So after Sunday’s debacle, I was ready for a little revenge on the various bike shop teams of Aspen [BTW, the “Telco” guys are really “Jelco” guys; they’re from Ajax Bikes, I believe]. Today’s course was a short circuit that basically went up moderately, and then down less moderately. I think the loop was 3-5 miles long; I have no idea since I was racing on Bubba’s *sweet* Orbea Orca, to get the bike noticed, and perhaps the only part about it was the utterly incomprehensible Shimano Flight Deck computer. I got the thing stuck on kilometers and then it just kept rotating through its various functions. Anyway, we did 5 laps, which meant that the selection would be based entirely on cranking watts.
In my two previous races, I missed three good breaks. I was determined not to let this happen again. I marked every damn thing that moved for the first lap, which was pretty hard because a lot of people made little testing attacks, and because I climbed McClure pass yesterday (in 39×23) and the legs were a little gooey to react. After about a lap, the tactical circle jerk began, and with the pace mind-nimbingly low with only 12-20 miles to go, I decided it’d be good time to take off. The Ajax dudes were all over the front when I went, and just sat there, which was cool by me. I cranked it up over the top and down the hill, and I think my lead peaked out at about a minute.
I’m not a real breakaway kind of rider. I can ride pretty aero and put out a few watts, but I think I really lack the lungs. I stayed away for over 2 full laps, and got the bike plenty of airtime. But when the big guns wanted me back with two laps to go, they brought me back fast, hewing the field down to 15 or so guys in their surge. When they made the catch, I cranked it up perfectly, letting two guys by and then hopping in third wheel. The Ajax guys and some real big, powerful dude in green forced the pace down the hill, and back up. At some point, green dude broke and took an Ajax guy and Charlie from the Hub. I was surrounded by Ajax guys, and pretty sure this was the winning move, but was a bit knackered (as the Aussies say) from the solo. Besides, pack welding is no way to ride in a practice race.
As the bell lap came, my group (about 10 strong) made a few little attacks, but no concerted effort to chase. Up the road, something must have gone down, because Charlie got shelled and drifted back to us. I led on the downhill because I’m a good descender and we had to work our way through the women’s field). I pulled intentionally wide as we swung back the final climb, and hopped in behind two Ajax guys. The leader turned screws and whittled us down to 4 or 5; I know we had at least 2 Ajax guys, Charlie, me and a Boulder Couriers guy named Patrick. Ajax tried a lead out, some little weaving action, but Charlie (who is both tough and coy) and I maneuvered perfectly. I was perfectly position when Charlie jumped, but right as I moved to go by him, I froze. Maybe I lost the finish line in the sun, maybe I had my head down too long, maybe I was just zoning out, but for whatever reason, I pulled the trigger, and then eased back. Bad mistake. It would have been the perfect move. Instead it became the perfect lead out for Boulder Couriers man. He roared by on the right, while I languished boxed in behind Charlie. There was still a bit of space on the inside that maybe could have accommodated me, but it’s a practice race, and I think the last thing Charlie needs is another coma.
So it ended up being a very embarrassing 5th for me. Despite the sluggishness in the legs (and the 172.5mm cranks; I am die-hard 170 man), I felt damn strong, and after climbing Independence and McClure passes with a limited 39×23 minimal gearing, I guess I am starting to turn out some good watts. And my positioning instincts and bike handling are right where I want them to be. Maybe one of these days I’ll be able to nail down judging the distance to the line and end up winning a sprint or two.