by Will Pirkey
Deer Trail is an interesting race. For one, a small Eastern Colorado town is a bit of an odd place for hundreds of cyclists to invade. On the road we dealt with deceptively hard rolling hills (2500 ft of climbing in 43 miles), hotter weather than we had all May, unpredictable winds, narrow roads with the center line rule enforced, and some deer dashing across the road at a high speed missing the peloton by a whisker. Not to mention, compared to your typical 20-40min crit, at 43 miles it is a relatively long race. This proved for a unique racing experience.
In the Men’s Cat 5 field we had 5 pedal racers – Nate, David O., Jeff, Martin, and myself. A very good showing and the largest team in the group of a little more than 30. This provided us with a chance to at least think about some tactics. We agreed the best tactic was to mark the quality riders and let everything else play out on the road. The pace started pretty slowly for the first 8 miles or so as everyone was just feeling things out. We were hanging out in the back ½ of the peloton. Based on past races we knew there were a few fast riders and had to mark them. This meant making sure they didn’t sneak up to the front and break while we were stuck behind. We wanted to be in a position so that at least one of us went with them if they tried to break away.
As we made a 180 degree turn into the wind the pace picked up with some of the marked guys getting up front for a few pulls. Nothing really came of it and it settled down again – probably due to the strong headwinds. We were happy to just sit in toward the front and stay out of the wind. After about 18 miles I chatted with Nate about the option of getting up front and trying to split the group a bit. This was dependent on wind speed and direction as we debated if the cross wind was strong enough to try to set up an echelon. Nonetheless, the wind wasn’t quite right and a crash kind of started to break the group up anyway.
As we turned to head south again with about 20 miles to go I was itching to pick up the pace a bit, but there was one guy that kept gunning it and pulling about 50 meters in front of the group but no one would really follow him. We thought there was no point in chasing him down as he would just burn out without others out front to work with him. So it goes for a while. I went to the front to take a hard tempo pull to see what would happen but that didn’t really do much and I fell back into the pack. Good time to test the legs I guess.
We took the turn to head east with about 13 miles to go. We had a slight up hill and the pace picked up and split the group somewhat. Nate and I were up front and got into the paceline to help drive things. You could tell the pace picked up some but our rhythm would get broken up by a few riders, who I assume, didn’t know how to ride a paceline. Again, we’d get that one guy going off the front – have fun, buddy!
The riders we marked started to move up to the front around 7-8 miles to go. We had a tight 180 turn with about 4 mile to go and I yelled at Nate to watch for attacks coming out of that turn. We tried to be as far front as possible as the boomerang would be in full effect. It would not have been fun to chase down an attack from almost a dead stop. Alas, no attacks materialized.
It seemed like the race was destined to be a bunch sprint. Jeff moved to the front and set a good pace with Nate and I right behind (I didn’t see David but I’m sure he was close by). Here’s where our inexperience showed as we weren’t quite sure what to do. Knowing that I was a bit more of a sprinter than himself, Nate told me to get on this wheel but in a pack all looking to be in the front, maneuvering off of Jeff’s wheel back to Nate’s was difficult. With just Jeff out in the wind we couldn’t keep the speed very high and the pack spread out across the road kind of nervously watching everyone. Just past the 1 KM to go marker someone from the left side opened it up and I quickly saw the two marked riders jump on his wheel so I got up to them as quickly as I could. The rider that went early quickly slowed and then the sprint really started, probably at about 500 meters. I was third wheel and the rider in front was quickly pulling away and the rider in second lost contact. As I saw that I put everything I had into my sprint and was able to come around rider 2 but rider 1 was long gone. I had to settle for 2nd place. Nate came in at 7th in the under 40 and David sprinted for 3rd and Jeff for 4th in the over 40 division. Not a bad race for pedal Racing!!
Afterward we thought about what we could have done differently and wondering if we didn’t use our numerical advantage to the best possible way. We weren’t sure if we should have drilled it on the front in the true lead out train style (something we should probably practice first) in the last mile or so. Would a break away been a good idea? In the end we did have good tactics in marking the fast guys (both finished 1st and 3rd) and not using much energy before the sprint. This is something well learned – don’t waste your energy chasing down guys that don’t really have a chance at the end. Know your competition.
Racing is always fun but it was even more so racing with teammates and it provided us options even if we didn’t really know how to use those options to the fullest. Always something to learn and new ideas to try out next time.