Monday, February 23, 2009

My "Slight" Tactical Error

I may have made a slight tactical error in my race execution on Saturday in Greenville.

OK. Actually, there’s no “may” or “slight” about it. I made a huge tactical error. Several, in fact. My plan was good. Having only decided the night before the race to participate, I set only 2 simple goals for myself. The first – ride near the front. The second - hang on for a pack finish.

Over 50 women started the race – everyone from first timers to pros straight out of the Tour of Cali Crit. The pace was quick from the start and I found myself riding halfway down the pack. I moved up to the front instantly and was amazed at how fast I was able to accomplish that given the amount of riders. So, I rode at the front for a little while, content to let some of the pros set the pace. Yay, I somewhat accomplished one of my goals. Too bad it was only the first lap. There was a long way to go. The attacks started.

Here’s where I made my “slight” mistake. I lost all self control, got a wild hair and decided to follow Ally Stacher on an attack. Of course, as soon as she looked back and saw it was me behind her, she eased up. There is no way Ally would attempt a breakaway with someone as weak as me. That was a tactically good move on her part (that’s why she rides pro and I don’t…among other reasons). As soon as the peleton caught us, there was a counter attack. We chased and caught them. Then another attack – I THINK it was Ally again and a BMW rider - it's all a daze at this point. They got a small gap. My legs felt decent, so I bridged across to them. Again, leaving my race plans on the side of the road. The peleton chased us down easily. I should mention that the wind was insane – 30 miles an hour. I was already red lining, having attempted 2 breakaways in under a minute. I decided to ease back into the group and hide myself from the wind for a while to catch my breath. As I eased back, I notice that the group was half as large as when we started – we had dropped a bunch of riders.

At this point, I made another mistake. I was not paying attention. I was too focused on the wheel in front of me to realize that rider was falling off the back of the pack. I looked up and saw a gap between her and the group. I began to panic. I swung around her and began my pursuit back to the peleton. In that wind, however, it proved to be a battle of pure will. They were only about 10 meters in front of me, but I could not seem to close the gap. After about 10 minutes of fighting, I finally caught back on. But, I was so spent from chasing, that as soon as the next attack went, I couldn’t hold on. My legs blew up. So did the goals I set for myself. What was I thinking trying to play games with the big girl's?

I eased up for about a minute – enough time to let my legs recover a bit – and then decided to finish the last 30 miles as a time trial into the wind. As I did, I was passing other women who had fallen off the group. I suspect I finished somewhere in the middle of all the women who started. I don’t know for sure because, for some reason, only posted the top 15 places, instead of complete results. At the end of the race, I was glad to hear the peleton had been completely busted up. There were 2 reasons for this – the pro riders attacked relentlessly and the wind kept people off the back.

So, there you go. First race of 2009 – a bust. Maybe not a complete bust, but not a great start. It can only get better from here, right?

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