Will McLaughlin flew the colors of the MVWin the "AA" (noob) races as part of the NAS-TRACK International (we had racers from Toronto!) 3-Day race at the International Velodrome at Bloomer Park this past weekend, following in the tradition of luminaries as Dave Teal and Pio Apostoli.
Hoping to get enough track time to participate in the marquee madison events before the summer is out.
Finally a weekend with just one race to focus on, Terry Reisch took place in Hillsdale Michigan and in line with the name, the course contained some elevation change. Our race was 8 laps of the same 4 mile circuit. A 10 man breakaway was established shortly after the start of the second lap. The typical break where no one wants to do any work, so I found myself doing much more than my share just to make it stick. After trying a couple of times to get away on my own, I resolved to the fact that I was going to have to take this one in an uphill sprint. The sprint was very similar to the one at our Lost Nations course, so I figured I would go with what worked the last time and try to go hard early and make a gap and hold it. The problem was my legs were pretty tired, so I didn’t make the gap that I had hoped, and two guys in the break were quick to get on my wheel. In the end they both made it around me and I finished 3rd. Finally, after a long dry spell I managed to find the podium! Overall I had a great race and rode really strong which gives me a lot of confidence for this weekend, Tour of the Valley, which is my target race of the year.
Planning a weekend with 3 criteriums in a row seemed like a good idea at the time, but the intensity of both the heat and the competition made this a tough weekend to recover from. When we arrived at Madeira the outside temperature read 104, stepping out of the car felt as if you were stepping into an oven. Looking at the forecast the temperature was set to drop from 104 to 85 degrees by race time. Which is good from the perspective of not having to race in the heat; however, the dramatic drop in temperature created some violent storms and delayed race times by nearly 2 hours. Madeira was a very technical course with two sharp 180 degree turns at each end, certainly not my type of course and proved very difficult to navigate with a field of over 60. Every time through the 180s it was pure madness, more of a game of “bumper bikes” than racing. Unfortunately every time I would work my way to the front I would either end up in some one’s back wheel as I got jammed up on the inside or someone would end up in my back wheel as they tried to go to the inside, knocking me back 10-20 spots. This coupled with the fact that my bike kept coming out of gear upon acceleration made the 8mph to 30mph sprints out of the 180s really difficult. In the end I was not able to gain a good position at the end of the race and finished a disappointing 20th.
For anyone looking to attend just one race a season, Hyde Park would be towards the top of my list of “must do” races. An awesome course combined with thousands of partying spectators gave racers the feeling of being pros for a day. On a narrow climb through what was more of an alley than a road, spectators lined the road, beverages in hand and more than willing to share with anyone who had enough racing and would “stop for a beer” (some people actually stopped). To make things even more of an experience, a live band was jamming out about halfway up the hill close enough to the course that you could have reached out and grabbed the guitar. The racing was intense, one of the hardest races I have done all season. We started with a full field of 100 very capable cyclists and were started based on when we registered, which put me starting about 70 back. The battle to the front of that field was intense, with many hair raising moments, and yes some pushing and shoving. Once I finally made it to the top 10-15 people I wasn’t about to give up my spot and fought hard to stay within the top 15, which required more pushing, shoving and hair raising moments. The intensity was the same throughout the entire race, FLAT OUT!! I only had an opportunity and ability to take a drink maybe 3 times, it was one of the hardest races I have been a part of. With a few laps left a 3 man break somehow overcame the extreme pace and formed just seconds off of the front, I quickly made a move to go across, only to realize that I did not have the legs to even start the move. Sitting in about 8th wheel coming around for the last lap, I felt really good about my chances and even thought there was a good chance we would sweeping up the breakaway, which was dangling just seconds off of the front. However, on one of the last corners, someone making a desperate move to gain position nearly caused a crash in front of me and caused a small split. Once I hit the long finishing straight it was all about putting my head down and making up as much distance as I could. In the end the three men off of the front made it, and the best I could do was finish 8th in the bunch sprint, putting me in 11th overall. Normally an 11th place finish would be a disappointment, and given that I felt like I was in the perfect spot coming into the last lap it sort of was, but heck 11th in such a large stacked field on a technical course is a victory in my book.
