Spring arrived in Coxsackie, New York on Saturday just in time for the second of three Trooper Brinkerhoff Memorial road races. With the sun shining, and little wind at the start, week two proved to be worlds different than the prior Saturday, which featured blustery winds and temps in the 30′s. Also unlike last weekend (and much of March), I was in this race alone. It being Easter weekend, many of my teammates had full family schedules. I would be doing the Cat 3/4 race as a solo effort.
The race started with an eerily calm neutral roll out, and a smooth transition to the race course. We would be racing four 12-mile circuits on the rolling (and sometimes windy) course, but guys were immediately rolling off the front, trying to create space up the road. I sat in towards the front of the field and watched the moves happen, and had convinced myself that anything that got away this early was destined to fail. I was confident that my game plan of waiting and riding along for the first half of the race, then attacking and getting away during the second half was going to work. As it turns out, my instincts were wrong.
A break of four riders got away on the first lap, and its potential became obvious as we moved on to lap two. The peloton seemed strong, with a number of talented teams included, so I figured the peloton would get its act together and put in a good chase. Unfortunately, some teammates that had riders up the road started “blocking” excessively, and impeded the field. As a team, we at BlackTie Sports frown on the tactic of blocking by slowing down the field, especially when employed in races with large fields and narrow roads. It’s one thing to disrupt a paceline by not pulling through, but it’s quite another to station 3-4 guys at the front and slow things down. The latter is unsporting, and just plain unsafe. We even made up a rule about it.
Team rule #2932: ”Thou shalt not actively attempt to impede a peloton under any circumstances.”
And if one of us doesn’t follow the rules, we have to deal with Bob.
As lap two went by, it was clear that the race was up the road, and I felt like I needed to get there. I made sure to be near the front, watching for any moves so I could latch onto one and hopefully work with anyone attempting to bridge. A couple of attacks happened within the first two miles of lap three, but the peloton strung out and chased everything down. The hard right hander onto Union Street, which immediately leads into a short climb, put pressure on the group. It was then that I attempted to open a gap as we crested the first kicker. The surge put me in a little over my head, and after a couple deep breaths, I was able to compose myself and keep turning the cranks. I made it less than a mile before I was sucked back into the peloton as we made the right onto Farm to Market Road. The effort may go down as one to the weakest and shortest attacks in Johnny Cake history, though I am not entirely sure who keeps the books on those stats.
The effort hurt me, and I needed time to recover, which resulted in my trying to do as little as possible as we turned north for the third time on Farm to Market Road. As we started the bell lap, the wind was increasing, but the intensity of the race, and the sun had my core temperature creeping up. The group of four were still up the road with the gap hovering around 30 seconds. Attacks from the peloton raged as the panic started to set in. I was unable to bridge or get off the front of the peloton myself, which meant that I would be in for the dreaded field sprint. (For sprinters reading this, you will likely never understand the despair, but for the rest of us, it is an all too common and unpleasant way to end a race). Faced with this reality, I went with every attack that seemed to have a chance. As the end neared, I made a move with a Rockstar and a Kissena racer. A small gap opened, and we started to work together, picking up a Pawling rider along the way who proved to be strong, and more importantly, willing to work. With the break visible up the road, it seemed like you could reach out and touch them, but the peloton swept us back up before we could reach the leaders.
The sprint at Coxsackie is always a challenge, with the sweeping right into a hard left turn that is completely exposed to the elements. This makes the final 200 meters seem like the longest ever. Realistically, it is a finish that in many ways is decided around the 1 km to go sign, and those in the top 7 wheels at that position are the ones with a shot at the podium.
As our group handled the right bend, I was in about 10th position, but still in a position to react. Handlebar bumping and braking caused some confusion, and unfortunately, I was forced to touch my brakes as a rider swept centimeters ahead of my front wheel. It was just enough of a disruption to cause the race to accelerate right past me. I had to really dig if I wanted to be a contender in the group sprint. I went full gas on the exposed left side of the street from the turn, where I saw the top sprinters right in front of me. But I was running out of road. One last kick, and even a bike throw for good measure, and I ended up 11th on the day. I covered the last quarter mile in 26 seconds.
The break worked wonderfully together, especially at the end, when the peloton had visual contact and it seemed like we had them. The four breakaway riders finished ahead of us by 39 seconds. In that mix was the winner, Zack Vogel. The group sprint was won by FGX rider Josh Sakofsky, who had a huge turn of speed in the final stretch.
In the final analysis, it was a great day, and a great race with strong competitors. Next week I plan to return with more flexible plans that, with any luck, will mean a better position when crossing the finish line.
Distance – 49.4
Duration – 2:04
Average Power – 226w
Average HR – 154 bpm
Speed – 23.8 mph