It has been awhile since I last posted a race report. I planned on going all the way back to write a report on the Cascade Classic but it’s too far gone. Instead, I am going to put some thoughts into how this past weekend went at the River Gorge Omnium in Chattanooga, TN. This race marked the second weekend in a row for racing bikes in Chattanooga. This weekend was a US Military Endurance Sports focus event which meant I had some teammates at the race. Sam Curlee flew in from the perfect weather of California to race in the CAT 2 Omnium. Our hopes were high for this race and we were determined to represent USMES in a positive manner.
Day 1 was a double header with a 4 mile morning time trial followed by an evening criterium. Coming from a triathlon background combined with how my recent training had gone I knew I had a shot at a podium. I began by looking at last year’s time trial results and saw that 8:00 was the winning time with second and third place back 3 and 5 seconds respectively. So I hopped on over to BestBikeSplit to check out what it would take to suffer to an 8 minute result. Turns out that getting close to 8 minutes was doable. I was going to need to average 426w over the 8 minute effort but in reality there was only 6 minutes of pedal time. The other 2 minutes come from descending down a climb in the middle and near the end. The profile is shown below and then I put in the time trial plan.
It turns out that my plan was a little too conservative on the flats and too aggressive on the climb. The goal was to average 518w for 90 seconds on the climb. I only averaged 475w for the climb and put me 10 seconds behind my plan at the crest of the hill. Now, the Wahoo Elemnt Planned Workout actually had the interval switch out of the climbing interval as I crested. In my mind I thought this meant I was on track for the 8:05 finish time. While I did make up some time over the remainder of the course it wasn’t enough to get me a podium spot. My trainingpeaks file shows a finish time of 8:08 but the official results show 8:24. Officials stated that all of the times were off by 11 seconds which puts me closer to where I was planned. I ended up 8th in the standings and walking away feeling pretty defeated. I should have been a little more aggressive in the beginning of the TT and a little more conservative on the climb (in my planning). It took me 30 or so minutes after the TT to reflect on the effort and move past it. It took a lot of concentration and some venting to my teammate to accept it for what it was and change my mindset towards the crit.
The Village Volkswagen Criterium part of the River Gorge Omnium is an extremely fast non-technical four corner crit. I am going to be honest, crits always make me nervous. It is something I need to work on. I don’t know if it is self sabatoge but I always find myself starting at the back of the pack. This time I got to line up at the front of the race, and boy does it make a huge difference! Instead of spending the first 10-15 minutes “tailgunning” and spending effort moving up through the pack I could just relax and enjoy the ride. Sam Curlee, my teammate, also started with good position. We rode side by side for the first 10 minutes. At one point he could tell I was braking too much into the corner so he hollered at me to lay off the brakes. Once he gave me that little reminder I was pretty much good for the rest of the race. One corner always made me tense up which was turn 3. I don’t really know what made this corner crash heavy but almost every race ended up having a crash in this corner. It seemed that I held my breath and tensed up when I entered the corner. It took some cognitive capacity to fight through the nerves.
The Criterium was a CAT 2 specific crit instead of the typical P12 (professional) race. As a cat 2 there are not a lot of chances to race solely against your racing peers. This lead to the race being extremely fast and attack heavy. Even though we all knew that the chances of a breakaway succeeding in such a fast crit was slim to none we all attempted attacks. I gave it a go at 10 minutes in and stayed out front for a lap and a half before pulling the plug. I shuffled back into the group and pretty much just concentrated on staying in the top 15 riders the rest of the race. There were a couple of times where I slipped back to the middle of the pack but quickly realized where I was and shuffled back front. I ended up being in the top 8 riders going into 3 laps remaining. A couple laps prior there was a crash in turn three that divided the field slightly and pushed my teammate out of the race. With 2 laps to go I was still at the pointy end of the race and feeling confident. We averaged 30.2 mph over the final 2 laps which meant all of our positions were locked in except for in the corners. I anticipated riders taking risks in the corners but I knew I just needed to stay aggressive and defend my position. We came into turn 3 with a ton of speed. We smoothly went through turn 3 and 4 and popped out on to the wide road that held the finish. The second I felt I wasn’t going to clip a pedal I hopped out of the saddle and gave it everything to the finish. There was a junior racer ahead of me and I ended up passing him, mostly because he couldn’t sprint with his gear restrictions. I ended up finishing 13th which gave me the best crit result of the season, excluding the Cat 3 races. With my 8th in the TT and 13th in the crit I was just outside of the top 10 in the GC. I knew the road race tomorrow suited my racing style because of the inclusion of two major climbs.
