After Monday’s post about getting in the break at Sanpete, Mark T. commented: “you learn more about yourself on the front than you do in the pack.” Well here’s what I learned: you win races by being smart. And riding on the front early in a long race is not smart. Winning races requires riding away from the competition, and smart racers ride away at the last possible moment that will ensure they are able to get away and stay away.
Sometimes, however, that moment comes early in the race. Last night at RMR, a well-meaning and sentimental racer with the words “Adieu Professeur” pinned to his jersey attacked on the first lap. It would have been a nice tribute to Fignon, but we all knew it didn’t have staying power. When he ran out of gas after one lap, Jeremy C. from Masherz and Todd T. from Ski Utah countered. Eric M. from Skull Candy bridged soon thereafter.
Jeremy is the criterium state champion, and he won that race in a four-man break that went early. My plan to sit in for the duration and sprint it out at the end was doomed if the break stayed away, so I bridged with Jon M. from Canyon on my wheel.
The five of us cooperated seamlessly and without a word changed our direction of rotation from front stretch to back stretch to optimize efficiency in the crosswind. The gap slowly grew until we could no longer see the chase behind us.
On the bell lap I figured we’d see Jon attack the group to try to get away—he looked strong all night and seemed to take his pulls with ease—but it never happened. I was on the front approaching the final corner and nobody else pulled through, but that was the extent of the shenanigans. With a large gap on the chase, I could afford to slow down while I waited for the sprint enough that being on the front wasn’t too much disadvantage.
Todd went with about 300 meters to go. I tried to move hard right to get on his wheel, but Jeremy was in my way, and the two of us bumped shoulders pretty hard*. We both stayed up, laughed it off, and resumed chasing Todd. Rubbing is racing.
*Smart crit racers spend a good 90% of the race in the drops. This helps prevent getting your handlebars hooked and keeps you low and stable so that when idiots like me come off their lines to try and get a wheel, nobody goes down from the collision.
Todd had a good gap at this point, but I kept digging. 3 more meters of track, and I would have had him. It was close enough that he asked me which of us had won. Not that it particularly mattered. Taking nothing away from Todd, when the break succeeds, it’s a shared victory, and we were all happy with the result.