Tom, Pete and I raced the 44k Farmersville Road Race yesterday, and here is my foggy account of what happened.
Start line was packed. I knew there were 72 guys signed up for the race, but wow, thats a lot of bodies on a non-closed course. I was in the grass next to P and T at the start closer to the front behind a team "Thru It All" that had about 5 guys racing. Looking around, it seemed pretty evident that the cat 5's were a minority (27 total) so that was fairly intimidating right off the start.
Whistle blew and we were away. Pace ramped up quickly and we were at the pace we held through the whole race within the first mile, about 24 mph. The course was fairly flat with a couple quick hills, but nothing substantial enough to separate things. The first lap was aggressive and it became evident very quickly that moving around the bunch would be a challenge. T, P and I moved up to the top 20 within the first few miles of the first lap.
There were 8 kelly riders in the race but no formal plan had been talked of (to my knowledge). But, I assumed that with this kind of presence there would be a level of ownership of the race as we had plenty of bodies to throw around. P and I were near the front representing the green during the first lap when the first attack went: none other than our own T! T jumped with about a half mile to go in the first lap (of four) and got some distance on the bunch immediately.
Meanwhile, I watched P jump onto the front as I moved up to do the same. We both agreed that we felt it was only right to block for a fellow goat. So we pedaled somewhat "convincingly" as we watched T cross the line about 15 seconds up on the bunch. Shortly thereafter, two guys came around us, not happy with our pace, and began working to get T back. It took about a third of the next lap but we scooped him up and soon after another attack went. This time it was a group of three that went.
P and I were near the front keeping the pace up (with no sign of any teamate help at this point) when another three rolled off the front to bridge up. I jumped after them to make it a nice four and we chased down the break. When we caught, I turned around and realized we now had a solid 10 seconds on the group, but the break was looking a bit tired and we were all quickly caught.
About that time I saw Joe Siegel (Le' equippe) roll up to the front of the bunch and begin to share time pulling at the front. T, P, Joe and I were now all in the top 10 and were able to string out the group a bit on the front and keep it more comfortable. Its an interesting balance; on one hand you don't want to be near the front working, on the other hand it keeps you out of trouble, which is really nice! The back third of the second lap was uneventful. The guys with us on the front had been doing way too much work and looked tired, so I sprinted off the front just to see what would happen. They quickly began hammering again and burned some matches closing things up. P and T were on the front after that doing some work to keep the pace up (as it had slowed at some points to 17mph). From my vantage point, both were feeling quite good as they were pulling on the front, moving around and just generally having their way with the bunch.
The third lap brought a solo attack from a Thru It All guy that lasted half a lap, but was brought back. Fourth lap hit and I finally saw some more kelly guys moving up to the front which was good, but a bit disappointing as P and I hadn't seen them all race. The pace increased and Joe Siegel moved onto the front to try and split the field. I tucked in behind him knowing that a few weeks ago at Salisbury he had won by jumping off the front in the closing miles of the race. He absolutely hammered it. I was convinced we had gotten away and turned to see the whole field right there enjoying his pull. I slid back a few slots and watched as no one came through to help him (which was smart). He put his head down and kept going though which was quite impressive given how much he'd done already.
Joe finally pulled off and the group came back together and T and P were back up in front doing what they do best, pulling here and there but smartly staying in the front. About 3 miles from the finish on a slight up hill curve, one rider in the top 30 lost his line and pressed into another rider, who subsequently crashed and took down another guy with him. From then on the field was spooked. Everyone was tense and given it was the end of the race, fighting for position up front. T was in the top 10 but moving back saying he was tired and I was sitting somewhere in the top 20 behind Joe when I saw P moving up on the left hand side close to the yellow line. In desperation one guy crossed the line to move up around P and was caught by the official and relegated. Joe moved back up to the front and I followed him. With about a mile to go we were flying towards a very tight combination of two quick turns and instead of turning right as we had done the past 3 laps, Joe went left. I was now on the front as we snaked quickly through these turns and into the last half mile of the race. A few guys moved up to the front and I was happy for the draft.
The last 400 meters of the race is interesting. Your approach to a right hand turn ramps up steeply but then immediately levels after you make the 90 degree turn, so it slows things down right before the gas is turned on. In talking with P after the race, we had both assumed that the outside of the turn would be the place to be for the sprint. i got stuck on the inside and had to settle with that while P found an outside line. I made the turn about 5 wheels back from the front and saw a Thru it All guy blow past me starting his sprint at 300m! He clearly saved up some energy for that effort (which eventually gave him the win by 30 ft or so! I hammered to stay with the front group as we were all now racing for 2nd. Coming close to the line I got out of the saddle with about 50m to go but couldn't go faster or get around anyone So i threw at the line for 7th and am not sure if I got the two guys on either side of me, or if they got me. Meanwhile P was 1 second behind and sprinted to 20th, and T finished 5 seconds back for 37th.
All in all, it was an aggressive and overcrowded race. But, we all had fun and finished well considering the time we spent up front. Congrats to P for coming back to racing as a 46 year old and riding better than most the field and to T for winning the first lap on a solo break!