Grandview, was my last chance to lose skin during that weekend, and with some high speed corners keeping my skin was right there with winning the race on my list of goals for the day. With temperatures well into the 90s the weather did not disappoint. The course contained the largest hill of the weekend and would be the main factor in determining the outcome of the race. An early race crash on one of the high speed corners created a split in the field, one that I was on the wrong side of. Sensing that this could be the end of my race, I quickly took chase, quick enough that I thought I was one out of a group of only three or so that stood a real chance of getting back into the race. I chased hard for nearly two laps before getting back on, only to see a large number of people heading out of the pits as if they had taken a free lap. My understanding is that in order to get a free lap you had to actually crash and to my knowledge only two people went down, but with all of the people filtering out of the pits a large group must have gone in as if they too were involved. At the halfway point of the race the hill had selected about 15 of the strongest individuals out of the starting group of 40+, myself included. The last few laps I fought hard to stay in the top 5, which may have turned out to be an error on my part, as the hill provided a perfect opportunity to move up before the last lap and staying so close to the front took a bit of energy that I could have used at the end. About halfway around on the last lap I found myself stuck in the “middle lane” to a strong surge from behind, I moved to the outside as quick as a could, but lost a couple of positions. A sharp left hand corner at the bottom of the finishing hill provided a perfect opportunity for a desperate move from behind on my inside, which sent me into the outside curb, nearly causing me to crash. The move worked out well for the individual who made it as he was able to carry a ton of speed up the hill; however, I had to slow significantly opening the door for more people to come around me. Again I found myself in a position of making up as much distance before the finish I could, and again I found myself finishing in 11th place.
Not quite the weekend I had hoped for, but I am well aware of the fact that technical criteriums are one of my biggest weaknesses. This coupled with the fact that I am still in one piece after such a crazy weekend, I am not too disappointed with how things went.
Despite the fact that Mount Pleasant was really just preparation for later in the season, I was going into the event with high expectations, particularly for Friday’s prologue. Things did not get off to a great start at no fault of my own. Without going into detail, the race director made a last minute decision that totally contradicted information posted on their website, which left me scrambling at the last minute to change my bike setup from a rear disc to a normal aero wheel. Due to a shortage of time I was not able to do my normal warm up, or much of a warm up for that matter. To make things worse I nearly rode off of the side of the start ramp. So I found myself 2 minutes into the effort with my insides feeling like they were being torn out and my legs feeling like they were going to explode. After backing things down slightly on a couple downhill sections I was able to recover somewhat and get into something that resembled a normal paced effort. I came across the finish line at 9 minutes 35 seconds, about 30 seconds slower than I wanted to be, putting me in 6th place. I hate saying I was disappointed with a 6th place finish in a strong field, but with everything that went on, I was.
The criterium course was a nice course through downtown that contained a couple of tight technical corners. Shortly after the start of the race two guys went off of the front, with things being so early in the race the field did not respond and I was not overly concerned, that was until I realized that the two guys off of the front were 1st and 3rd in the prologue. The gap quickly grew to 40 seconds and I knew unless I could bridge the gap the race was over, so I made a solo effort to get across. After a couple of laps of being out on my own I managed to bring the gap down to around 30 seconds. On about my 4th lap out, a points prime was called, and while the field would not work to win the race itself they worked pretty hard to pull me back for one lousy point. I managed to stay out long enough to get the point, but the field closed the gap and swept me up, at that point any sense of forward progression was over. I set myself up for a solid sprint for 3rd, but was forced into a curb on the exit to the final straight and only managed to grab 8th.
