How to lose a sprint in 15 easy seconds
So two nights in a row so far, on top of whatever usual nonsense went on during the race itself, I've had last corner challenges that are leaving me a little frustrated. At Twilight, as a team we'd already lost the race. We had a guy in the break who was never actually in the break, put the whole team on the front and chased for 40 laps, and never did bring the break back. It was a valiant, impressive display, one all the guys can really be proud of, and we put on a good show. The least I could do, riding caboose, was honor the guys by winning (or at least being top 3 in) the field sprint for 7th, and finishing top 10.
Instead, I went through the last corner 4th wheel, and Frank Travieso went down in 2nd position. He didn't do anything wrong, per se. We were going 30 mph and turning on off-camber, bumpy, painted pavement in a downpour. Someone was going to crash. But Alexey Schmitt from Team Type 1, whose wheel I was on, was able to get inside of Frank and keep sprinting, while I was stuck between t-boning Frank as he hit the fence or crashing trying to cut my turn any harder. Instead, I decided to bunny hop him. Seriously. I was already definitely going to crash, so why not try?
So, over the top of him I went, like he was a moving 40 cm barrier. And somehow I cleared him cleanly, came down on the other side, and went back to trying to salvage whatever I could in the sprint, overgeared by a tooth or two at this point. I ended up 13th, so 7th in the sprint, and more frustrated I didn't get my rocks off than I was relieved I didn't die.
At Roswell, there is almost always a breakaway, and the team won this race last year with Tom Soladay dumping the break in the closing laps. So we had the guys covering moves in shifts, with more of us in the action as the race went on and things were more and more dangerous, me included. I won the mid-race prime for Speedweek points and $250, and shortly after Guttenplan was in a pretty dangerous break that looked like it might go the distance. That came back, and we kept the pressure on, with each guy taking turns covering the bases. I eventually got away in the last 20 minutes, bridging up to a move with Menzies, Kemps, Bahati, and couple others, and I was sure we were gone for the day. Bahati opted to sit on, though, and after a couple laps clear, everyone just sat up.
Bridging up to that move took me a 1/2 lap, solo, and was essentially that match I was saving for the sprint. It was so dangerous, and looked so good, I decided to make my investment there, and lost. Still, I had some time once it came back to recover for the sprint. We had saved Thomas Brown for the finish, but he wasn't feeling 100% after crashing at Twilight the night before, and I ended up surfing the sprint alone, hoping the guys were going to come up. Luca Damiani and Hilton Clarke were also freelancing the sprint, and as is often the case, the guys who like and respect each other were making a little space for each other in the closing laps behind the United Healthcare and Team Type 1 trains.
At 1 to go I was on Hilton's wheel behind TT1, and Fly V went over the top of us on the left side. Hilton jumped out and I followed him, and we maintained our spots going into the 1st turn. It was pretty much a free for all from there, and I just dug as hard as I could up the hill on the backstretch to hold my spot. Another match lit.
Coming down the hill and into the last two turns, I had actually done a good job of positioning myself for the sprint. Menzies was leading out with Pinfold and Keogh on his wheel. Aaron Kemps from Fly V was 4th wheel, Schmitt (I think) and Ken Hanson from TT1 were next, then Clarke, then me. I knew at least 2 of those guys were going to pull off after leading out, and it's a long, long way from the last corner. And of course, here's where it went all wrong for me.
What I've pulled out from the file below are the last 30 seconds of the race. You can see the point where I stopped pedaling to begin making the final turn, at around 30 MPH. It's a greater than 90 turn, with crosswalks and bricks and gaps in the pavement, so it's tricky, but you can't touch your brakes if you want to stay in the sprint.
You can see at 1:45:50 I was exciting the turn, and started to hit it. Except then, 1 second later, I'm not hitting it, and I'm going 2 MPH slower. Exiting the turn, the United train started to slide out toward the curb, and the sound of wheels chattering and guys yelling was enough for me to pause and touch the brakes. And that was that.
In the next moment they all recovered and the sprint really started, and I was literally left swinging in the wind, off the wheels, with 400 meters to go. The measly 1200 watts I was making at that point was not going to bring me back in to the sprint, and the whole thing got away from me. I gave it everything for 10 seconds before I finally had to sit down, just blown, and a whole wave of guys came over the top of me. In the last 10 seconds I was just trying to pedal with whatever I had left, and was able to at least catch the wheels of riders coming by and continue to accelerate to the line to salvage 16th place. Here's the data:
So at Roswell, I definitely didn't have the legs to win the sprint after going with moves. I tell the guys all the time, you can't do two jobs and expect to do either of them well. If you go with moves all day, don't expect to be able to sprint as well as if you'd sat in all day. But if you gamble on the sprint, you might only be sprinting for 7th, like we were at Twilight. Top 5 was possible with the legs I had left, if I was able to take advantage of my ability to position myself well, read the sprint, and drive my bike. Hitting your brakes in the last corner? Well, that's how you lose a 90 minute bike race in a single second.