Sam and I were greeted by Sunday morning with a clear sky, warm temperatures, and humidity. Last year the temps and humidity destroyed me and this concern plagued me over the morning. I had to tell myself that the forecast was set to be a little better than last year and that I am better adjusted to the hotter temps after a year in Knoxville. So the road race was not like the Criterium in that the cat 2 field was separated. This meant that I didn’t have to worry about breakaways or controlling the race. My goal was to just stay in the front third, stay as cool as possible, and enjoy the ride. For some reason I was very uncomfortable for the first 40 minutes of the race. I had to keep reminding myself to relax and remain calm. I don’t know where this really came from because I am usually comfortable in the pack of a road race. This was just something I had to battle through but eventually got over it.
There were a couple early attempts at breakaways and eventually one succeeded which contained two Gateway Harley Davidson riders. They were one of the stronger teams at the race with the other being Palmetto State Medical Elite team. There were a couple riders from the Hincapie Conti team, and they attempted to get away but the peloton obviously never let that happen. Once the the breakaway got a gap of over 90 seconds the Palmetto guys moved to the front and started to control the race. I was still in the front third of the peloton at this point and pretty comfortable. We ended up missing a turn out on the Jasper loop which pushed me towards the back of the group. I was never able to move back to the front by the time we reached the Sand Mountain climb. The run into Sand Mountain was actually very tame. I was expecting riders to really be fighting for position. Some of the riders around me were taking risks breaking the yellow line rule but the speed of the group was relatively low.
I was in the middle of the pack when we arrived at Sand Mountain. This sucked because once the grade really started to increase there were some attacks and an increase in pace by the Hincapie guys. A gap quickly opened between the front group and the rest of us. I was too far back to jump to the group. I set sights on a couple of Cat 2 riders in front of me and just controlled my effort to the top. I averaged 375w or 4.75 w/kg for the 10:20 climb proper. I made the left turn at the top of the climb in a small group of two Novo Nordisk riders, one other cat 2 rider, and a random cat 1 rider. We quickly went through the feed zone and set our sights on chasing down the lead group. We could see the peloton just up the road so for the next 5 minutes we chased. The Novo Nordisk guys ended up being useless, as usual, and the work was mostly done by me and the other two riders in the group. We caught back up to the peloton just before the non-technical descent down Sand Mountain. Our max speed while descending was 53 mph while we averaged 37 mph for the 7 minute descent. We made the right turn on to TN 156 and there were a couple of small gaps to shut down due to the difference in descending skills. It only took about a minute to get the group all back together. From this point on it was just about staying protected from the wind and letting the “big guys” control the race. We still had four climbs left and I knew that it was going to take some serious effort to stay with the group. The hardest climb ended up being the long gradual grind to the second feed zone. This climb was 11 minutes of 3.5% on a wide open highway. It was hot, windy, and very tough. Somehow I managed to stay attached to the group. I knew at this point I was going to at least make it to the final climb.
In between the second feed zone and the final climb up Raccoon Mountain there was a small kicker. I made it over the climb with the group but began to feel twitchy and crampy. So I made the decision to hold on and see if the situation got any better by the time we reach Raccoon. My situation didn’t improve a ton in the short time between the two climbs so I decided I would rather control my effort up Raccoon then try to respond to attacks and blow up severely. So that’s what I did and ended up averaging 300w and completed the climb in 19:02 which was actually the fastest pro time up the climb last year. But I was off the back of the group and only ended up catching one of the Hincapie riders while climbing. I ended up finishing 8th out of the CAT 2 riders and 27th in the P12 standings. I finished 9th in the omnium which is extremely good! I am proud of how the race went, even with the TT result. It was a great way to end the season.
This weekend I plan on writing up a complete season review. Let me know of any metrics or thoughts/reflections I should include in my season wrap-up!