Tuesday, March 2, 2010
A lead out train in cycling is a beautiful thing to see... when executed well. The best example of this working to perfection was the lead out train of last year's Team Columbia-HTC. Teammates ride single file as they approach the finish. One by one each breaks off to let the next rider take over the work of pulling the train. It didn't hurt that Columbia-HTC had guys like Mark Renshaw and our very own George Hincapie pulling their train and at the end of it was Mark Cavendish ready to sprint for the stage/race win.
Sunday's race at Donaldson saw a bit of a lead-out train in action, albeit we weren't all on the same team!
Like Saturday's race at Fork Shoals, all the women riders started together (more than 2/3 were Cat 4). The officials reduced our 5 laps to 4 and we were took off. In the first lap on golf course hill there was a break with some higher cat women. Team Kenda had a girl in the break so they proceeded to sit on the front and control the pace. We never caught the break.
*Note: For those new to racing, teams do this in order to allow the break to get more time on the field. If they can do this, they can block other chases so the break is never caught. It all depends on how many people are in the break and how long/short the race is. In the case of the Greenville Spring Training Series, if you get in a break of 2-3 strong riders and at least one of you left some teammates behind, there's a good chance you'll finish ahead of the pack.
We also had the pleasure of riding with Thea Kent in her first race back after suffering major back injuries in a crash last year. Thea is a co-manager at Carolina Triathlon, one of my team's major sponsors and rides for Colavita South. She was out there mixing it up, involved in some sprints and pulling hard for much of the race. It was incredibly inspiring to ride with her.
Throughout all four laps riders kept jumping out to pick up the pace but we didn't have any other real breaks. It reminded me of interval training with my coach. 30 seconds hard... 1 minute break... 2 minute climb... 2 minute break, and so on. One of my new teammates was with me and it was her first time racing. She's one of the strongest riders on our 2010 roster and my goal was to to make sure she was in good position for the finish.
Because of the break, the Pro, 1, 2, 3 women were racing for top ten, not a win. The Cat 4 women weren't sure. We didn't think we had anyone in the break so we were still racing for the win. As we came across the rail road tracks on the final lap, the group moved to the double yellow and stretched out. However, there were a few girls sticking to the white line. One of them looked like she was riding strong and had a good cadence. I was torn between staying in the pack or moving to the inside. Finally I made my way over to her wheel and stuck like glue. As I sat on her wheel my legs felt fresh and I felt really good about the move.
With one mile to go there was NO ONE next to us and I took a very quick glance back to see the entire field had moved onto our line. The train was coming! My legs felt great and rested and the rider ahead of me didn't let up. At the 1km sign still no one next to us. We hit the 200m sign and started picking up the pace. I still couldn't see the rest of the field, but I could hear them coming! The finish line was in view and I tried to get out of my saddle but my legs were tiring and I couldn't go for it. Some girls passed on my left and then I heard, "on your right" from my teammate Courtney. Unbeknownst to me she had moved in to grab my wheel sometime in that last mile. I moved over slightly and let up as she came sprinting past me (and others) to capture 2nd place. What happened didn't really set in until I read Jenn Young's (GWC) FB status update which included, "Mad props to Courtney & Nikki from GHS who had a textbook finish!!" We actually executed a lead-out train!
A huge congrats to Courtney for capturing 2nd in her first road race. Despite getting passed by some at the end, I came away with 6th, Jenn Young (mentioned above) 8th, and my kick butt coach 9th in the Cat 4 results. Thea captured 4th in Pro, 1, 2, 3.
It was a fun race with a spectacular finish... and did I mention we averaged 19.6 mph!! I can only imagine what we could have done with more teammates out there. Hopefully we'll get that chance next weekend!!
Many thanks to the officials (Papa, Joey, Mike, Big Joe, the motos, and all others), the volunteers at every corner, Greenville Spinners (sponsor club) and Hincapie Sports for making this series happen!