Cat 4 Race Reports: Niwot Circuit Race!
I think everyone who raced on Sunday would like to forget about it. I’m certainly in that camp. But I think there’s still a lot to learn by having some group reflection.
Plan A at the start of the race was to launch a strong breakaway. We knew this would be tough in such a short, fast race but we thought this would be the best opportunity to utilize the strength of our individual riders on a rolling course. We made a couple of strong attempts within the first lap but couldn’t get a group to stay away. I got some separation on the second climb, but I was solo and quickly got pulled back on the long decent. Shortly after rejoining the peloton, I countered a breakaway attempt by two of the strongest riders in the race (Alex Kowalsky and Gorimir), but I was too far in the red to contribute to the effort and we were swiftly caught. As a team, we probably could have done a better job of blocking at the front of the pack when our guys were trying to launch a break. We made it too easy for the peloton to organize and close the gap on our breakaway attempts.
Team organization generally crumbled after our failed breakaway attempts on the first lap. We did a good job of staying towards the front and keeping the race in check, but we did way too much work. Since almost everyone burned a match on the first lap trying to launch a breakaway, it would have been much wiser for us to just sit in the pack and recover on laps 2 and 3. Keith Abbey did a lot of work on these laps. I think his game plan was to use his sheer power to shred the field, like we would have done in a Cat 5 race. Unfortunately, the Cat 4 field on Sunday was too deep for this tactic to work. The general result was that Abbey burned himself out and everyone else in the race got a free ride.
Without Brostrom in the mix, we failed to designate a sprinter in the likelihood that our breakaway attempts would fail. In the final half of the race, I think everyone thought that they were racing for someone else. Everyone was taking pulls on the front and no one was saving up for the final sprint. There’s a reason why domestiques in the pro peloton get paid so much less than their team leaders: it’s an easier job. I took a long pull on the front for the first few miles of the last lap, hoping that Lam would be able to take over once I faded and guide Murph to a sprint finish. This effort saw me slip off the back by the top of the second climb. I was spent, hoping that I had done enough work for the rest of the guys to set up a sprint finish. I was wrong. In hindsight, I took my pull far too early. I should have started my pull on the second half of the final lap, around the point at which I collapsed. But it all would have been for naught without a designated sprinter.
I was off the back for the last few miles, fighting to stay for a wheel. I was riding with one other guy on the final straight. He swerved to avoid traffic and chopped me out going about 30 mph. My bones and bike all appear to be fine, but I lost a lot of skin. It may be a month or two before I’m ready to race again.
Final thoughts: We should have done a better job before the race of setting a plan B with a designated a sprinter. We knew it was unlikely that a break would stick in such a short race. Everyone on our team was taking pulls on the front. No one was saving up for a sprint finish. One of the elite guys told me at the start of the season: “if you find yourself taking wind in a race, ask yourself why. Am I doing anything to benefit the team’s chances of winning by taking wind right now?” We should have done a better job of metering our mid-race efforts so we could be fresher and better organized on the last lap to bring someone home for a sprint finish.