafting. You save so much energy sitting on some one's wheel, and when all that matters is who gets across the finish line first, the more energy you save for the sprint, the better.
Today I did the Pineapple Hill Road Race. It was part of a 3 race "Stage Race", with the Time Trial and Crit taking place yesterday. Road race was today.
My friend and Pac Velo teammate Jenny (pictured below) did awesome in the TT and crit yesterday and therefore started the race tied for 1st place overall (GC) today.
In order to win the GC title for the weekend, she needed to beat another gal named Michelle across the finish line today. Unfortunately they scored the each race with points rather than time, so it didn't matter by how much either gal won- just that her wheel was first across the line. That was bad for us because Jenny had about 30 seconds on Michelle after the TT, so had they scored it by time, Michelle would have had to attack us and try to get at least 30 seconds on Jenny. But alas...
I showed up today to help do the hard work for Jenny. My job was to be her 'Domestique'... or Work Horse, I guess you could say. Go to the front and pull. Set a hard pace. Jump and sprint up the hill. Block the wind. Make it HARD for the other girls. Bury myself with no regard to my own finish so that Jenny could be as fresh as possible for that sprint finish.
And bury myself I did.
Here's how it went down: The first 20 minutes of so were really slow and easy. Boring. Sandy (another of our teammates who was there to work for Jenny today) and I looked around and at each other and then at Jenny who gave us the signal to get to the front and lift the pace. We did that and right away whittled the group of 12 starters down to 5 contenders. Basically, It was Jenny and her two teammates (Sandy and me) vs Michelle and this other gal named Esther. We knew Michelle and Esther were really strong, but the three of us working together might be able to crack them? We were going to try!
Up the 5 mile hill the first time, Sandy and I did all the work, rotating at the front and putting in some good jumps and sprints. Michelle and Esther and Jenny just sat on... waiting for the sprint finish.
We flew down Snake Hill on the second lap! Jenny was feeling super strong, as was I, and we were YAHOO-ing out loud at how fun all this was!
Start of the second time up the hill... I told Jenny that I would put in a series of attacks- hopefully forcing Michelle and Esther to chase, which might wear them out. So very early on at the start of the long climb, I jumped up and sprinted ahead... looked behind me... no one. They didn't chase me. Hmmm. Kept up a tempo pace. Looked behind me again. Still a big empty gap. They weren't chasing me. Hmmmm. What to do? What to do? Those gals might have been willing to let me ride away for the win, given that I wasn't competing for the GC title since I didn't race yesterday. BUT,
Today was about Jenny and getting her to the line first, and my job was to stay with her to help her do that... so I sat up and waited. When they caught me, I was Jenny's only teammate. Sandy wasn't feeling great and had let us go. Jenny and I decided that we had to make Michelle and Esther work, but the only person they were going to chase was Jenny, so Jenny was going to have to do some attacking herself. So she tried that. They responded and jumped right with her, and eventually it was me back on the front with instructions from Jenny to "Just keep the pace really high."
Um, ok. I'll try. I was fried by this point from all the sprinting and jumping and pulling I'd already done, but we were getting close to the top of the hill and the finish line so I gave it what I had. I led as fast as I could until there was just about a mile left to go, and that's when Esther, for the first time all day, went to the front and put.the.hammer.down. She was flying!! And Michelle went with her. Grrrr!! Jenny told me to GO but I just could not. Sorry, Jenny! It was up to her now. Unfortunately those attacks Jenny put in earlier up the hill might have still been in her legs because she just couldn't quite sprint with those girls and ended up third.
As disappointed as we could be that our race tactics didn't pan out like we wanted, we were not disappointed at all! (Ok, maybe Jenny was a little disappointed, but she got over it quickly.) The thing is, that was so much fun today that even though we didn't win, we loved it! We tried every tactical trick in the book but just couldn't make it work. Afterward I rode for a little bit with Michelle and Esther and congratulated them on a smart race (they really had no choice but to just sit in given that Jenny had TWO strong teammates with her today)... they commented very sincerely that they were really glad that Sandy and I showed up because it made the race way more tactical and fun.
So I can't help but think about the stark difference in reactions at the finish lines between the swim race yesterday and the bike race today. Yesterday, I was the one (smartly) drafting, and I came out ahead. Today, I was on the other end of it, killing myself all day only to be beat at the line by the smart girls drafting off of me. But in the end, either way it turned out, I had a blast! I think what I learned this weekend is that I really like a good race. Regardless of the outcome. A good race is fun. :)