Race morning was pretty grey and rainy. Got to the course and the roads were still wet, but drying. Tom Ryan and I did one loop of the 6.3 mi course and found it to be a pretty fast and flatish course. There were a few hills that were in there but nothing above 5% and nothing more than an 1/8th of a mile.
Race starts and immediately all three of us are in the top 10. Rode the first lap, avg'd about 21. Not too tough. Pretty uneventful. The group was close to 50 riders and there were strong guys throughout. A few times on the first lap, the guys on the front tried to force gaps by sprinting around a few turns or up a few hills, nothing worked though, and the group stayed together. Hit lap two and it was more of the same. We all were in the front and even took a few turns at the front because the same 5 guys kept rotating through and wouldn't drift back. With about 3 miles to go in the second, tom and I jumped off the front to see what would happen. We attacked in a small rise and drilled it for a few hundred yards, turned around and saw the group in hot pursuit, so we sat up and let it come back.
The last mile of the second there is a tight 90+ degree turn that the front group (15 riders) managed to gap the rest. I got on the front and tried to encourage a surge. We hit it hard but it came back together almost immediately. It seems like there were a lot of really good guys (not cat 5 level) strung throughout the bunch that were able to keep closing things down.
Third lap starts and you'd think it was the first. Very slow pace, people were clearly getting tired, but the main factor was that the race was being controlled by the same 5 gys at the front. They were getting tired and not pulling hard. The front 10 of the race was almost always strung out single file, so it made it a bit tough to jump all the way to the front to take a pull. Nonetheless, tom worked his way up and pulled a decent amount of the third lap because no one else was doing it. about 4 miles left, going down a hill into a turn, ryan and I got swarmed by riders from the back and went from top 10 to middle of the pack in a second. we hit the turn and the front 15 guys take off going up hill. Two guys in front of me don't respond and the gap pops open. I sprint around and look back to see 6 guys riding my jump back up to the group. We barely make it back and I catch on to someones wheel right before i was about to completely blow up. Tom is safely in the front, looking strong and now resting. Ryan got stuck behind more guys and was gapped. The peleton was now in many pieces all over the place.
Right after I caught on to toms group, a group of 3 drifted off the front. And i mean drifted. it looked like slow motion. They were probably 50 ft in front of the group and not a threat at all. Meanwhile, i'm dying on the back as the wheel of the person i'm on keeps yo-yoing and surging to keep up. no rest as i keep sprinting to keep on the front group. we get to 2 miles left and the same 5 guys are on the front dictating the pace. Toms done a ton of work so he's tucking in for some rest, and I finally make it into the middle of the pack for some real rest. Thats when i see the break now has 100 ft. No big deal i thought.
Same pace and the break isn't coming back at 1 mile to go. I start trying to move forward in the group yelling at anyone in front of me to pull it back. No one does. we hit the last half mile and i finally fight my way past the front guys and start hammering. tom jumps on my wheel as does 11 other guys. i give what i have left to try and get us up to the front three. the last 200m is up hill to the finish. i hit the bottom of that climb toasted and watch the first 3 guys sprint and the next 12 or so guys go by and contest the sprint. Tom jumps from behind me (because i'm going backwards now) and has to sprint too early. He gets into the fifth position on the sprint but gets piped at the line by four others and gets a respectable 9th place. I roll in alone for 18th.
After the peleton exploded, ryan was left alone with a guy on his wheel. he hammered up to one of the smaller groups of 4 guys left from the fragmentation and linked up with them. They worked together to catch another group of 8 and from their they chased the front all the way back. They got very close to bringing it all together. Ryan sat on a wheel till the final sprint and jumped around in the last 100m to go for it. simultaneously, another sprinter pulled right and knocked shoulders with ryan, pushing him into the concrete drainage V gutter where ryan continued to sprint for the line.
All in all, it was a good race. We all learned a lot and found out we did too much work. the front guys controlled the race like a pro team, and the break got very lucky.