Crashing the ACCC: William and Mary Tidewater Classic Race Report
With the ECCC races being cancelled due to continued snow and dangerous road conditions in NJ, 3 Bulldogs who were unwilling to give up so easily ventured down to Virginia for the William and Mary Tidewater Classic crit and road races.
Promises of 60 degree weather, sunshine and green trees motivated Mike Grome (Men’s C), Molly Oakley (Women’s D) and Travis Rabbit (Women’s A) through a 6 hour drive and a very early wakeup.
Saturday: Criterium racing!
Upon arriving at the Saturday crit course, the sun was out but it was not the promised 60 degrees! After a single pre-ride lap around the course, Molly wisely decided to opt for more layers, and questioned a funny wobble in her rear wheel. Upon close inspection we realized that her tire bead was not seated properly, and her tube was poking out between the tire and the rim! While it’s unbelievably lucky that she didn’t blow out her tire completely in that first lap, three tire change attempts later, this wheel would serve as the voodoo doll for a weekend complete with 12 tire/tube changes!
After warm up, feuling, and a little chat about race strategy for the combined men’s C/D crit (stay towards the front but not on the front, use the straights to move up, be aware of the lap card count, other secret tactics we can’t mention here…. etc), Mike’s race was off. All of the practice and secret, sneaky crit strategy talk of the winter payed off immediately! Mike rode a smart race, saving energy wisely and expending a few watts just on time to drive crucial splits in the field, narrowing it down to a select group of 8 racers off the front and lapping the straglers. Sadly, after seeing incredible improvement in his crit racing from last year, Mike dropped his chain coming over the bump of the last corner and had to sit out the sprint for fourth place.
Molly was up next, in the combined women’s B/C field (the ACCC doesn’t have a women’s D category, so Molly was bravely racing up!). With a relatively large field of 26 racers, Molly found her stride in one of the segments of the main field, and used the race to find her headspace and racing legs for the season. Riding outside after months of rollers only can be a real shock! And, racing up a category in a large, combined B/C women’s field was certainly a new experience for Molly.
Last for the day, ten minutes before the Women’s A race, Travis’s rear wheel started feeling like it was running through sand. With only time for a last minute brake adjustment, and hoping that eliminating brake rub (which, also didn’t work) would alleviate the issue, the race was off to a roaring start. The ACCC race leaders drilled the pace from start to finish, spitting racers out the back of the field and suffocating those who desperately hung on. Unfortunately, that riding-through-mud-and-sand feeling never went away. Pushing through above threshold (new threshold!?) wattage for the body of the race, Travis settled for finishing 8th in a very elite field. After immediate disappointment and shaken confidence due to the greater than expected struggle of the race, and the lower than expected final placement, Travis was greatly relieved to find that there was indeed a major hub issue and that his data for the race showed incredibly good numbers, despite the lack of matching results.
Sunday: Road Race
Molly kicked off the day again, with the first road race start. This time, the women’s C field was combined with a non-collegiate women’s cat 3-4 field, adding excitement and numbers to the pack. She raced a strong race, putting in a great amount of effort on the front of an animated and chatty field (everyone is eager for those early season upgrade points!) for a strong finish with the C women’s pack, after an attack ripped the front of the 3-4 women off of the peloton.
Up next, Mike raced with the C men, in a strange race combined with B women! After feeling strong in the crit, Mike was shocked to see the difference that team tactics can make in a race. Coming from the ECCC, where there are very many small teams with tactics often aren’t present until higher categories, versus the fewer larger teams with well rehearsed strategy, this race was a lesson and Mike was the student. Following this race, there was a great deal of disscussion and debriefing. We have great hopes of implementing some of those same tactical weapons in the ECCC races later this season, once the whole team is present.
As the final race of the day, Travis was off with the A women, combined with a women’s P12 field. Despite the attacks on the hills and aggressive pace throughout the body of the race, the field stayed largely intact for a photo finish field sprint at the end, taking 10th. Confidence rattled by the difficulties of the previous day, Travis played it safe and raced an extremely conservative race - hiding from the field for the entire body of the race until emerging at the end. In fact, Travis hid so well, we can hardly even see the top of his helmet in this photo!