After the previous two events 1st and 2nd place in the GC were pretty much locked up and I was sitting in 5th at the start of the road race. With all of the events I had done this season and the only win being in a time trial, I was beginning to feel as if I had a monkey on my back and really needed to win. With temperatures well into the 90s, heat was definitely a factor, this combined with endless attacks from the start of the race made for a very difficult first 20 miles. After a mad scramble to contain an attack at mile 25, I could sense everyone in the field was hurting, myself included, so naturally I dug deep and went. I quickly found myself putting a large gap on the field, to the point where at times I could not even look back and see them, so I wrote the “big check”, put my head down, and dug in for the long haul. After about 10 miles into my solo effort the two guys who were sitting 1 and 2 managed to bridge up, I jumped in with them, but our trio would be short lived as the field had responded to the threat of them joining me and were not too far back. What followed was a furry of attacks that I really don’t remember to well, as all I was doing was hanging on for dear life, but at some point the guys sitting 1 and 2 in the GC got off of the front. I could not let that move go and put in a solid effort to make it across the gap. After such an intense race I was starting to get tired and overheated, and began having trouble getting back on after the modest pulls I was taking. On top of this the field seemed as if they were just letting us sit out, one of the guys even commented that they were just screwing with us (he actually used another term, but we will keep this PG). That comment stuck in my head and when I finally lost the wheel in front of me and had the option of trying to dig through the intense pain and dehydration to attempt to make my legs put out the extra effort to get the wheel back, or give in and let the field sweep me up and hopefully eventually sweep them up, I gave in and chose option B. I later found out that the field was being driven by efforts from Ventus and Priority, who had guys in 3rd and 4th in the overall and since the guys in 1 and 2 had such dominant efforts the previous days they were out of reach, even for the guy sitting in 3rd. So once they saw me falling back, the chase began to fall apart and the field slowed. By the time I realized what was happening I was too far dropped to get back on, but it didn’t stop me from trying. One of the worst experiences I have felt in racing was sitting in the peloton, watching the wheel I was once on, ride away into the sunset. As we were closing those final miles, the combination of heat and the intensity of the efforts that I made for the day left me questioning if I even had the legs to contest the sprint. A last minute attack by two guys from the main field left everyone sprinting for 5th and I somehow managed to fight my way to the front and take 3rd in the field sprint for a 8th place finish.
I did get finished in time to watch Scott Hunter take the win in the Cat 5 field, congrats to Scott!!
I am a couple of weeks behind with posting up results of my USCF racing. One, between the new baby and all of the training/racing, I am finding myself short on time. Two, it is not as fun to post up results when you are not making the podium.
Frankenmuth, with bright sunny skies covering the rest of the country, it was naturally cold and raining for most of the Tour de Frankenmuth. The race itself was not overly exiting, just a typical road race with attacks and chases, at one point I was part of a 7 man break that I am really still not sure how it failed. A sharp corner at about 1K out leading into a downhill sprint made for an extra nervous peloton over the last few miles. I fought hard to stay in just the right position, about six back, then at about 2K out it happened, a group of about 10 cyclists made an illegal pass about 5-feet on the other side of a double yellow line. I was caught completely off guard, as were most of the others that the cyclists passed and despite the very vocal outrage of many in the peloton the 10 didn’t as much as glance over their shoulder. I quickly found myself sitting in a real bad spot heading into the final corner and narrowly missed crashing when me and two other cyclists locked handlebars/shoulders. Now finding myself far back in the field, my only option was to try to thread it down the left side between the field and barriers keeping people from going into oncoming traffic. After striking a couple barriers at over 40mph, I decided that it wasn’t worth hitting the deck and called it a day finishing 19th.
West Branch, the wet and chilly trend continued to the West Branch road race, on top of the cold and rain we were met with strong 20-25mph winds. For those who have not raced West Branch, it is certainly not a flat race, with the finish crested on top of a 1.2 mile hill that is about 6-8% the first portion and then kicks to 10-12% over the last 700 meters, our field climbed this hill a total of 3 times. This race is a race that rewards strength and suffering, so I came into it looking to make up for my poor finish in Frankenmuth and hopefully find myself on top of the podium. Within the first 15 miles of the race I found myself in an early break away with three other very capable guys, but we were brought back after about 10 miles. After suffering my way up the hill for the 2nd time I discovered that I had a flat front tire. I had wheels in the wheel car and there was 22-miles left in the race, but the pace of the field was really picking up, I was using my tubulars so the tire itself was not totally flat, just real soft. So I had a decision to make, change the wheel and try to chase back on, or try to make it to the end with a flat front tire. I decided to try to stick it out, keeping as much weight as possible off of the front tire. I managed to make it through the last 22-miles, but by the time I made it around to the final climb my tire was unglued from the wheel and made it completely impossible to stand at all on the climb. Despite the flat tire I did the best I could to suffer my way up the hill and managed a 9th place finish.
