The remainder of the pack contained solo racers. Fellow Memphian and 901 Racing team member Todd Hickman had made the trip over to test out his early season fitness as well.
Our race plan going in was that I was going to try and get into an early move and if successful, King and Ben would control the pack. After a short neutral roll-out, Park Place got to the front and picked the speed up into the mid-20’s and strung things out a hair. As soon as they eased up I launched and a one guy went with me. A couple more came across but the pack was in hot pursuit and I knew we were going to be pulled back quickly.
Upon being caught by the pack, a younger rider from Park Place launched up the right and immediately got a gap. 50 meters turned into 200 meters pretty quickly and the pack seemed okay with it. I faded back, popped out to the right, and launched – hammering the pedals for 20 seconds before looking back. Nobody in tow and the pack across the road indicating the chase was not on. I set my sights on the race leader and quickly found a rhythm. Snuck another peak a minute or two in, and saw I had a large gap but looked as though the pace had picked up. I continued to drive, knowing that both my teammates and the guy’s up the road would be working to shut things down.
I caught up with the race leader a few miles later, and after asking him his name and saying this break could very well stay away if we worked, Zack and I began taking 1 mile pulls. My primary focus was now rationing out my effort, drinking and eating regularly to keep the system fueled for the final few miles of the race, and staying RELAXED.
In the most exposed area of the course on lap one, the pack was nowhere to be seen. Things looked good. Second lap was more of the same, one mile at the front, one mile recovering. Lap 2 done, no pack in sight. No word on the time gap, so we kept looked to keep our rhythm and our speed up. We were currently at 24.7 mph avg which I was happy to see knowing that this was very similar to the winning breakaway speed from the year before.
Lap 3 and I began to wish that my breakaway companion was larger because the draft he was giving off was less than stellar. Zack was taking some strong pulls and wasn’t looking like he was tiring. Legs felt a bit heavy and my rhythm faded a hair making every pull I took feel like a headwind. Definitely not the feeling you want in a breakaway.
Lap 4 began, and I really started focusing on getting into a breathing rhythm while I was on the front. Continued to eat and drink, consuming a full bottle each lap of the race up to this point – a trend that would continue. Towards the middle of lap 4 I could sense that Zack was fading a hair – or was he just starting to conserve for an attack? Without knowing where the chase group was, we both continued to take our one mile pulls.
Lap 5 began and I was feeling strong again. I would take steady 24-26 mph pulls, flick the elbow, and he would come through strong. By the end of his mile pulls his speeds began to fall towards the 22 mph mark. Hmmm…should I attack? With 15 miles still to go, if my move did not work I knew all trust would leave our break and who knows what would happen then. I decided to test things and come through a little harder on a pull to see if a gap would form – nothing obvious but something to give me another sign of tired legs. Quick glance and he was right on my wheel. Hmmm…maybe he isn’t tired.
With about 7 miles to go, right after turn 3, we came up on the Cat 4 race which was immediately neutralized. Got some encouraging words as we passed. Thanks for that folks!
This could make things a bit more interesting – if we played cat and mouse then we’d not only impact the 4’s race, but who knows what may happen in that confusion. If they caught us near the finish and we were neutralized, Zack may get a breather and find himself refreshed for a heads up sprint. Neither seemed like good options.
I took a steady but strong pull into a crosswind. I knew after we made our final right that we were going to be faced with a headwind. I took things to the corner and flicked my elbow to bring Zack to the front. I had decided that I was attacking him at the end of his pull. Right when he was nearing his one mile of pulling I knew it was go time. I dropped off him a few meters so I could come by him at speed. Right as I launched I see him grab his bottle to take a drink – the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
I hammered for 20 seconds hard, glanced at my speed and saw I was holding 30. Looked back and saw I had about 40 meters. Time to really dig. I knew I had to extend that gap over the next 30 seconds in order to snap the elastic and prevent Zack from reeling me back in. Put the hammer down and looked back to see the gap about twice as large. It was all about holding speed now, so I settled in and kept the power to the pedals trying to be as efficient as possible. Another glance at the 1k to go mark, and the gap was probably 300-400 meters.
Made sure I zipped up my jersey and then enjoyed the moment coming across solo after a long day in the break. Quickly swung back to see the Cat 4 finish and then wait to see who would come across for 3rd in our race. King ended up sprinting it out for 4th, just behind former Motorwerks racer Hunter East. Great work!
After seeing how big of a gap we had, I knew King and Ben had done awesome work back in the pack preventing a chase. That’s what teams are for, and I know someday in the near future the rolls will be reversed and I’ll do everything I can to get Ben or King the W!
Definitely a great team win and congrats to my 18 year old breakaway companion Zack LaVergne who really rode a great race. He has a great future ahead of him.