Thunderbird RR, Cat 3
Course & Conditions
- Thunderbird Road Race: 85km over 14 laps of 6km and 40m of elevation gain. Mixed terrain with a few short sharp kickers and tight corners. A fast downhill in the last km leads into an uphill slog over the final 500m to the finish line. Forecast was for rain, wind and cold. Forecast was mostly correct…
I decided to skip Sunday’s race this week; Saturday was cold, wet and windy and Sunday’s forecast was for more of the same, but worse… The drive and warm-up for Saturday’s race ended up being the worst of the conditions, while the rain let off a bit for the actual race. But I still started the race shivering and wearing every layer I could fit on.
We had four guys for today’s race; myself, Matt and Mick working for Jeff the clutch finisher. He needed 3 UCI points to upgrade to Cat 2 under the newly instituted rules, so technically needed to place 7th. But we were aiming to get him into a late break or set him up to win the sprint as usual.
TAG was out in force again this week. They seemed keen on setting 6-8 of their riders on the front and just pummel the rest of the peloton over one of the windier, lumpier segments of each lap. But they telegraphed whenever they were about to take the front and we were able to infiltrate their line up and disrupt their rhythm. They were clearly frustrated at being unable to run roughshod over the race as they did two weeks ago at Aldergrove Short RR.
The race was together until the final 5 laps, when a small group broke away off the front. It contained Justin of Team Whistler, who had won the last two Saturdays from small-group and solo breakaways, Wilson of Escape Velocity and importantly did not include either Glotman Simpson (us!) or TAG. So we chased them down and caught them with 4 laps to go.
Speaking for myself, I was keeping an eye on Justin and made sure he was firmly back in the pack. But Wilson, a breakaway specialist, pulled a canny Paolini-esque move and casually rode off the front as the bunch slowed. We didn’t pay much attention to him and he was quickly out of sight around the next corner.
With three 6km laps to go Wilson had opened up a 50-second lead off the front and there was no cooperation back in the pack to gather him in. Jeff and I chatted with the TAG captain who didn’t even realize anyone was still left from the break! He took some convincing that we weren’t playing mind games with him, but we got our teams organized and pursued the chase.
For the last two laps Mick, myself and a couple TAG workhorses traded pulls at the front. With one lap to go we had clawed back to within 20 seconds. The final 2km consisted of two punchy climbs followed by a tight chicane corner, a fast downhill corner and an even faster descent into the final 500m uphill finish. I strung the pack out on the short paired climbs and through the corners. The downhill run I was on the rivet chewing my stem.
The Gastown and TAG trains began their leadouts with 500m to go and Jeff jumped on a Gastown wheel. I croaked some encouragement and fell off the back, work done. I watched the uphill sprint battle unfold: Gastown was on the right and TAG on the left. Wilson was still just off the front and throwing his bike around over the final handful of meters. TAG seemed to take the lead on the left and Jeff jumped around his Gastown leadout further right with 250m to go. He got in front of TAG but the road was still at an incline and he began to slow. Eric, a young rider from DEVO development team slingshotted off Jeff’s wheel and came around him.
Meanwhile Wilson managed to stay out ahead and came across the line with arms aloft for a well-deserved win. Eric snuck in for second and Jeff got third, securing the final points he needed for his Cat 2 upgrade. Well fought finish and a very fun race as always!
I cracked a bit this week, having dug deep through the past 4-week cycle. I got my nutrition wrong early in the week and spent a few days swinging between blood-glucose highs and lows. I skipped Thursday’s planned Over-Under workout, went to bed at 8pm and felt much better the next day for it. Next week was a planned recovery week in my Build cycle, so skipping Thursday’s workout and today’s (Sunday) race just means I’ll bump forward my recovery and resume the training plan a few days earlier.
With Jeff and Craig, our strongest riders by far both upgrading to Cat 2 we’ll see a bit of a change up in tactics over the next few weeks. We’ll pick and choose our races and spread the love around in terms of who works for whom on any given day. Matt and Mick will look for late attack opportunities while Wai-Ben and Ian will take up the sprinting role.
I’m going to have to recalibrate my own finish line from 300m out! I might try to mix things up in breakaways as well as my more accustomed sprint finish, but I’m still looking to train through Spring Series and regain my top end power for my target races in April-May.