A week after a strong finish at Tour de Dung #2, I was back up at Sequim for Tour de Dung #3, the third and final race of the three race series. This week, I was focused on helping out some teammates in the overall. Most road races are single event affairs, where the first rider across the finish line wins..Race series, on the other hand. are multi-day races (typically on the same course) where there are victories for both each individual race as well as overall across all the races. In a series, the first races set up riders who can take the overall; subsequent races tend to be about getting those riders who have a shot at the overall to the podium.
After two of the three races in Sequim, two of our guys, Mike and Duane, were #1 and #3 in the overall standings, and three riders from Hagens Berman were #2, #4, and #6. Thus, the goal for those of us who came for race #3 was to help Mike and Duane get to the podium. The HB guys had pretty much the same strategy for their riders as well. It turns out in cycling there’s both an offense and a defense. The offensive strategy is simple: have the team (save Mike and Duane) pull for the key riders until the final sprint at the end of the course, then let the key riders (who should have plenty of gas) sprint and take it. The defensive strategy is a bit more subtle: keep the HB guys from placing by enabling other riders (even other HB riders) to win. Today, we applied a bit of both.
The first lap of the four were relatively slow. The wind was stronger than last week, the field was smaller, and the two biggest teams present (Wines of Washington and HB) were content to conserve energy. On the second lap, the HB guys started testing the peleton to see if they could make a breakaway stick, which is something that would be tough given the wind. Testing the peleton means putting a bunch of riders towards the front and trying to create a gap, which then turns into a full-on attack if the gap isn’t closed quickly. This is where having a large team presence helps. Towards the end of lap 2, Steve, a fellow WoW rider, and I were closing those gaps. This meant that we’d take our turns pulling at the front to slow down the peleton and ensure that the pack was with the front riders. In other words, we’re taking it for the team. Oof!
About a third of the way through Lap #3, one of our riders, Geoff, who wasn’t really in the running for overall, had a lazy breakaway – he was out in front by 100 feet or so. A random HB rider (not one in the running for overall) and 3 other random riders pushed out to join him, and then they were off on a breakaway. At this point, with a WoW and a HB rider in a breakaway, the remaining team members of WoW and HB were content to let the breakaway go and not give chase. This lasted for a full lap, until the HB rider who was #2 asked Duane (#3) whether we were content to let the breakaway win. Duane looked at the guy and said, “yup!” We knew the points, and if the breakaway stayed, Mike would take the overall as we’d deny points to the other HB riders in contention.
At this point, the HB rider told the rest of his team to get in the front of the pack and chase for the final 3/4 of the final lap. They did, but Duane and Mike just sat on their wheels while they did. Then, as they closed in on final sprint 200 meters from the finish line, Duane and Mike were able to ride around the tired HB riders, finishing behind the breakaway but ahead of the other riders in contention. Hello podium!
As for me – I lost a lot of gas pulling in lap two. Heading into the 5 mile straightaway into the tailwind, the HB and WoW guys at the front poured it on, and the pack started to stretch out and disintegrate. I was towards the back in a small group. We started working together in a paceline, and picked up other stragglers ahead of us who had also popped off the pack. I and Greg, another WoW rider, finished out the race with a pack finish (for whatever definition of the pack was left). Also along the way, we did manage to lap the women (again), but unlike last week we weren’t lapping them as a big pack at the end, so there weren’t any problems.
All in all, another good race. This was much more painful than last week, but that’s OK. I wasn’t out to win, just help the team win – and I’m happy to say, mission accomplished!
Next up: rest week over Easter, and then some rides with PPTM to build up some endurance miles.
Update 4/4/07: Results are online. Apparently, my lame-ass finish was good enough for 19th place. I need to learn how to count the field better… apparently, the field started at about 30-40 people, and looks like all of 20 or so finished. That wind is brutal!