Army Spring Classic, Men's Collegiate A - Peter Chiu - 4-7-09
I think you guys have heard quite a bit in the way of play-by-plays from me. The cast is generally quite similar. Sometimes you have Jamey Driscoll (Rock Racing(?)/UVM) or Dan Cassidy (CCB/UVM) replace Josh Lipka (Bikereg-Cannondale/UNH) and Nick Frey (Legacy Energy/Princeton) at the beginning of a sentence bearing “threw down the mad hurt” followed by “someone vomited everywhere, and it was disgusting” and then followed by “oh noes!!! zOMGLOL ouchers.”
Unfortunately, this weekend was much of the same, so I will spare you guys much of the details and focus on the sprints. The race actually played out quite similarly both days. In both races, early breaks went with pretty strong riders. Much of the time it’s luck that determines if you’ll make the break. I covered a couple moves earlier and later than the move that went, but I was trying to recover from an earlier effort when the break of the day went. When the break goes in high winds (gusting at 46 mph), and you’re 139 pounds… the only thing you can do is try to get in a bridge move or wait it out to sprint for the best place you can. After a few abortive attempts to go with a bridge move (in both races), I settled in for the sprint.
The art of sprinting is something I have only begun to learn. At the Philly Criterium, in which I finished a disappointing 12th, I had moved to the front too early (with about 2k to go) and got swamped by the Princeton leadout. I tried to avoid this by staying away from the center of the pack and making moves in the wind to readjust my position. Going into the base of the 30-second long finishing hill, which peaked at about 20%, I was 3rd wheel and couldn’t hold myself back as the gradient kicked up. I launched myself a full 10 seconds too early and was hit by the wind swirling around the top of this hill. Ten seconds in a sprint is a lifetime, and I was passed by 5 guys at the line. It was a classic “too early” sprint complicated by the hill. I am now a firm believer that uphill sprints have to be unleashed at the last possible moment… unless you’re made out of helium or are a cyborg sent back in time to protect John Connor.
In the Army Criterium the following day, I tried out a plan formed from my Philly crit and Army RR mistakes. The second-to-last straight was a tough headwind section, where I thought it would be tough to move up if the peloton was in full-flight for the sprint. The finishing straight had a bit of a cross tailwind before a nice little uphill finish. The speed gained during the straight was so great that the hill was almost negligible. A teammate of mine, Brian Gabele (Luzzo’s/Columbia), brought me into 6th position at the beginning of the final lap, and for that I am very grateful. The guy worked his butt off to try to bridge the early break, which ended up being successful, and he still had the energy to bring me to the front. Huge. I fought to maintain my position and going into the last 500m, I thought I was perfect. That’s when the Princeton leadout came again and dragged 8 guys around me in the headwind going into the last corner. I really have nothing but admiration for the amount of power that required, because I wasn’t exactly comfortable in the draft. Sprinting from a significantly worse position, I cracked open the sprint early, but ran into traffic as a Bucknell rider shut the door on me with about 100m to go. That’s sprinting. He’s not my lead out man, so I can’t expect him to get out of my way.
In the end it was 19th in the Circuit Race (13 person breakaway) and 17th in the Criterium (break of 4, chase of 4). The art of sprinting is so much more than throwing down big watts, and that’s the part I love about it. I feel that I’m starting to get a little too old to be doing this, though. Crashing at high-speed is no longer acceptable, but I can’t get away from the insane adrenaline rush of putting the elbows out and holding position as everyone tilts forward and starts licking that front wheel before the final 200m. The sensation of jumping out of the saddle and accelerating those pedals in tiny little circles is something that really can’t be replicated in other aspects of the sport.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading. Yale is this coming weekend with a circuit race finishing at the top of East Rock and a Criterium.