Sunday, July 1, 2007

Manhattan Beach - I'm still pissed off!

As mentioned previously, my team went into this race trying to work together to achieve the result of putting someone on the podium. Call me naive, but I actually went into this race believing that we would work together; and furthermore, would achieve a top 3 result. The plan was pretty simple, protect a few riders (make sure they didn't need to take pulls on the front), get the key people to the front when we were down to the final moments and let them do their thing.

In general the course wasn't as tough as I expected it to be. The course itself is shaped a little like a lower case "r". The race basically heads up and down both sides of a large boulevard/green space. See here. There's a small steep hill just before you reach the northeast corner (corners 1 and 2) and some rollers down the back side of the course. Other than that, the course was pretty simple.

My job was to get key people to the front on the last lap. With a 120 racer field and two tight corners, we knew that there was going to be a massive premium placed on positioning during this race. Throughout the race our team was doing quite well. We stayed out of trouble and were able to hang near the front. I was constantly talking with the guys on my team who we'd designated as the guys we wanted to put at the front at the end. One in particular continually communicated that he was doing well and didn't need any more help than what he was currently getting.

With one lap to go four Helen's riders took off about 300 meters before the hill. It's a big enough problem when one guy gets a jump on the field. When four guys who are all on the same team try to get away, there's a strong potential that they might never be caught. At the moment this happened I was on the outside in about 20th place. There were 3 other key guys on my team who were up near the front with me, one in particular was about 5 spots ahead of me and was one of the guys we wanted to make sure had a chance to contest the final sprint. With things unfolding before me I knew that now was the time when we needed to respond and get a guy up to the front. So I yelled out the guys name, he heard me (I could see him look back), I pulled out from the field and started to crank it up. I was fully expecting him to jump on my wheel as I went by. As I continued to accelerate towards the hill I looked down at my computer and I saw I was going at about a 33mph clip. Pretty good, this was exactly what we needed.

As I reached the hill I was pretty much up to the leaders. Knowing that getting our guy to the front was all that mattered, I was completely unconcerned about whether I blew up well before the finish. As I ground my way up the hill I began to start to really feel the burn. By the top of the hill I was pretty spent. As I began to slow I expected to see our guy roll right on by me, having successfully been delivered to the front. Nope, he was no where to be found.

Once again in a big race, the same guy had screwed over both me and the team. At Del Mar I got him to the front for a couple point primes, both times he didn't even come close to winning (he basically packed it in half way through the sprint even though I'd given him a 10 foot jump on the rest of the field). This time he completely disregarded the opportunity to execute the plan we'd laid out.

As the race went into turn 1 and 2 I was pretty much done. I was in something like 15th place and my legs felt like they were full of lead. As we went through the turn, some clown managed to crash in pretty glorious fashion right behind me. This broke up the field, leaving 25 or 30 guys clear to run to the finish. Apparently my team mate in question finished well, well back in the field. Whether this was due to the crash, or because he'd apparently broken a spoke and had problems with his wheel, I'm not sure. Even more infuriating however, was that after the race, it became clear that the spoke was in fact broken early on in the race and was now being used as an excuse.

Having repeatedly asked this guy how he was doing throughout the race and gotten a reply of "good, no issues", I was rather surprised to hear that he knew all along that he had a problem with his wheel:

1. He could have taken a free lap and gone to the wheelpit to get a new wheel.
2. One of the weaker riders on our team could have given him their wheel.
3. I wouldn't have burned myself up trying to help him if I knew he had a mechanical problem.

The bottom line here is that once again we didn't even come close to achieving our team goals. And even more so, one individual who the team does so much to help, sabotaged the effort. At this point I'm seriously considering trying to find a new team, or even just go about it on my own. I certainly am not going to be a part of another one of these SDBC "team efforts".

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