August officially began on Thursday, and with it came the latest installment in the weekly Rockleigh criterium series.
Thank you to my wonderful sponsors, to YP for the pictures, to the Koops and Rojases for standing out there and to the wonderful Rockleigh Crit folks for putting on a great event.
It was Thursday. At this point, it was laughably predictable that the next-to-last day before the weekend would bring rain with it. Mother nature was becoming frustratingly prognostic…but that didn’t phase me. Or the other 8 competitors who showed up.
With only 9 of us, a break was sure to develop – we all knew it, and we all had a feeling who would be in it. The only question left was when?
The 9 racers were:
Zach Koop (Blue Ribbon – Translations.com)
Zach Bender (Blue Ribbon – Translations.com)
Brendan Pearce (Blue Ribbon – Translations.com)
Ted Horwitz (CadV – Heart House)
Robert Wilson Tarbox IV (Rockstar)
Stephan Hoffman (Rockstar)
Bill Brunner (Colavita)
Shawn Erickson (Team Cosmic – Carve Systems)
Me (Team Cosmic – Carve Systems)
Zach wasn’t officially the race leader yet, Olsen was, but Greg wasn’t in attendance…so Zach Donned yellow.
The first lap was neutral. After that, the pace quickened a bit. We were all apprehensive, on account of the rain, and it was still early.
After a bit, I rotated to the front. Brendan, in his infinite hilarity, pipes up, “ELI’S FIRST PULL IN AN A RACE! GIVE IT UP FOR ELI!”
Ted took that as a sign for “attack Eli”. So he did.
Ted went, bike flinging side to side, and Skoop went with him. I was only pulling for 15 seconds, but I’m weak. So it hurt when I put the pedal down just to latch onto Zach’s wheel. Skoop passed Ted, Ted got on my wheel…and we were away. I was in a break with the person who introduced me to Team Cosmic – Carve Systems and the person who made me the winningest member on the 2013 Team Cosmic – Carve Systems roster.
For the third time, I had made the (potentially) winning break in a 3+ race. It seems I might have been getting a hang of this sport, at least mentally.
Being my Fredly self, I held onto Zach’s wheel as long as I could, which wasn’t long at all. Before long, I was blowing up. I shook my elbow, but Ted either ignored it or didn’t see it. I turned back to yell to him to pull through but as soon as I did, Ted, always the teacher, shouted, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DON’T LOOK BACK, KEEP GOING!!”
I put my head down and drilled again. Maybe 10 seconds, I couldn’t match Skoop’s infinite wattage. I turned around again, “STOP LOOKING BACK!!” Frustrated, I pulled off and waved Ted through on my right as Stephan Hoffman blew by on my left. The break was still 3 people, minus me.
I had been dropped by the winning break. Again.
As often happens to me in these situations, I meditated on the words of The Hebrew Hammer: You never know what might happen out there in No Man’s Land, so never give up.
I didn’t. I sat out there for what felt like 3 laps, but was probably more like 30 seconds, until the Champ, Brendan Pearce, bridged up to me. I couldn’t have been more than 10 meters off the back of the break but I simply couldn’t match their speed.
As soon as I realized that I was no longer alone, that I had the powerhouse that was Brendan pearce, I put my head down and gave one last SuperEli effort, focusing in on my V-Locus. I pulled off, to have Brendan follow suit.
“I’M NOT PULLING YOU UP THERE, ELI.”
And just like that, I was shattered. My ego exploded at the thought of Brendan marking me as a threat to Zach’s positioning, but my drive plummeted as I realized I had made the wrong move. I let up for a few seconds and Brendan hit it. He pulled wide and attacked me for all I was worth. Which was very little at that point.
He bridged up and then there were 4. I watched them pull further and further away as I focused on suffering.
I rode solo for about 2 or 3 laps, and was then absorbed. We created a rotating paceline with immediate rolls. Everyone would get to the front and immediately slide off, but I wasn’t in the mood to decrease my suffering. I made sure to pull for at least 10-15 seconds each turn, hoping beyond hope that we would catch a glimpse of the break I once called my own.
We continued this way for quite some time at a relatively high intensity – it almost felt like I was in a miniature break of our own. Until Zach attacked.
Zach of Blue Ribbon. What was he doing? I didn’t understand his tactics. There was no way he was going to get away from us, as we all followed him, and there was no sense in dragging us back up to the break.
But I didn’t say anything. We just continued riding in circles.
Until, he attacked. Again. Zach went sprinting again but this time, I settled everyone’s nerves. I told them not to chase while Team Cosmic – Carve Systems rider Shawn Erickson led the strategic side of the chase. “Let’s let him dangle out there for a little while, then we’ll attack the @#%$ out of him!” was the sentiment resonating throughout our little grupetto.
Sure enough, we let him survive for a few laps but he began to slow down. We didn’t even increase the pace as he began rapidly riding backwards towards us. Suddenly, Shawn was out of his saddle, I was following suit and we all blew by Bender.
We didn’t let up for an entire lap and just dropped him ruthlessly. I still don’t really know what he was thinking. When I asked him post-race, he said, “I don’t know, I wanted to get up to the break.”
The race basically split into two groups – the 1/2’s and the 3’s. As the 1/2’s came around, they picked up Zach (ok?).
They continued gaining ground on us and then, passed us. Stephan attacked them as soon as they caught us and we all picked up the pace.
Confused, we saw Bender back up with them.
I communicated to the racers to let the break go, that we had our own race. And they did. With Bender. Was he now ahead of us? We were confused, but we continued racing. Not much happened once they passed us. Our pace eased up, we began taking longer turns, we gave the prime to Robert Wilson Tarbox. The Fourth, to be exact.
Then it came time to start worrying about the sprint. I was hoping that since we gave the prime to Rockstar, since I was pulling a little longer than the rest, and since I was the only one really in the overall standings, they would give me the field win…but that was Fredly thinking.
Shawn and I worked out that with 1 to go, I would pull off and he would take over. Just after the first corner, he would attack..and then the rest should have been textbook.
The problem was he and I went to different schools.
Shawn thought I would get on whoever’s wheel was second, I thought I would BE second wheel. His plan was for me to sprint. My plan was for a late race break.
I got in on second wheel, as I had hoped. I could see Shawn shaking his head, disappointment steadily dripping from his helmet along with the rain droplets. But it was too late – I had made my move. Coming out of the 3rd corner, I attacked on the outside and took the 4th corner tighter than I probably should have in the rain, but there was no looking back now.
I put the hammer down and gunned it. At 120 RPM, I should probably have been in a higher gear. Suddenly, I see a flash of pink creep up beside me. Closer, closer, closer…until he gets out of his saddle and opens up his sprint. It was over. I’d lost. I’d gambled and came up the loser.
I guess that kind of move only works once.
2nd in the field after a 4 man break.
Moved up to 7th place overall in the standings, 1 spot behind The Champ, who beat Ted for second. Zach won the field sprint and is now the new points leader.
I think I’m in the wrong category.