The criterium was nothing really exciting, just 45 minutes of high speed racing. The last half of the race a real hard working guy who always seems to get the short end of the stick at the end of races managed to ride his way off of the front . Having been in a few breaks with the guy and having lots of respect for him as a cyclist I decided that I was going to have no part in chasing and left it up to the rest of the field to bring him back. Well the theme of the Cat 3 group seems to do as little as possible and hope someone else does all of the work (typically me and a couple of other guys in the field), so by 4 laps to go his solo lead had grown to over 30 seconds and it was obvious that he was going to go all the way. I then positioned myself for the final sprint making my way to about 4th or 5th wheel, but just before the final corner the field moved up along my left and right hand side totally boxing me in. I tried to make a move on the inside of the corner, but quickly found myself pinched off into the gravel. From there it was all about making up as many spots as possible for an 11th place finish.
After suffering a total of three flats during Thursdays “race in the rough”, it did not leave me with a lot of confidence for Cone Azalia. However, after taking a ride around the course Saturday afternoon and finding the conditions to be much better than I expected my confidence grew a bit. In fact, the course conditions were so good that after our morning warm-up, Dan and I decided that an extra bottle in a jersey pocket would not be needed. As predicted the first two laps of the race were fast and furious with attack after attack and lots of failed breaks. What was not predicted was than Dan would lose a bottle three minutes into the race. Despite the looming threat of dehydration, Dan raced very aggressively, managing to make it into a few of the breaks, while I did my best to bust up the chase, all of the attempts to get him into a break were quickly shut down. I knew that for a race like this the best place to be was close to the front; however, my desire to stay close to the front of the race quickly resulted in me becoming the “work horse”. As the race progressed, the pelotons growing dependence on me and a couple of other guys to do all of the work became clear.
After working hard to bridge to a large break that had a real chance of working, only to have the break instantly brought back by those that seemed so unwilling to work with me when I was on the front, I decided I had enough and rolled back to mid-pack. When two guys went off of the front I left it up to someone else to bring them back, but with everyone’s plan for the day being to do as little work as possible, the gap quickly became a concern. After being spurred on by a couple of failed attempts to get across to the two guys, the peloton managed to close the gap, but to only one of the two guys, it seems that the other had decided to go it alone. Looking down the road I could see the solo leader making his way around a group about a minute ahead of the peloton and at that point I knew the move was dangerous. It seemed that only a couple of the others felt my concern, as it was nearly impossible to form any type of chase. I think some even questioned whether there was actually someone else down the road.
After putting up with nearly 5-miles of a peloton that seemed resolved to race for second place, Dan and another guy decided that they had enough, taking matters into their own hands and making a great move to bridge across. I was on the front and knew that if I could join the two, then the three of us would stand a great chance of getting across, putting Dan and I in a great position for a good finish. But I had to go across in such a way as not to screw up Dan’s move by bringing anyone with me. So I waited until they were a ways down the longest section of dirt and then went as hard as I could off of the front. My move managed to catch everyone off guard, and while there was one guy who was able to get on my wheel, I quickly rode him off. I then set out on one of the hardest five minute efforts of my life to get across to Dan, the work that I had already done combined with the initial jump and the bumps that seemed to shorten every breath of air that I desperately needed almost got the best of me. I managed to make it within twenty feet of Dan’s back wheel and my legs started to give out. I was actually able to yell up to Dan to slow up just a touch so I could make the final push to close the gap, hearing me he slowed for a second and I made the final push and got across. Once across I did the best I could to compose and then got to work.
Unfortunately, seeing that the race was falling apart in front of them, those with fresh legs began to make their way across to us in groups of twos and threes and it seemed that the more people that made it across the slower our pace became. Soon we were the same dysfunctional group that we had once been several miles prior, all be it a much smaller group as the mad dash left many people finishing the race solo off of the back. The rest of the race there were several other attempts to get something established, but it became real apparent that the theme of the day was dysfunction. At the turn of the last lap with my ankles and legs severely cramping and not having even seen the solo leader in nearly 20-miles, I began making plans to conserve energy and setup for a sprint finish for 2nd place. I made my way back to Dan and let him know my plan, hoping that he would be there at the end for a solid lead out, little did I know that lack of hydration combined with his very aggressive role during the race had taken its toll and that that would be the last time I would see him during the race.
With about 5 miles left to go, we actually brought the solo leader back into our sights, pulling the gap to within 30 seconds. Even with him dangling out there everyone seemed content on racing for 2nd or taking a free ride up to the leader, and I refused to be that free ride. With the last mile or so into a strong headwind it turned into a cat and mouse game of who could keep their nose out of the wind, I wasn’t playing it and just maintained a comfortable tempo on the front. Within the final 400 meters the attacks started. The plan was to be patient and hopefully find myself in a good position for the final 100-150 meters due to the headwind, but one strong move at about 250 meters tested my patience and I bit. Despite my hardest effort the wind combined with my cramping legs and ankles just proved too much and I came across the line in 5th in the very tight bunch sprint, taking 6th overall.
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have my sights set on winning, but a 6th place finish in any race, let alone such a difficult, hard fought race is a good finish. I left feeling really good about how strong and aggressively both Dan and I rode, and most importantly I didn’t flat!!
Willow Time Trial officially marked the start of my race season, yeah there was the training crit last week, but I took that for what it was, a training crit. Being that Willow was part of the MBRA points series I wanted to do well and had prioritized it as a "B" race, meaning that while I would not be making any real taper in my training I would at least alter my week to allow me to be as fresh as possible given my hefty training load. Well the whole idea of slightly changing my week went out the window when I realized that the clubs Otsego TT was on Thursday. For me fatigue do to training stress typically lags two days, so ideally I would take Thursday off of the bike to be as fresh as possible on Saturday. However, I really like the Otsego park TT and had set a goal of going below 20'30" this year, so I decided that I would have to do both and just do the best I could to recover by Willow. Conditions were not ideal at Otsego, but I managed to achieve my goal for the season by going 20'16". The mere 20 minute effort at Otsego does look like much on paper, heck it is just 20 minutes, I had forgotten just how painful and long 20minutes at TT pace could be. The last 2 miles of Otsego all I could think about was Matt saying, "save a little the 1st part, because you will be fighting the devil all of the way back" and it seemed that I was, or at least I thought.
On to Willow, weather conditions predicted were not the greatest, with cold weather and rain, but that did not seem to damper a large turnout for the TT. The 1st indication that Thursday's TT was going to have at least some effect on my performance came during my warm-up, the 1st of my two, 3 minute L5 intervals hurt much worse that it had on Thursday, unfortunately the 2nd was no better, but I figured I would grit my teeth and give it my best. Using Thursday night’s effort as somewhat of a gauge for my pace at Willow, I decided I would try to target an average speed of 27mph. However, after the 1st of 6 laps it was apparent that holding my average at 26.6mph was a better pace. I knew that a 27mph average would result in a time that would be tough to beat, at 26.6mph, it would be close, so I needed to make sure I gave it all I had for the other 5 laps.
There is something strange about how your body adapts to a certain stress over a certain duration, most of my "long" intervals had been in the 15-20minute range, so once I hit 20minutes it was like my body and mind were saying, "ok now you are done, right?". Well no, I still have 10 more minutes! The last 10 minutes was pure hell on a bike, if I had fought the devil on Thursday night I have no idea who I was fighting during that last lap. The only thing that kept me on pace was thinking of the tired look in Michelle’s eyes as I headed out of the door this morning. That tired look was the only way I knew that it had been somewhat of a difficult night with our 3 week old daughter Lauren, because despite how much easier it may have made things to wake me up, she allowed me to get a full nights rest. I could not let them down, if she could fight through a sleepless night for me, I could suffer for another 10 minutes! And so I did, giving it all I had left right until the finish, stopping the clock at 30’ 04”, a mere 4 seconds faster than 2nd place in Cat 3 and good enough for 5th place overall.
So, I finished in August on a high note and am starting in April on a high note. Not sure how crazy I am about being marked, but I will get to wear the red points leaders # for at least one race. Now on to Cone-Azalia!!